Commission on the Status of Women

Opening of the 63rd session of the Commission on the Status of Women (2019). Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown.

Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women. A functional commission of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), it was established by ECOSOC resolution 11(II) of 21 June 1946.

The CSW is instrumental in promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.

In 1996, ECOSOC in resolution 1996/6 (see p. 20) expanded the Commission’s mandate and decided that it should take a leading role in monitoring and reviewing progress and problems in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and in mainstreaming a gender perspective in UN activities.

During the Commission’s annual two-week session, representatives of UN Member States, civil society organizations and UN entities gather at UN headquarters in New York. They discuss progress and gaps in the implementation of the 1995 Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the key global policy document on gender equality, and the 23rd special session of the General Assembly held in 2000 (Beijing+5), as well as emerging issues that affect gender equality and the empowerment of women. Member States agree on further actions to accelerate progress and promote women’s enjoyment of their rights in political, economic, and social fields. The outcomes and recommendations of each session are forwarded to ECOSOC for follow-up.

UN Women supports all aspects of the Commission’s work. We also facilitate the participation of civil society representatives.

Methods of work

The Commission adopts multi-year programmes of work to appraise progress and make further recommendations to accelerate the implementation of the Platform for Action. These recommendations take the form of negotiated agreed conclusions on a priority theme. The Commission also contributes to the follow-up to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development so as to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Under its current methods of work, established by ECOSOC resolution 2015/6, at each session the Commission:

  • Convenes a ministerial segment to reaffirm and strengthen political commitment to the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls as well as their human rights, and to ensure high-level engagement and the visibility of the deliberations of the Commission, including through ministerial round tables or other high-level interactive dialogues to exchange experiences, lessons learned, and good practices;
  • Engages in general discussion on the status of gender equality, identifying goals attained, achievements made, and efforts under way to close gaps and meet challenges;
  • Convenes interactive expert panel discussions and other interactive dialogues on steps and initiatives to accelerate implementation and measures to build capacities for mainstreaming gender equality across policies and programmes;
  • Considers one priority theme, based on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcome of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly and linkages to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development;
  • Evaluates progress in implementing agreed conclusions from previous sessions as a review theme;
  • Discusses emerging issues, trends, focus areas, and new approaches to questions affecting the situation of women, including equality between women and men, that require timely consideration;
  • Considers in closed meeting the report of its Working Group on Communications;
  • Agrees on further actions for the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women by adopting agreed conclusions and resolutions;
  • Contributes gender perspectives to the work of other intergovernmental bodies and processes;
  • Reports on the aspects relating to gender equality and the empowerment of women of the agreed main theme of the Economic and Social Council, in order to contribute to its work; and
  • Celebrates International Women’s Day on 8 March, when it falls within its session.

Multi-year programme of work

The Commission elaborated a multi-year programme of work for the first time in 1987, containing priority themes for discussion and action at its annual sessions, per ECOSOC resolution 1987/24. Subsequently, multi-year programmes of work were adopted in 1996 in ECOSOC resolution 1996/6 (see p. 20), in 2001 in ECOSOC resolution 2001/4, in 2006 in ECOSOC resolution 2006/9, in 2009 in ECOSOC resolution 2009/15, in 2013 in ECOSOC resolution 2013/18, and in 2016 in ECOSOC resolution 2016/3. The theme for 2020 was determined in ECOSOC resolution 2018/8. A new multi-year programme of work is to be adopted by ECOSOC in 2020.

Based on the resolutions from 2013, 2016, and 2018, priority and review themes for 2015–2020 are:

  • 2015: Review of progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, 20 years after its adoption at the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and of the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first five-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives. The session also addressed opportunities for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of women in the post-2015 development agenda.
  • 2016: Priority theme: Women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. Review theme: The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-seventh session).
  • 2017: Priority theme: Women’s economic empowerment in the changing world of work. Review theme: Challenges and achievements in the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls (agreed conclusions of the fifty-eighth session).
  • 2018: Priority theme: Challenges and opportunities in achieving gender equality and the empowerment of rural women and girls. Review theme: Participation in and access of women to the media, and information and communications technologies and their impact on and use as an instrument for the advancement and empowerment of women (agreed conclusions of the forty-seventh session).
  • 2019: Priority theme: Social protection systems, access to public services and sustainable infrastructure for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls. Review theme: Women’s empowerment and the link to sustainable development (agreed conclusions of the sixtieth session).
  • 2020: Review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, and its contribution towards the full realization of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

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