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report from WSSD

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  • Rebecca Pearl
    Dear friends: On behalf of WEDO, I want to thank all of our partners for incredible lobbying efforts at the WSSD - especially related to language on health and
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 8, 2002
      Dear friends:

      On behalf of WEDO, I want to thank all of our partners for incredible
      lobbying efforts at the WSSD - especially related to language on health
      and human rights, land access for women, specific targets on water, and
      preventing language that would have made WTO principles supercede
      environmental concerns.

      Also, a round of applause for those of you who participated as
      organizers and speakers in the Women's Action Tent. Despite some
      logistical hurdles - and cold temperatures and wind! - everyone worked
      hard to pull together activities involving over 150 organizations. We
      are still receiving notes of thanks from around the world, and from the
      UN, for an inspiring and action-oriented program.

      We will soon be distributing a Gender Analysis of the WSSD Plan of
      Implementation. Below you will find:
      -a brief report on our activities at WSSD
      -women's major group documents, which will be posted on WEDO's website

      Thanks again to all of you who worked around the clock to make women's
      voices heard at the Summit and throughout the WSSD process WEDO is
      currently in a planning process to determine future objectives and
      activities, and we look forward to working with all of you to build on
      the momentum from the WSSD.

      Rebecca Pearl
      Sustainable Development Program
      Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO)

      *Please note that WEDO's computer server was replaced during the WSSD,
      which disabled the out-of-office email function while I was on vacation
      during the past month - I will be responding to individual emails

      A Brief Report on WSSD

      The purpose of the World Summit on Sustainable Development was to focus
      on international action and implementation. Throughout the WSSD process,
      delegates were reminded by the Secretariat that commitments made at Rio
      and other conferences were not open for renegotiation. Governments were
      urged to build on past commitments by setting concrete targets and
      timetables, backed by improved financial resources and governance
      structures. However, following the 4th PrepCom in Bali, it was clear
      that the political will and commitment of resources needed to implement
      the still far-reaching Agenda 21 was missing. Women's plans for
      Johannesburg, along with those of many other NGOs as well as some
      governments, shifted to focus on reaffirming commitments agreed to by
      governments at previous UN conferences over the past decade and
      achieving at least some incremental gains.

      The Johannesburg Implementation document is not an action plan and
      contains few targets for implementation, many of which are reiterations
      of the Millennium Development Goals and other UN agreements. Although
      some governments committed to higher standards in specific sectors, like
      water and energy, and others, like the United States, formed voluntary
      partnerships, these individual efforts should not replace an
      over-arching international movement toward sustainability.

      Nevertheless, gains were made. New targets were set for increasing
      access to basic sanitation, as well as clean water, both of which were
      key goals of women activists. Progress also was made on women's access
      to land, an issue of particular importance to women in Africa. For the
      first time in an official document, and due to concerted advocacy by the
      Women's Caucus, language is included that explicitly guarantees the
      right of women to inherit land. The NGO community was also successful in
      deleting language on "ensuring WTO consistency" and gaining at least a
      reference to corporate accountability.

      Beyond these few specific gains, women had to focus much of their
      lobbying energy to prevent going backwards on the issue of reproductive
      health and women's human rights. The paragraph that dealt with health
      care contained the phrase "consistent with national laws and cultural
      and religious values." At the 4th PrepCom in Bali, women's groups and
      many governments opposed this language and there was some dispute
      afterwards as to whether this text was still bracketed, and therefore
      open to amendment. In prior UN Conferences (Cairo, Beijing, and even the
      recent Special Session on Children), such language was always balanced
      by the phrase "in conformity with human rights and fundamental

      WEDO, the Women's Caucus and many governments, led by Canada and the EU,
      pressed for the addition of the human rights language. We argued that
      the paragraph as it stood posed a serious threat to women's rights in
      every region of the world, making women more vulnerable to harmful
      cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, forced and child
      marriage, honor killings, death by stoning, and gang rape. The Women's
      Caucus-with the support of other NGOs, government delegates, and UN
      actors such as High Commissioner for Human Rights Mary
      Robinson-intensified its actions in the last 24 hours to successfully
      put a public spotlight on this issue through media attention and a
      strategic lobbying campaign. Despite strong opposition by the US and
      other countries, women succeeded in getting the human rights language
      agreed to by all the governments.

      Although we were forced to simply hold our ground on many fronts, it is
      an important achievement given the current climate. As more countries
      elect conservative administrations-first and foremost in the United
      States, but also in Australia, Denmark and other traditional allies of
      progressive movements-it is critical that we do not allow the dialogue
      to be pushed backwards.

