NEW YORK (July 30)– by Eleanor Blomstrom, WEDO, on behalf of the Women’s Major Group
The Women’s Major Group (WMG) left Rio feeling profoundly disappointed by the overall lack of ambition in the final document, ‘The Future We Want’, including the weak commitment to address the crucial issues of equity and equality. The Women’s Environment and Development Organisation stated “We are resilient. The disappointments and missed opportunities are not forgotten; rather they are repositioned as fuel for continuing to fight for gender equality, alongside eliminating poverty, protecting biodiversity, mitigating climate change, addressing the current failing economic system and ensuring universal enjoyment of human rights”.
However, before we move forward it is essential that we first map where we are. The WMG, made up of over 200 women’s organisations from around the world, identified numerous priorities. Many priority points were incorporated into the outcome, and though often weakened by language to ‘recognise’ or ‘encourage’ rather than ‘commit’ to changes and actions, they offer a base from which to work. Other priority points are clearly missing.
Our key points are as follows:
Women’s empowerment and gender equality: The language was integrated throughout many sections of the document, with 84 mentions of women and gender.
Leadership, Political Participation and Decision-making: The vital role of women’s full participation and leadership was reaffirmed, as was the prioritisation of removing barriers to decision-making and management. Particularly important and hard-fought language is in paragraph 237: “setting targets and implementing special measures…with the aim of achieving gender parity”. Other paragraphs reference women in business, entrepreneurship, science and technology.
Women’s rights and access to resources: The text resolves to make reforms to give women equal rights to access to resources such as land, credit and inheritance, but it does not commit to equal rights for women to these resources.
Sexual and reproductive health and rights: Affirmation of reproductive rights was starkly omitted, despite concerted efforts by the WMG and allies. On a positive note, several individual countries broke from their blocks in support of reproductive rights during closing statements. The health section called for the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and the International Conference on Population and Development Plan of Action, and also emphasised the need for universal access to reproductive health.
Informal and care economies: Women’s informal and unpaid work was recognised, but without specific recognition of women’s extra responsibilities in sustaining the care economy.
Energy: The connection between gender equality, social inclusion and access to sustainable energy services was clearly acknowledged. According to the ENERGIA International Network, this was a milestone achievement. However, radioactive pollution and its impacts were not mentioned.
Climate change and disaster risk reduction: The link between gender and climate change was deleted in the final text, missing the disproportionate burden on women, as well as women’s essential role in solutions. On the positive side, a gender perspective is highlighted in the disaster risk management.
Social protection floor: Included in the document in several places.
High Commissioner for Future Generations: Not included in the document, to the detriment of links between present and future generations.
Other issues: Empowering rural women as critical agents for food security; promoting participation of women farmers in markets, collection of sex disaggregated data and using gender sensitive indicators were included in the document.
The experience at Rio+20 provided a number of additional positive outcomes: There was participation by hundreds of grassroots women and organisations from many different countries – partly financed by UN Women and UN DESA; opportunities for women to speak on panels at official Rio+20 events and to the media; and a multitude of networking and partnership building opportunities.
According to Sascha Gabizon of Women in Europe for a Common Future, “the Women’s Major Group shared knowledge and experiences and jointly advocated for language and policies that would move the world toward sustainable development. We will not stop now. We will continue to build on the strong networks and partnerships created throughout the Rio+20 process”.
For its next steps, the WMG will follow up on the Outcome Document and attempt to ensure a clear participatory role for Major Groups in all future UN processes, including those around Sustainable Development Goals.