Concept note: Cities for CEDAW (Version 3, December 11, 2013)
Beijing+20 — from WIN-CAWA
Inspired by the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, San Francisco became the first municipality in the world to adopt a local ordinance reflecting the principles of CEDAW (the UN Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women) in 1998. With a focus on health care, employment, economic development, education and violence against women and girls, the San Francisco CEDAW Ordinance uses the UN CEDAW definition of discrimination as the basis for a local law that requires action to prevent discrimination and ensure gender equality in government and in the private sector.
More than ten years later, other US cities including Portland, Oregon and Berkeley, California, as well as the State of Hawaii, have enacted similar initiatives. The United Nations commemoration of “Beijing+20” in 2015 offers an opportunity to learn from these “best practices” and take “Cities for CEDAW” to the national and international levels.
How? In the United States, the San Francisco Department on the Status of Women and the Women’s Intercultural Network (NGO consultative to the UN ECOSOC) will be peer leaders in partnership with the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, New York, to launch a “Cities for CEDAW” campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to “make the global local”—by promoting the adoption of CEDAW as a municipal ordinance in cities large and small. Multiple stakeholders will be engaged, including the media, business, youth, NGOs, local and state Commissions on the Status of Women, faith communities and women leaders. The campaign will initially focus on a few major cities. Mayors from New York City, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston, Baltimore along with San Francisco, are invited to launch the Cities for CEDAW Campaign at a UN CSW58 Forum in March 2014. A US grass-roots campaign organizing committee will engage other US mayors.
Why focus on cities? First, increasingly, urban areas represent the center of political gravity. As of 2008, 82% of Americans live in cities. By 2050, nearly 80% of the world’s women and girls will live in urban areas. With a high concentration of human and financial capital, cities have the ability to initiate rapid change–even when the national government cannot respond. Municipal policies can promote growth, prosperity and jobs within planetary boundaries and, in many ways, decide the future of the post-2015/post-UN Millennium Development Goals agenda.
Secondly, more women are increasingly assuming greater leadership roles at the municipal level. Of the 1,341 mayors of U.S. cities with populations over 30,000, 242 (18%) were women. Worldwide, the trend is even more striking. For example, in Costa Rica, Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, and Ukraine, there are more women than men councilors at local levels. The countries with the highest proportion of women mayors include Mauritius (40%), New Zealand (26%) and Serbia (26%), and Latvia (25%). With 500 women mayors and vice-mayors, China holds the record for the country with the most women mayors.
Thirdly, despite a long list of success stories, women have yet to realize the full potential in the power of the “women’s vote” in local elections. Since more women vote in national, not local, elections the Cities for CEDAW campaign will focus on improving voter turnout. From 1972 to 2012, for example, nearly 71% of voters in San Francisco voted in the presidential elections but only 49% turned out to vote for the mayor. Similarly, in New York City, in 2008 and 2009, women turned out in greater numbers for the presidential elections than they did for the mayoral ones. CEDAW provides a framework for women’s human rights that impacts women at the grassroots, local level: from gender-equitable public facilities to flexible work schedules, and access to gender-responsive health services.
Where and when will this happen? The Cities for CEDAW Campaign will be launched during the UN Commission on the Status of Women 58 and NGO CSW Forum 2014 to be held in New York 10 to 21 March 2014. The audience will be composed of senior government officials from UN member states and leaders of international NGOs working on gender issues. A Western Regional Summit is scheduled for August 23, 2014 for Women’s Equality Day in San Francisco as a CALL TO ACTION in preparation for Beijing + 20. Western states will bring their Plans for Action to the Summit, including best local practices on CEDAW. We expect other US regions to also mobilize for a collective US Women’s Plan of Action. The Cities for CEDAW Campaign can serve as the framework for defining a US Women’s Agenda in the post-Millennium Development Goals era and will culminate at the 83rd National Conference of Mayors to be held in San Francisco in June 2015 with a statement urging local actions in support of municipal CEDAW ordinances and implementation.