      Overall, the final document integrates gender through much of the text
      and contains specific references to: ending violence and discrimination
      against women; reducing mortality among girl infants and children;
      increasing women's participation in decision-making; ensuring education
      for all; mainstreaming gender in policymaking; access to health; access
      to land; and developing gender disaggregated data. However, the Summit
      failed to establish the international governance structures and
      resources necessary to ensure that these words will be transferred into

      What we need now is the development of new ideas and a new dialogue
      about the expanding role of civil society in implementation. The
      Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue process was a significant experiment in
      formalized non-government participation in UN activities. While it was
      far from a perfect model, the process opened up the possibility of new
      structures in international negotiations and governance. In addition,
      the town-hall discussion style of negotiations advanced by the Major
      Groups, and exemplified by Jan Pronk during the Partnership Plenary
      sessions at the WSSD, is being considered by the UN for other

      Despite its shortcomings, the Summit provided a critical opportunity to
      advance an agenda for sustainable development and to bring women's
      issues to the forefront. Women will continue to press governments and
      development agencies to commit to sustainable policies in developed and
      developing countries. We have the words, now we must persist in
      demanding action.

      The Women's Caucus was guided by the Gender Analysis of the
      Implementation Plan and gave priority to two specific issues, which were
      among the most contested issues at the Summit: land rights, specifically
      the right of women to inherit land, and reproductive health, grounded in
      human rights. The Caucus developed alerts that highlighted demands for
      language that was based on precedents from previous UN conferences.
      Several press conferences were organized to highlight and raise the
      visibility of these issues. The Women's Caucus reached out to other
      major groups for support on these issues - the trade unions drafted a
      statement in support of the women's caucus position. Many thanks also to
      the Japanese women's organizations that secured space outside Sandton
      Convention Center for the Women's Caucus meetings.


      WEDO facilitated the participation of women in the following sessions:

      Statement to WSSD Plenary: Muborak Sharipova, Open Asia Institute
      (Tajikistan) - presentation of WECF peace petition
      Statement to WSSD Plenary: Halima Mamuya, WISE (Tanzania) - elected by
      women's caucus

      Partnership Plenary on Health: Litha Musyimi Ogana, ACEGA (Kenya)
      Partnership Plenary on Biodiversity/Ecosystems: Margarita Velasquez,
      Gender and Environment Network (Mexico)
      Partnership Plenary on Agriculture: Vandana Shiva, Diverse Women for
      Diversity (India)
      Partnership Plenary on Cross-Sectoral Issues: Cecilia Lopez, Cartagena
      Initiative (Columbia)
      Partnership Plenary on Water: Vasudha Pangare, Gender and Water Alliance
      Partnership Plenary on Energy: Sheila Oparaocha, Energia (Netherlands)

      Roundtables with Heads of State and Ministers (please send a note to
      rebecca@... <mailto:rebecca@...> if you were one of the four

      Multi-Stakeholder Event during closing session: Jocelyn Dow, WEDO
      (Wangari Maathai was unable to attend the Summit at the last minute)

      Women's Action Agenda for a Healthy and Peaceful Planet 2015 was
      launched in Johannesburg as an official side event at Sandton Conference
      Center on the first day of the Summit. The event was well-attended by
      government delegates and several ministers, NGO and women activists, and
      the media. An international working group, led by WEDO and REDEH
      (Network for Human Development, Brazil), facilitated a year-long
      consultation process with approximately 2,000 women worldwide that led
      to the final document, in two different formats. The full-length primer
      version includes a historical perspective on the original Women's Action
      Agenda and a critique on the present state of the world, while the
      shorter brochure format summarizes the recommendations and focuses on
      action. The brochure version has so far been translated into French,
      Spanish, and Portuguese.

      At the NGO Forum, WEDO's activities were concentrated in a five-day
      Women's Action Tent, which was jointly organized by WEDO and the South
      African women's organization Ilitha Labantu. The Women's Action Tent
      offered a space where women's achievements in communities around the
      world over the last decade could be shared and assessed. The Tent
      program was organized around the five themes of Peace and Human Rights;
      Globalization; Environmental Security and Health, Access to and Control
      of Resources; and Governance, involving over 150 women's organizations
      from all over the world. For each day's theme, the morning sessions were
      devoted to African-centered programming on issues such as NEPAD (the New
      Economic Partnership for Africa's Development) and HIV-AIDS, while the
      afternoon sessions brought in more global perspectives and experiences.
      Sessions were facilitated by ACEGA, AFRUS, AWEPON, Diverse Women for
      Diversity, Energia, Gender and Water Alliance, GROOTS, Ilitha Labantu,
      LIFE, Malibongwe, Popular Coalition to Eradicate Hunger and Poverty,
      WAG, Women's League, Women's National Coalition, WILPF, WILDAF, Women in
      Europe for a Common Future, Women's League, WEDO, and others. The Tent
      also provided space for women to network and strategize on how to move
      beyond the Summit. WSSD Secretary General Nitin Desai and South African
      Deputy President Jacob Zuma participated in the closing ceremony.

