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CSW67 Offers A First Look at a Digital Gender Equal Future

The sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW67), the largest annual meeting on gender equality hosted by the United Nations in New York, concluded on Friday, March 17, with recommendations from the Commission to all stakeholders, including governments and the private sector, to fully implement existing commitments and obligations to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, including in the context of innovation and technological change, and education in the digital age. 

Equality Now is pleased that within their agreed conclusions, adopted by consensus, The Commission recognized that while technology has transformed societies, promoted innovation, and offers opportunities, “it can also be used to perpetuate gender stereotypes and negative social norms and create vicious cycles where inequalities are amplified and perpetuated through digital tools”. 

During CSW67, The Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi), our collaboration between Equality Now and Women Leading in AI, called for the adoption of our feminist-informed Universal Digital Rights principles to ensure that women’s security and rights in digital spaces are a primary focus as world leaders continue to discuss the launch of the Global Digital Compact (GDC) – an intergovernmental compact organized by the office of the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology –  in September 2024. 

To learn more about the Global Digital Compact and why women and girls should be included, read our recent submission to the GDC, and our report, Words & Deeds: Sex Discrimination in Economic Status Laws.

A First-Time Win for Gender Equality in Digital Spaces at CSW

“It was wonderful to join CSW with the Equality Now team as Global Executive Director,” said S. Mona Sinha. “This was the first time that CSW has addressed the topic of gender equality in digital spaces, and our AUDRi principles were thematically aligned with CSW’s programmatic focus — this affirms Equality Now’s expertise and commitment to gender rights even in new and emerging areas.”

“There was so much about this CSW session that was unique,” said Antonia Kirkland, Global Lead of Legal Equality & Access to Justice at Equality Now. “Being back in person after COVID and the hybrid element to many events meant that many people could participate in other parts of the world, which ensured that many of the discussions were more inclusive. Many of the sessions and events also reaffirmed that women and girls need to get the same access to technology that men and boys enjoy, though because there is so much gender-based violence that is perpetrated online, governments need to do more to ensure their safety.” 

Among the conclusions made by The Commission are recommendations to governments and others to take actions to  improve equal access, participation, and protection in digital spaces: 

  1. Take targeted measures to identify and eliminate all forms of discrimination against women and girls including those exacerbated by the use of new and emerging technologies, and ensure that all women and girls enjoy full access, both in law and in practice, to innovation and technology, and education in the digital age […] and enhance efforts to combat discrimination resulting from the use of artificial intelligence and predictive algorithms
  2. Mainstream gender and age perspectives in national laws, digital policies, programmes and budgets, to include gender-, disability- and age-specific targets, allocate resources, increase coherence to remove barriers to equal access for women and girls to science, technology and innovation
  3. Take targeted measures to address the growing digital divides within and among countries in order to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls
  4. Enhance efforts to achieve universal and affordable connectivity, expand digital learning and literacy and facilitate the access to information and communications technology for women and girls who are disproportionately affected by the gender digital divide
  5. Take measures to ensure that all women and girls can enjoy their human rights and fundamental freedoms and access to information; eliminate, prevent and respond to all unlawful measures that prevent or disrupt access to information, including practices which are in violation of international human rights law
  6. Take concrete measures to enable the participation of all women and girls in education and training, ensure equal access to affordable mobile devices and the open, affordable, accessible, safe and secure Internet, develop e-government tools to, inter alia, enhance women’s political participation and engagement in public life at all levels, and promote pro-poor digital policies and applications, while improving the responsiveness of such technologies to the specific needs of women and girls

While a number of initiatives, digital rights charters and declarations have been discussed or adopted, their development and adoption has not been universal, and most are not legally binding. It is encouraging that the CSW proposed recommendations address both human rights and accountability in the digital realm. 

“Our AUDRi digital principles make a powerful case for why it’s critical that women’s agency and creative power be represented in the UN, Global Digital Compact. The principles resonated strongly with partners, governments, and UN agencies, and I am confident that they will inform what the world sees next year when the compact is presented in September 2024,” said S. Mona Sinha, Global Executive Director at Equality Now. 

What Are The Next Steps for the Global Digital Compact?

Equality Now is thankful to the UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Technology and representatives from Sweden, Mexico, Finland, Chile, Spain, and other champions, who expressed their support for the Global Digital Compact and concrete examples of their commitment to end harmful online practices during the multiple sessions we organized and participated in during CSW. 

The agreed conclusions brought forth by The Commission, following the acknowledgment of UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres that our digital future must reflect what we want for women and girls, prove to be a significant step in the right direction toward creating a world where human rights are protected, promoted, and enjoyed by everyone in the digital realm. 

Join us in creating a future where everyone in the digital world can enjoy the right to safety, freedom and dignity, learn more about the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi).