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The Commission on the Status of Women adopts Agreed Conclusions

The Commission on the Status of Women adopts Agreed Conclusions on Innovation and technological change, education in the digital age for gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.

For the first time, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has adopted Agreed Conclusions on the theme of Innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.

IPPF actively engaged in the process by providing technical input and raising awareness about the interlinkages between SRHR, digital technologies, gender equality, and the empowerment and human rights of all women and girls. IPPF was well represented at the Commission with the following member associations actively involved in advocacy efforts and included on national delegations: the Danish Family Planning Association (DFPA), Rutgers (Netherlands), Profamilia Colombia, and RFSU (the Swedish Association for Sexuality Education).

This was the Commission’s first in-person convening since 2019. During the global Covid-19 pandemic, civil society space was limited at the CSW as the sessions were conducted entirely online or only open to a limited number of civil society organizations (CSOs). This year’s session therefore constituted the first time since the beginning of the pandemic that many CSOs could meet and mobilize in person; the session welcomed a record number of 8000 participants to CSW. The experience and impact of the Covid-19 pandemic highlights the importance of ensuring transparency and adequate access to civil society as well as the need to ensure that restrictions that were enforced under Covid-19 do not hamper access for CSOs going forward.  
Geopolitical landscape

The negotiations were led by the Ambassador of Argentina and culminated in over weeks of negotiations between Member States on this new and important theme. For the first time, the facilitator and the Bureau decided to launch negotiations with some paragraphs containing previously agreed language “closed” so delegates could instead focus on advancing language and normative standards that related to this new priority theme. The geopolitical backdrop to this year’s negotiations was, at times, extremely divided, with key issues such as the right to development, transfer of technology, sexual and reproductive health and rights, comprehensive sexuality education, multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, family-related language and the issue of foreign occupation causing political stalemate at times. Nonetheless, in the end, a consensus was reached, and strong Agreed Conclusions were adopted in the early morning hours on the last day of the Commission. Overall, gains were made on the important and ever-evolving area of technology, innovation, education and gender equality. 

Sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights

IPPF welcomes strong references to sexual and reproductive health (SRH), health care-services, and sexual and reproductive health and reproductive rights: in particular, preambular paragraphs 67, 69 and operative paragraphs (0), (p), and (ll). IPPF welcomes the CSW’s recognition of the important role of digital health, including digital health technologies, digital tools, telemedicine, and mobile health, to ensure universal access to sexual and reproductive health-care services, including for family planning, information, and education. We also welcome that CSW recognises the need to ensure that such technologies and tools are developed in consultation with women and, as appropriate, girls, and that these technologies are science and evidence-based while protecting personal information, including health information and doctor-patient confidentiality, and prioritize consent and informed decision-making (1). Member States were able to agree on a new operative paragraph on SRH-care services which constitutes a gain beyond what was achieved last year. Digital technologies and new innovations are already having an impact on SRHR and education, for example, by the provision of sexuality education, online information, and the use of telemedicine and apps to provide people with counselling and SRH-care. The consensus reached at this year’s Commission reflects the broad-based support of Member States to take steps to address the opportunities and challenges that arise in the context of SRH and innovation, technological change, and education.


We also welcome the Agreed Conclusion’s strong references to adolescents, including preambular paragraph 19, which is a standalone paragraph that discusses the disproportionate discrimination and violence that adolescents face and that occur through or are amplified by the use of technology. We also welcome references to adolescents in PP53, PP66, (ll), (uu), and (ee), including pregnant adolescents, young mothers, and single mothers to enable them to continue and complete their education and provide catch-up and literacy, including digital literacy.

Multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination 

We regret that references to multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination were contested by some delegations, especially given the relevance to this year’s theme. It is well documented that women, adolescents, and girls facing multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination (MIFD) are more likely to face discrimination and violence through or amplified by technology. They also lack access to technological opportunities and advancements. We regret that the Agreed Conclusions do not have a standalone paragraph linking the priority theme to MIFD, which also constitutes a setback from last year’s agreement, where there were three references to MIFD, as opposed to this year’s text which only includes two. 