      Throughout the Summit, WEDO facilitated the representation of the
      Women's Major Group in the ten designated plenary session seats; women
      presented the Gender Analysis of the Implementation Plan in meetings
      with President Thabo Mbeki and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan; WEDO was
      part of a small group of NGOs that worked with the UN to address a
      number of issues related to access and security, which met several times
      with WSSD Secretary General Nitin Desai and South African officials;
      women's caucus was active in parallel forums, including the Women's
      Centre (at the former women's jail in Johannesburg), IUCN events, World
      Sustainability Hearings, Water Dome, ICLEI Local Governments session,
      etc; WEDO organized a stand at the Ubuntu Village with materials on
      gender and sustainable development.

      WEDO produced and distributed the WSSD Women and Gender Survival Kit
      (see www.wedo.org <http://www.wedo.org/> ) via an online journalist
      database, and conducted extensive outreach to South African and
      international media. Coverage of women's activities at WSSD included
      the Jim Lehr show in the US, BBC television and radio, CNN
      International, South African television and radio, and radio interviews
      throughout the US. Print coverage included articles in The Los Angeles
      Times, The Chicago Tribune, Associated Press, Agence France Presse,
      Panafrican News Agency, The Independent, Terra Viva, The Summit Star,
      The African Gender and Media Publication (GEM), UN Connections,
      Interaction's Development Newsletter, The Earth Negotiations Bulletin,
      Stakeholder Forum Lisistrata, and Taking Issues. Online coverage
      included articles on the websites of Population Reference Bureau,
      www.PLANetWire.org and iafrica.com, in addition to the websites of the
      print publications listed above.

      A coalition of African women's organizations, led by Litha Musyimi Ogana
      of ACEGA (Kenya) and Mandisa Monakali of Ilitha Labantu (South Africa)
      organized the ten-day Women's Peace Train that began in Kampala, Uganda
      and traveled through Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana
      before reaching Johannesburg on 26 August. The Peace Train carried a
      symbol for peace in the form of a Peace Torch, donated by UNIFEM, which
      women passed along from country to country along the route. The journey
      began on 15 August when Rwandan women, on behalf of the Great Lakes
      Region, gave the Peace Torch to women in Uganda in a colorful ceremony
      in Kampala's Freedom Square. The ceremony was attended by five Ugandan
      Ministers, among them Deputy Speaker of the Parliament Rebecca Kadaga,
      who delivered a speech on behalf of President Yoweri Museveni. President
      Museveni had planned to see the train off at the Kampala station, but
      was required to travel to Gulu in northern Uganda to attend to urgent
      peace matters and sent Minister Zoe Bakoko Bakoru in his place.

      During the course of its journey, over 70 women's groups and more than
      10,000 people participated in Peace Train ceremonies at the 18 official
      stops, demonstrating African women's commitment to an end to war and
      conflict on the continent. Many Ministers, Mayors, Ambassadors, and
      other government officials participated in the Peace Train ceremonies,
      but we would like to specially mention the commitment made by two First
      Ladies-the First Lady of the Republic of Botswana, Barbara Mogae, who
      drove 500 kilometers to the border town of Fransistown to receive the
      Peace Torch as it crossed the border and then traveled on the Train to
      the Gaborone, where she passed the Torch to the Minister of Health, and
      the First Lady of South Africa, Zanele Mbeki, who met the Train at the
      Johannesburg station at 5am. Upon greeting the Train, Mrs. Mbeki said
      that "if the Peace Train, which was conceived and delivered by African
      women, could travel from Kampala to Johannesburg, then the dream of
      lasting peace could also be converted from a dream to a reality. ...And
      if African women could enjoy their rightful place in society, they could
      conceive and deliver the dream of a peaceful and prosperous Africa." The
      Peace Torch was then brought from the train station to the Women's
      Action Tent at the NGO Forum for its opening ceremony, and it remained
      there through the week as a constant reminder of the sacrifices African
      women have made to call for lasting peace.

      Women's Major Group documents (to be posted at www.wedo.org
      <http://www.wedo.org> ):

      Women's Action Agenda Global Consultation Meetings (Northeast Asia,
      Europe, Africa, Latin America, Asia Pacific, North America 2001)
      Women's Dialogue Paper (December 2001)
      Analysis of the Secretary General's Report for PrepCom II (January 2002)
      Women's Major Group Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Statements
      (January-February 2002)
      Women's Caucus input into WSSD issues and proposals (February 2002)
      Women's Caucus Statement on Partnerships (March 2002)
      Women's Caucus Comments on Governance (March 2002)
      Women's Caucus Priorities at PrepCom III (April 2002)
      Women's Caucus Statement to the Press (April 2002)
      Women's Dialogue Paper (May 2002)
      Women's Caucus Comments on the Chair's Text (May 2002)
      Women's Major Group Multi-Stakeholder Dialogue Statements (May 2002)
      Women's Political Declaration (June 2002)
      Gender Analysis of the Draft Plan of Implementation (July 2002)
      Statement on Peace to Plenary at Summit (August 2002)
      Statement by Women's Caucus at Summit (August 2002)
      Women's Caucus Press Release on Health and Human Rights (September 2002)
      Statement at the Women's Major Group Multi-Stakeholder Event (September
      Women's Caucus Participant list from PrepComs and Summit (2002)

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