Insights on the United Nations’ sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women

By Lucía Berro Pizzarossa, University of Groningen, l.berro.pizzarossa(at)

From March 14-24 2016, world leaders and advocates for women’s rights from around the world attended the United Nations’ sixtieth session of the Commission on the Status of Women, which tackled women’s empowerment and its link to sustainable development. Our PhD Candidate in International Law and member of the Global Health Law Research Centre Lucía Berro participated in the session and spoke at the High Level Event  “The Roadmap to Realizing Rights: Every Woman Every Child’s Global Strategy for Women’s, Children’s and Adolescents’ Health”. Lucía’s doctoral research focuses on sexual and reproductive health and rights and has a fellowship from Women Deliver. As a representative of the civil society and academia, Lucía participated in the session advocating for the advancement in the enjoyment of these rights and promoting a gender and human-rights based approach to development.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda has 17 goals—such as to eradicate poverty, take urgent action on climate change, and promote health and gender equality.  The one focusing on health and gender equality in particular, cannot be fully achieved unless governments ensure that everyone, including women and girls, have access to comprehensive sexual education, effective contraception and safe and legal abortion.

This year’s session witnessed the usual tension in intergovernmental negotiations on the inclusion of sexual and reproductive rights in the agreed conclusions, intensified by the rise of conservative visions on family and sexuality.

The outcome document made no progress on sexual and reproductive rights and struggled to adopt a language that was agreed upon twenty years ago in the ICPD in Cairo. All language regarding sexual orientation and gender identity was removed as no agreement could be reached and the positions hardened neglecting the commitments adopted in the Beijing Platform for Action. Furthermore, a new paragraph on the importance of family was included. Although we recognize the importance of the role that family plays in development, we regret that the plural form was not included in the agreed conclusions failing to recognize the diversity in the conformation of families and households.

The Sustainable Development Goals can only be achieved if we truly intend to leave “no one behind” and that means ensuring and guaranteeing human rights for all. It is important to keep building on the agreed language and move forward with the commitments.

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