Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA

CSW65: Switzerland active in advancing women's rights

The UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) commences on 15 March for a duration of two weeks. Switzerland is closely involved in this world conference – the largest dedicated to women and gender equality.

Image of the 65th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will be held from 15 to 26 March 2021. © UN Women

New annual session of the CSW, new priority theme. This year, states will be addressing the issues of women's participation in decision-making in public life and the elimination of violence against women. The aim is to produce a final document with agreed conclusions in two weeks as well as a series of practical recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies and civil society actors. As every year, Switzerland will be participating in the work of the commission.

3 questions to Markus Seiler, deputy head of the Swiss CSW65 delegation

Markus Seiler
Markus Seiler © FDFA

Markus Seiler, secretary general of the FDFA and member of the Swiss delegation to the CSW, emphasises the importance of Switzerland’s participation in this multilateral event in order to achieve results in the area of women's rights. 

What are the Swiss delegation's objectives for CSW65?

On the one hand, Switzerland will draw attention to its priority issues, including promoting equal pay and combating gender-based violence. To this end, it will organise two high-level side events on those topics. On the other hand, we have already been very actively involved for weeks in the negotiations of the final document – the Agreed Conclusions. The Swiss delegation and like-minded states are being helped in this by the Women's Human Rights App, the new version of which was launched on International Women's Day.

Women's Human Rights app

How does Switzerland's participation in CSW65 contribute to the achievement of its foreign policy objectives?

The main theme of this year's CSW also concerns the role of women in peace and security policy, which is a priority of Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23. On women's rights, Switzerland acts within the framework of relevant multilateral processes such as the CSW in consultation with like-minded states, in particular within the informal group 'Mountains'. This collaboration is one of the core objectives of the strategy in relation to multilateralism. In addition, with the Women's Human Rights App I mentioned, Switzerland aims to contribute to more efficient negotiations and is thus indirectly strengthening the UN's reform efforts, another goal of our foreign policy. 

Why is it important for Switzerland to participate in this multilateral event?

Firstly, Switzerland relies on agile and effective multilateralism, which is an efficient way of counteracting increased unilateralism. This also holds true in the sometimes highly politicised area of women's rights. Secondly, foreign policy and domestic policy are integrally linked. In this respect, the close cooperation with the Federal Office for Gender Equality in the CSW sessions is a great strength for Switzerland. Our domestic policy priorities largely coincide with our multilateral priorities and those of international development cooperation. Switzerland can thus contribute to the success of the CSW with its experience on several levels. Lastly, participation in such conferences is always a good opportunity to exchange ideas with other countries and to learn from each other.

CSW65 in the year of the 50th anniversary of women's suffrage

The theme of CSW65 coincides with national news: 50 years ago, Swiss women obtained the right to vote. "It is an exciting coincidence that in the year in which we are celebrating 50 years of women's suffrage in Switzerland, we are discussing the full and effective participation of women in decision-making processes in public life as a priority theme at the CSW," explains Ursula Wyss of the Equal Opportunities and Global Gender Issues Section of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA). "This is also an opportunity, because Switzerland has made great strides in this area over the last 50 years. It shows that women's participation in decision-making can have a major impact."

Switzerland, a hive of innovation

As one of the most innovative countries in the world, Switzerland is ensuring this features prominently in its participation in the conference. Ahead of the conference, Switzerland launched a new, improved version of its Women's Human Rights (W'sHR) app, which provides quick, easy access to all relevant UN legal texts relating to women's rights and gender equality. The app is designed to help delegations negotiate around agreed conclusions.

The Swiss delegation demonstrates the breadth of Switzerland's commitment to women and gender equality. For CSW65, the FDFA has been working closely with the Federal Office for Gender Equality. As every year, civil society, the cantons, youth, Alliance F and the Swiss Conference of Gender Equality Delegates are also represented in the delegation.

What is the CSW exactly?

  • The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the world's main intergovernmental body that focuses exclusively on promoting gender equality and empowering women.
  • The CSW meets once a year, usually in New York. COVID-19 has changed the format this year, however, and it now includes a large digital component.
  • Member states adopt what are known as agreed conclusions on a priority theme as well as a series of practical recommendations for governments, intergovernmental bodies and civil society actors.
  • At the 2020 session, the member states adopted a political declaration to reaffirm the commitments made in Beijing. The 2021 edition is dedicated to women's full and effective participation and decision-making in public life.
  • Switzerland was elected as a voting member of the CSW for the four-year period 2020–24. This participation is particularly important as respect for human rights is one of the priorities of Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020-23.
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