Day 5 at CSD-19

Slowly the number of women attending the morning briefings of the Women Major Group is increasing. This is good, although the number hasn’t been anywhere near the number attending last year. Last year we ended up with close to 70 women on our emailing list. This time we might just manage 20!

I’m not sure about the reason for this. I’ve the feeling that there are a lot fewer people representing civil society this CSD. And I’m sure we aren’t as visible as a Women Major Group to make everybody aware of our existence. But we still work together as best as we can.

I’m sorry I missed the training workshop by the Children & Youth Major Group on the use of technology, such as  Googledocs and Piratepad. They are experts in using these software tools to work together as a group. I wished our group was up for that level!

I’m disappearing to Washington DC for the weekend – go cycling with my brother to the Great Falls (50 km round trip). Very much looking forward to being in a greener city!


Days 0 & 1 of CSD-19

It always takes a while to get back into the flow of the Commission of Sustainable Development (CSD-19), even if this is my 4th time. Do I remember where to go? How long does it take to get there? What silly things did I pack in my backpack that UN security want to see? Will I remember names of key people?

Yesterday (Sunday) was a long day, starting with breakfast with 2 Baha’is, a training/information session organised by the Major Group of the NGOs, picking up of my UN batch, more NGO training, and finally our briefing at the offices of the Baha’i International Community (BIC). It was fabulous to see my Baha’i friends, catch up with them, and get ours heads around the BIC focus points. More on that later.

Today (Monday) is Day 1 of the 19th session of CSD. For more general info, please look here.

I find the 1st day always a bit boring (I know, awful isn’t it?) with the general statements made at the opening session – everybody thanking everybody and expresssing their pleasure in being here. I wonder if that’ll still be the case at those days of negotiating at 3AM (fully expected later in the 2nd week).

The Women Major Group (WMG) is meeting at 6pm tonight, so I’ll attend that briefing.

UN Women

Just wanted to share this announcement from the UN: In an historic move, the United Nations General Assembly voted unanimously on 2 July 2010 to create a new entity to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide.

The establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women — to be known as UN Women — is a result of years of negotiations between UN Member States and advocacy by the global women’s movement. It is part of the UN reform agenda, bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact.

Day 9 at CSD-18

It was the morning of childhood dreams coming true. The opening session of the High Level Segment (strange name, I know) took place in the General Assembly hall and I was allowed to sit at the seat of the Women’s Major Group. The following speakers spoke: H.E. Dr. Luis Alberto Ferraté Felice (Chair of CSD-18), H.E. Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki (President of the 64th session of the General Assembly), H.E. Mr. Hamidon Ali (President of ECOSOC), H.E. Ms. Gerda Verburg (Chair of CSD-17), Dr. Ernst Ulrich von Weizsacker (Co-Chair, International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management), and Dr. Ashok Koshla (President of IUCN).

I especially liked the speech of the ECOSOC Director. He talked about women as agents of change (yeah!! – all our hard work over the past years has resulted in this acknowledgement) and that empowering women is essential for sustainable development. He also said that gender equality must be fully integrated in all processes related to sustainable development. I’m hoping the UN will put up his whole speech on their website later.

Gerda Verburg (Dutch Minster) reminded us about the paradigm shift for agriculture as a result of CSD-17. Agriculture is not longer part of the problem, but part of the solution. She again reiterated: ‘if you do what you did, you get what you got’.

It was a good opening session and I enjoyed being close to the action.

CEDAW – rights of women / vrouwenrechten

CEDAW. Any idea what it stands for? No…..? Shame on you! Honestly. It is the most important (besides the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of course) Treaty on Human Rights for Women.

CEDAW is the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women and it outlines standards for ratifying countries to meet in the treatment and rights of women.  If you want a quick overview of the facts (their Q&A is very good), check this website out.

On 1 March this year, 185 countries had ratified this Treaty. Mind you, CEDAW was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1979. But if you live in one of these countries (Iran, Nauru, Palau, Qatar, Somalia, Sudan, Tonga, USA), you should feel bad. Honestly, you should, because these 8 countries have not ratified this Treaty on basic human rights of 50% of the world’s population. It means that these 8 countries have not committed themselves to take concrete action to improve the status of women and end discrimination against them. And yes, unfortunately that does include the USA… can you imagine? The world’s biggest power at the moment is simply ignoring the human rights of all women and girls.

