Report on the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67)
The first in-person UN Commission on Status of Women (CSW), since the onset of COVID, finished up in the early morning hours of Saturday, March 18. The negotiated outcome document or “Agreed Conclusions” was gaveled down around 5 a.m. Saturday morning and many of the country delegations had been up all night, negotiating for close to 48 hours with just a few hours break. But more on the outcome document, later.
The UFI team consisted of 10 students from Brigham Young University – Idaho (and a former student), three professors, six UFI staff members and one very supportive husband. As always, the UFI team was exceptional – and we had some fabulous learning experiences and some successes along the way.
What happened at CSW? Below is a brief synopsis.
The International Day of Women
The International Day of Women fell during the team’s first day at the UN and UFI’s 20-person team was able to snag tickets to attend the “International Observance” of the day. The massive UN General Assembly Hall was packed with thousands of feminists – and progressive activists of all stripes – from around the world, with many more outside the Hall clamoring to get in.
One of the more revealing moments occurred when one of the speakers, addressing what she believed to be a critical component of empowering women and girls by getting more girls into STEM related fields, bluntly stated: “Instead of giving girls dolls, we need to give them microscopes!” Jen Moss, one of the BYU-I professors in attendance and mother of eight, would later emotionally explain: “That image will haunt me! Why can’t they [young people] learn to use the microscope while holding the doll; cuddling it at their side? How could this woman think that would solve anything?”
Monitoring more than 700 Parallel Events (Forum), and 175+ side events
The Observance of the International Day of Women was just one of almost 1000 events offered during the two-weeks of CSW. Few of these events were supportive of a pro-family/pro-life position; in fact, most like-minded organizations were shut out. The CSW NGO Committee, the group that sponsors the CSW Forum, required each group wishing to sponsor a parallel event to sign what they call the: “Safety Guidelines and Principles” demanding that each sponsoring organizations share their worldview. Very few pro-family/pro-life groups were willing to sign. UFI has some big plans, for next year, to respond to the censorship of UN Women and the CSW NGO Forum.
This year’s CSW priority theme was: Innovation & Technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The BYUI students, professors, and UFI staff spent time attending and recording relevant points from various parallel and side events. You can read of some of their experiences in blog posts, links included below.
One of the more outrageous responses to a pro-family event was when LGBT activists began shouting and disrupting during the event in an attempt to shut it down, shouting accusations at the panelists that they were “homophobic,” “transphobic,” and “bigoted.” The disruptors also insisted that parents were perpetrators of violence against their own children. Yet the event included panelists speaking to the theme of how to protect child from on-line harm, including about pornography, comprehensive sexuality education, and educational threats to children. Dr. Timothy Rarick, BYU-I, was a panelist who spoke on the positive aspects of on-line learning, especially for women and girls in developing countries.
A Parallel event of our own
UFI began the two-week CSW period assuming United Families would not be sponsoring a parallel event. But through the efforts of pro-family colleagues, and the kindness of the Nigerian Mission, the BYU-I group was able to prepare and deliver a 1.5 hour presentation at the Nigeria House. All 11 of the BYU-I group participated as either a speaker, or a participant on a panel directed by Professor Rarick. The event was extremely well-done and addressed the theme: “Technology: a weapon or a tool? Creating a healthy digital culture.” We had a respectable crowd in attendance – despite last-minute advertising. Kudos to Dr. Rarick and his group; they performed like pros! Thank you to all who helped make the event happen.
Meeting with Mission Delegates
Over the three-year period of Covid, many of the missions turned over staff and this CSW was a time of rebuilding relationships. Although we didn’t have the usual quantity of mission visits, the group was able to re-establish contact with many missions and their 3rd Committee delegates. Those relationships, and the contacts made prior to CSW, proved important as the first in-person CSW negotiations, in almost four years, ended up being a challenge.
Negotiations of the CSW67 Agreed Conclusions
The “zero draft” (first draft) of the Agreed Conclusions – or Outcome Document – was released to delegations around February 17, 2023, and the negotiations continued for a month. Yet, as mentioned, the document was not finished until the early morning hours of March 18.
One of the challenges was the decision by the facilitators to include close to 40 paragraphs of “agreed language” from past conference documents and then state these paragraphs are “closed.” These “closed paragraphs” constituted around 40% of the draft. This was done, the facilitators argued, to shorten the negotiating process. But here’s the problem: One side gets to pick and choose the consensus language they like best (even though the paragraphs are still problematic for a large number of delegations), put it into the document and then state it is “non-negotiable.”
If this new negotiating technique or process were allowed to stand, it is not a stretch to think the next UN conference document could be released with 50 percent “closed” paragraphs, the next conference document, 60 percent, then 70 percent… Until the documents are barely negotiated at all and a few people are allowed to make the decision on what was supposed to be a document agreed to by all the UN member states.
