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Arria-formula Meeting on Synergies between the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda

Tomorrow afternoon (12 March), Switzerland will convene a Security Council Arria-formula meeting on leveraging the synergies between the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) framework. President of the Swiss Confederation Viola Amherd will provide opening remarks. The expected briefers are UN Women Executive Director Sima Sami Bahous and the Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee), Ana Peláez Narváez. A civil society representative is also expected to brief.

The meeting, which will begin at 3 pm EST and take place in Conference Room 1, will be broadcast on UNTV.

According to a concept note prepared by Switzerland, a key objective of tomorrow’s meeting is to identify best practices in leveraging the synergies between the CEDAW and the WPS agenda. The concept note says that Security Council resolution 1325 of 31 October 2000 and the subsequent WPS resolutions established a normative framework which recognised that “peace is inextricably linked with gender equality and women’s rights”, while the CEDAW Committee’s work and jurisprudence have been critical to upholding “the rights of all women and girls, including in the contexts discussed in the Security Council”. As such, the concept note argues that the WPS agenda and the CEDAW, together with other human rights treaties and international humanitarian law, “provide a comprehensive framework for the protection and promotion of the full spectrum of women’s rights, including in contexts of armed conflict”.

The concept note references General Recommendation 30 on women in conflict prevention, conflict and post-conflict situations, which the CEDAW Committee issued in 2013. General recommendations and general comments are issued by human rights treaty bodies, including the CEDAW Committee, to clarify the scope of the relevant treaty when dealing with specific issues and provide authoritative guidance on how to implement treaty obligations. The CEDAW Committee has adopted 39 general recommendations.

Among other things, General Recommendation 30 says that the implementation of the Security Council’s WPS resolutions “must be premised on a model of substantive equality and cover all the rights” protected by the CEDAW and that, in their reporting to the CEDAW Committee, states parties are to provide information on the implementation of the WPS agenda. In this regard, the concept note for tomorrow’s meeting stresses that through this reporting requirement and the recommendations to states parties, the CEDAW Committee helps to close “an important accountability gap in the WPS framework, which does not have an institutionalized reporting mechanism”, further noting that shadow reports submitted to the CEDAW Committee—whereby civil society organisations provide information that addresses implementation gaps, omissions, and inaccuracies in government reports—“also contribute to highlighting and understanding implementation challenges”. In this regard, the concept note says that tomorrow’s meeting will provide an opportunity to “[s]trengthen accountability for implementation” of the WPS framework and the CEDAW and to highlight the CEDAW’s potential “as a tool to support women’s participation in peace processes”.

The concept note poses three questions to help guide the discussion at tomorrow’s meeting:

Tomorrow, Bahous may describe the ways in which the Security Council has thus far made use in its work of the CEDAW, the work of the CEDAW Committee, and of reporting and shadow reporting associated with the CEDAW. She may provide recommendations to Council members on how to strengthen this interaction, including by suggesting that the Council call for the ratification of the CEDAW and its Optional Protocol and urge compliance with the obligations under the CEDAW. (The Optional Protocol to the CEDAW established the competence of the CEDAW Committee to receive and consider complaints from, or on behalf of, a person or a group claiming to be victims of a violation of the CEDAW by a state party to the Optional Protocol. The Optional Protocol also establishes an inquiry procedure, but its Article 10 provides the possibility for states to opt out of this procedure at the time of signature or ratification of the Optional Protocol.)

Peláez may highlight recent examples of how the CEDAW Committee has promoted synergies between the CEDAW and the WPS agenda. Council members may be interested in hearing Peláez’s suggestions on how the Council can better leverage the work of the CEDAW Committee in its own work. Peláez may also provide an overview of the upcoming General Recommendation 40 and its relevance for the Security Council. (General Recommendation 40 is expected to provide guidance to states parties on reaching equal and inclusive representation of women in decision-making in both the public and private sectors. The CEDAW Committee expects to adopt General Recommendation 40 in October, after a series of regional consultations with civil society organisations and other experts.)

The civil society briefer may offer concrete examples of how the WPS agenda and the CEDAW framework inform each other and of ways in which civil society organisations can use the tools provided under the CEDAW to advocate for the full implementation of the Security Council’s WPS resolutions.

While Council members are generally supportive of the WPS agenda, notable implementation gaps persist and dynamics on WPS at the Security Council remain difficult. At tomorrow’s meeting, Council members are expected to stress the importance of the CEDAW and of the ten Security Council resolutions adopted under the WPS agenda item and may call for compliance with the CEDAW’s obligations and for the full implementation of the WPS resolutions. Some members may note that the CEDAW reporting framework can provide useful information and options for the work of the Security Council. Members may share examples of how they try to maximise the synergies between the CEDAW and the WPS agenda at the national and international level, as well as challenges that they face in this regard. Some members may highlight initiatives aimed at promoting women’s rights and full participation, such as national action plans on WPS.

All Council members except the US have ratified the CEDAW, eight without any reservations or declarations. Nine members have ratified the Optional Protocol to the CEDAW. Most Council members have also signed on to the Statement of Shared Commitments on WPS, which builds on the WPS presidencies initiative started in 2021 by former elected members Ireland, Kenya, and Mexico and commits participating members to making WPS “a top priority, and to ensuring its implementation in concrete and tangible ways”. (For more information, see the chart below and our research report titled “Golden Threads and Persisting Challenges: The Security Council Women, Peace and Security Presidencies Initiative”.)

Russia and China often challenge the inclusion of language on WPS in Security Council products. Tomorrow, Russia may argue, as it has in previous meetings, that the Security Council should focus its work on situations that pose a threat to international peace and security and that its engagement on WPS should be limited to the consideration of “women’s issues in a context of the maintenance of peace and security and in connection to situations that are on the Council’s agenda”, since the role of women and human rights are already discussed in other UN forums such as the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. Russia may also stress that the general recommendations issued by human rights treaty bodies are not legally binding.

Tomorrow will be the second time that Council members discuss synergies between the CEDAW and the WPS agenda in the Arria-formula meeting format. The first was in a meeting organised by Uruguay on 5 December 2016.

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