Thursday, February 25, 2010

Briefing for the CSW by Aukje de Vries

Preparations for the meeting of the CSW are taking place in many countries and The Netherlands are no exception. My older women’s group, which is a member of the Dutch Women’s Council is invited to a meeting in which members of the Dutch Delegation to the CSW will inform the NGOs about their input into the official meeting and side events.

Our country is a member of the European Union (EU) and since Spain has the Presidency of the EU during the first half of 2010, Spain will speak on behalf of the EU. It is not always easy to reach consensus in Europe and we are told that Malta may want to present its own views. Sexual and reproductive health seems to be a contentious issue.

In the Dutch government the Ministry of Education, Culture and Sciences (OCW) is responsible for emancipation and therefore has the lead in the preparations for the CSW. They coordinate the input from other Ministries.

Several members of the delegation tell us what they want to bring forward in New York.

Reconciliation of work and family life is an important issue. One of our national policy aims is that women are economically independent. Many Dutch women work part time, which means that their husbands are the main breadwinners. It is considered a step forward that many more women than before are active on the labor market, but with part time jobs they are usually not economically independent. There will be more redundancy due to the economic crisis and families with two breadwinners will be less vulnerable.

The Ministry of Health is trying to combat circumcision of women (some migrant girls are prone to being subjected to it, but it is forbidden) and will focus on this. Another issue that the Dutch representatives want to press is that the UN women’s entity be established soon.

Women’s issues will also be dealt with in ECOSOC (the UN’s Economic and Social Council), and we are also informed about the activities that will take place in the ECOSOC context.

Apart from the official meetings there will be many side events during the CSW. We are told there may be as many as close to 200. The Netherlands will take part in at least three: one on unwanted pregnancy, one on lesbian, bisexual and transgender women and one on financing women’s organizations.

It is a tradition in The Netherlands that the government subsidizes NGOs of various kinds, although, since 1961when I started to work in the NGO sector, I have seen many changes. At present the government is considerably less generous than it used to be in the sixties. I am glad to hear that the official delegation speaks out in favor of continuing to support NGOs.

The Dutch Women’s organizations have prepared a paper with 12 recommendations and their content is the next item on the agenda. The members of the government delegation are ready to support most of them.

These recommendations include one about governments supporting women’s organizations focusing specifically on women’s rights and empowerment. The women’s organizations are in favor of a different attitude towards women: too often they are considered as victims. They ought to be considered as actors, as agents of change. This does not only hold for developed countries but more specifically for developing countries. Gender is a priority in Dutch development policies. Women’s rights should be protected, especially in (post) conflict areas.

At the end of the meeting we heard good news from the Ministry: next year there will be a representative of the NGOs included in the Dutch delegation. This decision represents an official recognition of women’s organizations.

Question: Are NGOs in your country subsidized by the government? Do you think it is a good idea to subsidize them?

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