In addition, the “zero draft” included the usual controversial terms:
- “sexual and reproductive health and rights” (SRHR) and its many derivatives (abortion)
- “comprehensive sexuality education” (CSE)
- “sexual orientation & gender identity” (SOGI)
- “multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination”
- “women, in all their diversity”
And some relatively new phrases:
- “gender transformative”
- “hate speech” and other forms of “misinformation”
- “DEI” (diversity, equity and inclusion)
And the pro-family phrases in short supply:
- Parental rights supportive language
- Religion (positive impact of)
- Family (acknowledging the importance of)
- “…with full respect for various religious and ethical values, cultural backgrounds, and philosophical conviction of individuals and their communities…” (sovereignty)
What happened with the Agreed Conclusions document?
The process of attempting to shorten the negotiation time frame using a “closed paragraph” procedure proved to be a dismal failure. The opposition can in no way claim it shortened the negotiation process – as the last 48 hours of virtually non-stop negotiations in order to finish by the end of the CSW session – would show them to be wrong.
While some members of the pro-family coalition felt quite positive about the Agreed Conclusion Final document, we at UFI are a little more circumspect in our analysis. Yes, Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE) was kept out, which is a big win. Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) and LGBTI language didn’t get in, either, just some of the indirect references, such as: “multiple and intersecting forms…” But there were at least two new additional SRHR (abortion) paragraphs.
With the exception of one “family-friendly” reference, there was no substantive “family” language. The parental rights language was removed along with the sovereignty paragraph. Sigh…
We view our efforts through the lens of “What would have happened if the pro-family forces hadn’t been there and courageous diplomats from like-minded countries hadn’t pushed back?” We know we make a difference and we will be back and engaged in the next UN commission (Commission on Population and Development) beginning on April 8.
CSW is an exhausting, yet exhilarating, opportunity to gather with the UFI staff, the students and their professors, and other individuals who are dedicated to the pro-family cause. We work together, learn together, and sometimes are overwhelmed, together. But we don’t give up. The overarching theme for this CSW could perhaps be summarized by this quote from John Quincy Adams: “Duty is ours; results belong to God.”
And I wanted to share with you the comments of one of the BYU-I professors on the last night of her stay in New York City:
“I’ve never seen a more clearly defined battle between good and evil. As a tender-hearted conservative, I needed to see the vitriol leveled at people civilly speaking the truth about marriage and family. I needed it to understand what’s at stake. It’s given me a profound respect for the women who have been fighting these battles – for decades.” With that, we at United Families thank you for supporting our efforts!
With gratitude for the talents of so many,
Wendy Wixom, President
United Families International
Tim Rarick (professor)
Jen Moss (professor)
Stacey Huffaker (professor)
Read about the student’s experiences via their blog posts:
March 9, 2023 – A Fish in Different Waters by Jaren McClure
The United Nations is a place that I only thought existed in dreams and movies, where people rigorously debate policy to change the world. That was my perception of the United Nations before I had the opportunity to experience it.
March 9, 2023, United at Heart, Dawson Goodfellow
Today I took my first steps into the world of policy and it happened to be at the 67th United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in the middle of Manhattan in New York City. Me, a simple BYU-I student from Southern Nevada is attending the largest conference regarding the state of women and gender equality.
March 10, 2023, UN Reality Check, Change starts with you! by Marinda Loertscher
When I think of the United Nations, I think of world leaders coming together in an organized effort to shape better opportunities and circumstances for people around the world. This is what I expected when I came to the United Nations on the Status of Women conference, but I have been surprised by what I have faced this week.
March 10, 2023 – Empowering Families through Education, by Shelby Allen
The way we define what a “better future” is, differs depending on the individual, organization, and nation. For example: There are women who gave a call to action to replace girls playing with baby dolls and have them play with microscopes instead.
Mar 18, 2023 Learning from the United, and Divided, Nations, by Mylie Critchlow
Being at the United Nations has been an overall unimaginable experience. With so many different cultures and backgrounds on every corner, I never know who I might have the chance of meeting. Whether it was the kind, Ethiopian woman in the elevator or the bold, Australian woman in the CSE (comprehensive sexuality education) event.
Mar 19, 2023, What do women really want?, by Lexi Goodman
From my disadvantaged position in the room, I could not see the speaker’s face, merely her monotonous voice that uttered sentences without any seemingly coherent thought. If it was like any of the other anti-family speakers I had thus seen while attending the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, a bland look would be etched on the surface with a perfunctory smile issuing forth well-meaning ideas.
March 21, 2023, The Two Sides of the Pendulum, by Sydney Stratton
Attending the United Nations has been one of my life’s most interesting learning experiences. The UN has been so much more than I expected and it is incredible to have the opportunity to be here, learning and growing from powerful individuals with extremely different viewpoints than the ones I have. I love that so many people from all different backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives love women and girls at CSW 67 and want to see them succeed. However, with that being said, I have noticed that there is a pendulum of truth at this conference.