During the general debate, Federal Councillor Alain Berset expressed his concern about the number of women at risk of being driven into extreme poverty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The UN estimates that 47 million women worldwide are affected. "This crisis threatens to undo the progress made in gender equality in recent decades," he stated. "Stemming this backward trend will require a determined commitment from the international community."
Negotiating this year's agreed conclusions proved to be particularly challenging. Opinions diverged widely, particularly on such issues as sexual and reproductive health and rights, gender-based violence, human rights, family structures and sexual education. This makes the adoption of agreed conclusions by the UN member states even more of an achievement.
Women's rights policy at global level is currently experiencing several opposing trends. At one end of the spectrum is a global movement driven by civil society and youth organisations working for gender equality and women's rights, the Generation Equality Forum. It is being co-sponsored by UN Women and a large number of states, and will be hosted by Mexico in late March 2021 and France in July 2021. Switzerland is also taking part in both events.
At the other end, states with a critical stance on gender equality and women's rights are hardening their positions and often systematically blocking progress. Switzerland regrets Turkey's decision to withdraw from the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence (Istanbul Convention), announced during the CSW. Switzerland played an active role in drafting the Convention, which it has ratified and attaches great importance to.
Switzerland's pragmatic approach as a bridge builder will continue to play an important role in this area. Switzerland remains strongly committed to combating gender-based violence and to promoting women's economic empowerment, particularly equal pay. It will also continue to strive for full, equal and meaningful participation of women in the public sphere and in decision-making processes. To this end, the empowerment of women in peace and security policy is one of the priorities set out in Switzerland's Foreign Policy Strategy 2020–23.
Switzerland made a key contribution to this year's CSW in the form of the Women's Human Rights App (W'sHR), which was revamped and relaunched in the run-up to the session. The current edition of the app gives negotiators quick access to key legal texts and basic documents covering various areas relating to women's rights and gender equality. "The innovative app is an important contribution for the efficient functioning of the UN, so adds indirectly to its reform efforts. This is also one of Switzerland's foreign policy goals", explained FDFA Secretary General Markus Seiler.
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