United Nations Commission on the Status of Women

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The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW or UNCSW) is a functional commission of the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), one of the main UN organs within the United Nations. Every year, representatives of Member States gather at United Nations Headquarters in New York to evaluate progress on gender equality, identify challenges, set global standards and formulate concrete policies to promote gender equality and advancement of women worldwide. UN agencies actively followed their mandates to bring women into development approaches and programs and the conferences. They participate at the prepcoms, design strategy, hold caucus meetings, network about the various agenda items being negotiated in the different committees, and work as informed lobbyists at the conferences themselves. The CSW is one of the commissions of the UN that do not limit participation to states only. For example, NGOs are also allowed to participate in sessions of the CSW, attending caucuses and panels and organizing their own parallel events through the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NY (NGO CSW/NY).[1] This is particularly important for contested territories such as Taiwan, which is not a member of the UN. In the past few years, NGOs from Taiwan (such as the National Alliance of Taiwan Women's Associations) have been able to participate in the CSW sessions. The Commission consists of one representative from each of the 45 Member States elected by the Council on the basis of equitable geographical distribution: thirteen members from Africa; eleven from Asia; nine from Latin America and Caribbean; eight from Western Europe and other States and four from Eastern Europe. Members are elected for a period of four years. Among its activities, the CSW drafted several conventions and declarations, including the Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in 1967 and women-focused agencies such as UNIFEM and INSTRAW. The Commission's priority theme for its 57th session, March 2013 was announced as the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls. Ahead of that an Expert Group Meeting (EGM): prevention of violence against women and girls was held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 17 to 20 September 2012.[2]

The Bureau

The Bureau of the Commission plays an important role in guiding proper preparation for, and in making sure that the annual sessions of the Commission are successful. Bureau members serve for two years.[3]


The UNCSW was established in 1946 as a mechanism to promote, report on and monitor issues relating to the political, economic, civil, social and educational rights of women. It was a unique official structure for drawing attention to women’s concerns and leadership within the UN. The Commission on the Status of Women first met at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947. All of the 15 government representatives were women which separated the Commission from other UN movements and through history continues to maintain a majority of women delegates. During its first session, the Commission declared as one of its guiding principles:

to raise the status of women, irrespective of nationality, race, language or

religion, to equality with men in all fields of human enterprise, and to eliminate all discrimination against women in the provisions of statutory law, in legal

maxims or rules, or in interpretation of customary law.

Contributing to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights became one of the first tasks. Commission members inserted gender-sensitive language — arguing against references to “men” as a synonym for humanity and phrases like “men are brothers.” They received resistance from members of the Commission on Human Rights, but succeeded in introducing new, inclusive language.

Fifteen original members of the Commission on the Status of Women

  • Jessie Mary Grey Street, Australia
  • Evdokia Uralova, Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic
  • Way Sung New, People's Republic of China
  • Graciela Morales F. de Echeverria, Costa Rica
  • Bodil Begtrup, Denmark
  • Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux, France
  • Sara Basterrechea Ramirez, Guatemala
  • Shareefah Hamid Ali, India
  • Amalia C de Castillo Ledon, Mexico
  • Alice Kandalft Cosma, Syria
  • Mihri Pektas, Turkey
  • Elizavieta Alekseevna Popova, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
  • Mary Sutherland, United Kingdom
  • Dorothy Kenyon, US
  • Isabel de Urdaneta, Venezuela

Session reports


  1. UN Commission on the Status of Women, Fifty-first session. Accessed on July 16, 2007.
  2. Expert Group Meeting EGM: prevention of violence against women and girls announced. Retrieved 28 February 2013.
  3. In 2002, in order to improve its work and ensure continuity, the Commission decided to hold the first meeting of its subsequent session, immediately following the closure of the regular session, for the sole purpose of electing the new Chairperson and other members of the Bureau (Council resolution 46/101).


  • Alston, Phillip. The United Nations and human rights : a critical appraisal. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Riofrio Bueno Martha de los A. Gender Equality special report of discrimination against indigenus women: UN Security Council, 1998
  • CSW March 1, 2010 meeting.
  • Jain, Devaki. Women, Development, and the UN. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005
  • UN CSW 2010

External links