I’m sorry, I can’t get my head around that. I’ve less ‘trouble’ with the other countries that have not ratified this Treaty, but the US? Now, if you happen to live in the US, you can do something about that by asking your Senator to support the ratification of CEDAW.

And what can the rest of us (those not living in the US) do? Well, we can make sure that our own governments and our own actions show our commitment to this Treaty every day. After all, it affects every single one of us, whether you’re female or male.

Abdu’l-Bahá has elevated the station of women in this radiant age…..  He has taught that men and women are like the two wings of a bird, and neither is superior to the other. Girls should be educated in the same way as boys, perhaps even given preference.

(from Munirih – Memoirs and Letters, p. 85)

Women’s Major Group CSD-17

Women's Major Group CSD-17

Women's Major Group CSD-17

That’s us at our last morning briefing – a great group to work with. Thank you all.

Poverty – Armoede: Blog Action Day

I’m stuck here. The theme of today’s Blog Action Day is Poverty.

But that is such a huge issue that I feel overwhelmed by it which doesn’t make blogging easy….

Children from La Villa de San Antonio, Honduras

Children from La Villa de San Antonio, Honduras

OK, let’s start simple. According to the Dutch Wikipedia:

Armoede = het hebben van te weinig bestaansmiddelen om aan de wezenlijke menselijke levensbehoeften te voldoen. De meest wezenlijke levensbehoeften zijn onder andere voedsel, kleren en huisvesting.

Now the English Wikipedia definition is slightly different:

Poverty = deprivation of common necessities that determine the quality of life, including food, clothing, shelter and safe drinking watre, and may also include the deprivation of opportunities to learn, to obtain better employment to escape poverty, and/or to enjoy the respect of fellow citizens.

So, in the English version it links poverty to other people and society.

I’d like to add another definition. This is from the “Eradicating Poverty: moving forward as one” statement (14 February 2008) by the Baha’i International Community (BIC):

Poverty can be described as the absence of those ethical, social and material resources needed to develop the moral, intellectual and social capacities of individuals, communities and institutions.

I must say, I like this last definition much more because it links individuals and their physical needs with the social and spiritual needs of themselves and their communities.

The BIC statement is just great. As an agroforester, I’m especially attracted to p. 11 :

A core element of a strategy of sustainable development is the reform of agricultural policies and processes. Food production and agriculture is the world’s single largest source of employment; nearly 70% of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Although farming has been devalued by manufacturing and a rapidly expanding urban population, agriculture still represents the fundamental basis of economic and community life: malnourishment and food insecurity suffocate all attempts at development and progress. Despite this pivot al role, poverty is often concentrated in rural areas. Damage to natural resources, poor information and infrastructure often result in food insecurity, premature deaths and mass migration to urban areas in search of a better life. The farmer must be accorded his or her rightful place in the processes of development and civilization building: as the villages are reconstructed, the cities will follow.

It also reminded me very much of what the Women’s Major Group was trying to do at the 16th session of the Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-16) in May 2008. If you’d like to read more about the Baha’i representation and the events the BIC organised during CSD-16, please click here.

In the daily meetings of the Women’s Major Group, organised by represenatives of WOCAN (women organising for change in agriculture & natural resource management) and 2 other organisations, we tried to get the point across that ‘The face of a farmer is a female face’. All our activities, statements & discussions focused on this aspect. In today’s global society close to 70% of farmers are female. We might not notice this in Europe, but if you look with a global eye, you’ll see it’s true.

As a Major Group we emphasized the need for education & training of women and girls; the facilitation of access to credit & resources for female farmers; inheritance & legal rights to land, water and trees; access to markets and processing chains etc. And as the BIC statement says on p. 7:

In areas where women have gained access to education, employment, and ownership opportunities, dramatic effects have been observed at many levels: at the level of the family, more equitable division of food, resources, and health care among girls and boys; higher rates of literacy among children; lower rates of fertility leading to better economic conditions and maternal health; and the injection of new concerns into public discourse.

Maize field in Honduras

Maize field in Honduras

Well, what are we, as a world community, waiting for….?

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