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Important Progress Made at CSW – But the Nordic Countries Are Aiming Higher

The UN member states will work to eliminate the pay gap between women and men in order to redistribute the unpaid domestic work. This promise was made at the United Nations women’s summit, CSW61. But the link between women’s sexual and reproductive rights and their economic independence is too weak in the final document, according to several Nordic ministers.

‘I’m glad we now have a document that guides countries on how to strengthen women in working life, when it comes to salary differences, unpaid domestic work, violence and discrimination. But Norway had higher aspirations for women’s rights than reflected in the final document,’ writes Solveig Horne, Norwegian minister of children, equality and social inclusion, in a commentary.

After two weeks of intense discussions in New York in March, the countries ended the United Nations women’s summit by declaring a series of commitments to promote women’s economic empowerment.

Important progress was made. Among other things, the countries agreed to pursue an equal pay policy by means of for example collective agreements, work evaluations and salary reviews.

‘We are very pleased in particular with the increased recognition of the role of the private sector in achieving gender equality, in particular when it comes to ensuring equal pay for work of equal value,’ says Þorsteinn Víglundsson, Iceland’s Minister of social affairs and equality.

Express disappointment

The member states must ensure women’s full and equal participation in the economy, their right to work and their rights in the workplace. All commitments are expressed in the final document as important steps in order to achieve sustainable development.

The Nordic countries and a large group of ‘like-minded’ states made active efforts in the negotiations to acknowledge more strongly that women’s sexual and reproductive rights are of key importance to women’s economic empowerment. The link between these rights and women’s economic independence is indeed included in the conclusions, but many of the like-minded countries would have preferred a much stronger statement.

In a press release, Denmark’s Minister for Equality Karen Ellemann expresses her disappointment that the final document does not emphasise the connection between women’s economic independence and their sexual and reproductive rights.

‘The final document from the United Nations women’s summit shows that the struggle for women’s rights has lost not only its financial but also its political support,’ she writes, with reference to the fact that CSW61 was held in New York after US President Donald Trump’s cutbacks on US financial aid to organisations that promote women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.

Sweden will be a strong voice

Sweden’s Minister for Children, the Elderly and Gender Equality Åsa Régner writes in a commentary that ‘parts of the conclusions reflect neither the EU’s nor Sweden’s approach to gender equality and the rights of women and girls.’

She adds that ‘Sweden will continue to be a strong voice on these issues.’

Pirkko Mattila, Finnish Minister of Social Affairs and Health in Finland comments:
‘The Agreed Conclusions bring us forward in increasing women´s labour market participation, which is crucial for women´s economic independence. This is a step in the right direction. The CSW, however, failed to address the issue of SRHR properly; a stronger position on SRHR would have been much needed. These rights are also vital from the point of view of women´s and girls´ ability to complete their education and for future participation in working life.’

Updated 14 February 2024