Comprehensive Sexuality Education (CSE)

The text includes a standalone paragraph on comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) in operative paragraph (ll), which is language that has previously been adopted at the Commission. Though there were attempts to build on this language and advance on normative standards relating to CSE, these proposals were ultimately dropped at a late hour due to the inability to reach consensus on suggested new language. We regret that discussions stalled on CSE, as this is an area that has been well documented by UN agencies as an effective preventative and evidence-based intervention that can improve the health, well-being, and lives of young people, as well as prevent the incidence of gender-based violence and sexually transmitted infections. This is especially unfortunate, given this year’s priority theme and the focus on education. 

Technology-facilitated gender-based violence

The discussions on the phenomenon of technology-facilitated gender-based violence became politically contested, with some delegations insisting that this terminology constituted a new technical term, requiring a comprehensive definition were it to be referenced in the text. It was, therefore not possible to have a reference to the term in the text even though the phenomenon was well described and prioritized therein. In this regard, we welcome the numerous references to gender-based violence and particularly the recognition that girls are often at greater risk of being exposed to and experience various forms of discrimination and gender-based violence and harmful practices, including through the use of technology and social media (2). Furthermore, we welcome references to ‘non-consenual’ in preambular paragraph 56 and operative paragraph (uuu), as this concerns critical violations of rights and freedoms that women, adolescents, and girls are subject to. These well-documented abuses can be exacerbated by technology; in this regard, the principle of non-consensual is critical to acknowledging the autonomy of women, adolescents, and girls in decisions affecting their sexual, reproductive, and intimate lives. 

Right to privacy and personal data

Greater need for practices and laws that guarantee the protection of sensitive personal and health data has increased alongside the rise of digital technologies. We therefore welcome the Commission’s recognition that women - and particularly girls - often do not and/or cannot provide their free, explicit, and informed consent to the collection, processing, use, storage, or sale of their personal data (3). We also welcome the Commission’s emphasis on the need to address the digital divide for migrant women and girls and ensure their online connectivity and equitable access to services while upholding the protection of personal data and their right to privacy (4). Finally, we also welcome that the Commission underscores the importance of applying standards for the collection, use, and sharing of data, retention, archiving, and deletion to ensure the protection of women’s and girls’ personal data and to strengthen their ownership of their own personal data (5).

Human rights references

We welcome the strong references to the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls in the text. In particular, we welcome acknowledgement of the risks and opportunities that the evolving nature of technology brings in terms of realizing the human rights of women, adolescents, girls, and other marginalized groups and the action required by Member States and relevant stakeholders to mitigate against risks and protect, respect, and fulfil the human rights of all women and girls. This year’s Agreed Conclusions has almost double as many references relating to the human rights of women and girls. This constitutes a huge advancement and is testament to the resounding cross-regional support for upholding the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all women and girls. 

Putting the Agreed Conclusions into practice

Despite intensive and, at times, difficult political deliberations around key issues, the adoption of Agreed Conclusions signals the strong cross-regional support for the mandate of the Commission and its priority theme. It also reflects cross-regional support for key issues, including SRHR, human rights, preventing, addressing and eliminating gender-based violence, especially gender-based violence occurring and being amplified through technology. The importance and success of the Agreed Conclusions lie in its implementation at the national level. IPPF and its member associations are well placed as a locally owned, global Federation to work to ensure the implementation of the Agreed Conclusions at national, regional, and global levels. This will ultimately and most importantly benefit the lives of women, adolescents, girls and other marginalized groups in the communities where they live. 

(1) PP69
(2) PP52
(3) PP39
(4) PP82
(5) OP qqq 

Photo Credit: UN Women/Ryan Brown

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About the International Planned Parenthood Federation

The International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) is a global service provider and advocate of sexual and reproductive health and rights for all.  

For 70 years, IPPF, through its 108 Member Associations and 7 partners, has delivered high-quality sexual and reproductive healthcare and helped advance sexual rights, especially for people with intersectional and diverse needs that are currently unmet. Our Member Associations and partners are independent organizations that are locally owned, which means the support and care they provide is informed by local expertise and context.

We advocate for a world where people are provided with the information they need to make informed decisions about their sexual health and bodies. We stand up and fight for sexual and reproductive rights and against those who seek to deny people their human right to bodily autonomy and freedom. We deliver care that is rooted in rights, respect, and dignity - no matter what.



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