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Working the system, 007 style

zohra moosa
26 February 2008

I went along to the official NGO orientation session yesterday afternoon to follow up on my interest in reporting on how women's NGOs influence the CSW and global gender policy making. It was enlightening. I learned (pdf):

  • The basics, like the fact that there are 45 members on the Commission and that one third of them rotate every year
  • That the CSW was the second commission ever established by the UN and is now the oldest one running as the first one on human rights no longer operates
  • That the first week of the CSW is all about learning: governments learning about other governments' positions, NGOs learning about governments' positions, governments learning about NGOs' positions, etc.

Accordingly, it's the end of the first week, and really more like the second week, when the negotiations on the outputs get really intense. That doesn't mean that the recommendations (currently in draft (pdf)) are not being negotiated during this first week at all though. Not only are there 'informal' meetings, there are, apparently, 'informal informal' meetings where discussions and decisions are brokered outside of the published meetings and are even more 'unofficial' than the regular informal meetings.

I can't say I'm surprised that this happens, but I will admit my disappointment. It simply doesn't make sense to me to make such high level decisions in isolation from the NGOs and experts who have relevant knowledge about what women need in various contexts. Readers might enjoy hearing that there are also 'non-papers' that the member states use and circulate to inform their positions when in negotiations.

Between the informal informals, the non-papers, the misdirection from security staff (happened to me again this morning), and the endless queues, it's a wonder NGOs manage to participate and influence at all. Certainly requires a level of information gathering (pdf) and relationship leveraging that 007 would be proud of. Jane has begun tracking one NGO's attempts in her posts about Karama.
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