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UNCSW61 comes to an end

31 March 2017
The Conclusions of the Session 61 of the United Nations Commission on the Legal and Social Status of Women recognised important objectives on PSI's policy agenda, although there were also gaps on issues that the global union will continue to champion tirelessly.

"During tough negotiations on the economic empowerment of women in the changing world of work, involving long nights of discussion and some tension with women's organisations that arrived at the United Nations on a high from their 8 March mobilisation, government agreements enshrined a series of old gains by workers, who managed to defend them, and some advances on issues that have not been dealt with on any other international stage", said Rosa Pavanelli, PSI's General Secretary.

Achievements included recognition of the Declaration on Fundamental Rights at Work, Decent Work and International Labour Standards that promote gender equality as an essential basis for the development of women workers, and, for the first time, recognition of the limits imposed by the sexual division of labour and the need for measures to overcome horizontal and vertical gender segregation. Another significant point was the decision to encourage the redistribution of care work and encourage recognition of its value to society.

Other key elements were recognition of trade unions as valid interlocutors and the importance of collective bargaining and social dialogue. Not so good was the obscuring of the essential role in monitoring and implementing agreements played by the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the only tripartite body in the United Nations system, which specializes in labour law. This institution was not mentioned by name in paragraph 59’s general reference to United Nations system agencies.

Pavanelli felt that the Agreed Conclusions recognized important objectives on the PSI's policy agenda, including those listed below, although there were also gaps on issues that the global union will continue to champion tirelessly:

  • Elimination of the gender pay gap and the introduction of equal pay for work of equal value.
  • Defense of public services as the essential foundations for the exercise of women's rights. For the PSI, in addition to issues explicitly mentioned in the text, such as water and sanitation, energy and public transport, it is also crucial to recognize the public character of education, health, social care and social protection. Public services that must be universal, good quality and gender-responsive.
  • The steps that governments must take to increase public investment to accelerate the economic empowerment of women in the changing world of work, including improvements to tax collection and the introduction of equitable and progressive taxation systems. The fight against tax havens as a way to deal with tax evasion also failed to get a mention in the negotiations.
  • The importance of investment in job creation in the health and social sectors, where the workforce is predominantly female. The promotion of recognition of its value to society and consolidation of professional training and career structure.
  • The adoption of gender-responsive migration policies and full recognition of the rights of migrant workers, including the right to decent work.
  • Recognition of the way in which discrimination against women workers is reinforced by further discrimination if they are Afro-Descendants, indigenous or disabled.

Pavanelli emphasized that this session of the CSW took place in the context of Antonio Guterres' election as the new United Nations Secretary-General. Addressing civil society organizations, he made a public commitment to work to achieve gender equality, a struggle that also involves men and to which men are committed.

Finally, the PSI General Secretary said, “we will continue to campaign for women and girls’ human right to health and education, especially for the right to have quality public health and education. We will defend the ILO and its essential role in the world of work and we will consolidate our unity of action with the global union federations and the international women's movement to achieve gender justice.”

Pavanelli is already looking at session 62 of the CSW, whose main theme will be the “challenges and opportunities to empower women and girls in the rural sector“, which will again test the PSI's capacity to defend public services for women, demonstrate the failure of Public-Private Partnerships and highlight the benefits of public investment in Public-Public and Public-Community Partnerships.

The Agreed Conclusions required a massive amount of work to develop proposals and political strategies and build the unity of the international trade union movement and the women’s movement, both during the 15-day meeting in New York and during the preparatory period, which for Public Services International (PSI), began on World Day for Decent Work on 7 October 2016.

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