Switzerland sets the tone at UN conference on women's participation in public life and decision-making
Bern, 15.03.2021 - The 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will open on Monday 15 March 2021 in New York. The main focus of this year's session will be on the effective participation of women in decision-making in public life and on the elimination of violence against women. The Swiss delegation is led by Federal Councillor Alain Berset.
The coronavirus crisis has had a disproportionate impact on women, both in economic and social terms. Gains made in gender equality over the past few decades could be lost to this crisis. To prevent this from happening, the international community must make a firm commitment: every effort must be made to ensure that progress achieved over the past few years is not undone by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Switzerland has made gender equality a priority for both domestic and foreign policy. At this year's CSW, Switzerland will focus on the economic independence of women, promoting equal pay, promoting rights in the area of sexual and reproductive health, combating discrimination and violence (online and offline), and the Women, Peace and Security agenda.
Switzerland will also hold two side events. The gender pay gap will be discussed in cooperation with the Equal Pay International Coalition (EPIC). In addition, Switzerland, together with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is working on statistical data collection with a view to combating violence against women more effectively.
The Women, Peace and Security agenda is an important aspect of this year's CSW. In 2007, Switzerland was one of the first countries to implement the Women, Peace and Security agenda through a National Action Plan (NAP). Switzerland is currently executing its fourth NAP (2018–22) to implement UN Resolution 1325. The objectives of the present National Action Plan include the involvement of women in conflict prevention and the active participation of women in peace negotiations.
This year, the updated Women's Human Rights app (W'sHR app) – developed by Switzerland – will be available for use during negotiations on the agreed conclusions document. The new version of the app was launched on International Women's Day in the presence of the UN Secretary-General in New York.
This year's main theme is also a priority area of Switzerland's international development cooperation. The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) provides targeted support to encourage women's participation, particularly in local planning and budgeting processes or in electoral processes (both as candidates and voters). In Benin, for example, the SDC has been involved in training and mentoring young women to redress their under-representation in decision-making and the resulting lack of regard for their needs and problems in public policy. In 2019, more than three quarters of the 294 participants reported that their confidence and self-esteem had increased. 75% have joined, and are now active members of, a political party; this result is testimony to how their ambition and leadership have grown.
The Swiss delegation is led by Federal Councillor Alain Berset, head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs (FDHA). Owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 65th session will be held virtually. Switzerland is also represented by Markus Seiler, Secretary General of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) and deputy head of delegation, and by Sylvie Durrer, Director of the Federal Office for Gender Equality (FOGE). Also forming part of the delegation are alliance F (the Federation of Swiss Women's Associations), the Swiss Conference of Gender Equality Delegates (SKG), and a youth delegate.
At national level, the 2030 gender equality strategy initiated by the Federal Council in its legislature plan is set to be adopted in the first half of 2021. Last year, the revised Gender Equality Act (GEA) entered into force. Among other things, the GEA obliges employers with more than 100 employees to conduct an equal pay analysis. Government-affiliated companies will be required to reach a target of at least 40% women in their management bodies by the end of 2023 at the latest. Since the beginning of the year, the Confederation has also been supporting targeted projects to prevent and combat violence against women and domestic violence.
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