The sixty-seventh session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in New York is underway. During the first week, we convened and met with member states, UN entities, and non-governmental organizations from around the world to discuss the future of a digital world where women and girls are empowered and protected under international human rights law. The initial conversations were powerful, and some commitments were made, but one thing was true for everyone: the love for technology’s potential is deep but there must also be a global response to the harm it can do.
Securing our human rights in our digital world
“We have a short window that is open in front of us to regulate and govern the digital world, and we say this not because we fear technology but because we love technology. We love it so much that we want technology to work for everyone,” explained Ivana Bartoletti, an award-winning privacy expert and co-founder of Women Leading in AI.
“It’s a pleasure to be here. I am looking forward to listening and learning from all of you,” said Mr. Amandeep Singh Gill, United Nations Envoy on Technology, during the Securing our Human Rights in our Digital World consultation co-sponsored by Equality Now. “…There has been an overly masculine influence in technology. We need to bring in a less aggressive, less exploitative approach to technology. Gender issues are not just about gender; it’s about getting the global framework included in technology.”
The UN plans to launch the Global Digital Compact (GDC) in September 2024. It is important for the Alliance for Universal Digital Rights (AUDRi), the growing coalition convened by Equality Now and Women Leading in AI, to ensure women’s security and rights in the digital space, as outlined in our Universal Digital Rights principles, are a primary focus.
“The global agreement in 193 countries would improve access to the Internet and protect their users from the dark side of the Internet. So if I were looking for a perfect world, next year, once in 2024 this agreement is made, I hope that platforms will be held accountable for the harm that they do, so that people who are harmed in one place by a platform hosted in another place can get the justice that they’re due.” Emma Gibson, Global Coordinator, Alliance for Universal Digital Rights.
To learn more about the Global Digital Compact, read our recent submission and our report, Words & Deeds: Sex Discrimination in Economic Status Laws.
The need for a truly universal global framework on technology
“As we have heard today, those who are most profoundly affected by tech-enabled trafficking and other online crimes are the people, groups, and communities with the least power and privilege,” said Tsitsi Matekaire, Equality Now’s Global Lead, End Sexual Exploitation, in her concluding remarks during the Technological challenges and solutions in combating trafficking of women and girls in overlapping emergencies joint side event. “The challenge we face is that digital spaces remain largely unregulated… We urgently need to lay the foundations for a safe, secure, and equal digital world for our generation and future ones.”
“Many governments will want regulation and think that they can do it within their own frameworks of national laws, but it won’t be effective. It needs to be multijurisdictional; it has to be global. If you have one or two countries where they’re not signed up [to the Global Digital Compact], predators will go there, use the dark web and set up VPNs to do what they’re doing. It has to be a global compact.” – Niki Kandirikirira, Global Director of Programmes, Equality Now.
“Because the multi-jurisdictional nature of the digital world currently allows for even greater impunity for gender-based crimes, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and other treaty monitoring bodies should continue to draft or update their General Recommendations to State Parties. We need a truly robust global response,” said Antonia Kirkland, Equality Now’s Global Lead Legal Equality & Access to Justice, during the Catalysing Collective Action to End Tech-Assisted GBV event.
Government and Multi-Stakeholder Commitment
In the first week of CSW 67, governments, including Finland, Spain, Mexico, Sweden, Chile, and others, offered their support for a global compact; and concrete examples of their commitment to end harmful online practices.
“Sexual gender-based violence online knows no borders,” Thomas Blomqvist, Minister for Nordic Cooperation and Equality of Finland, began during the 17th International Helvi Sipilä Seminar. “International cooperation and action are urgent. Lasting change can only be achieved through multi-stakeholder collaboration,” he added.
“To move forward in eradicating gender-based violence in all its forms, we need adequate effort and attention to the issue. It requires a lot of work, energy, and commitment. From Chile, we have the commitment and will do all that is required to make digital spaces safer for girls and women,” said Antonia Orellana, Minister of Women and Gender Equity for Chile, during the Catalysing Collective Action to End Technology-facilitated Gender-Based Violence high level session.
Equality Now’s Global Executive Director, S. Mona Sinha, delivered a moving keynote speech about the urgent need to create a more equal digital future which has the power to unlock the true potential of a gender-equal world.
This week we look forward to continuing to engage with member states, UN entities, and non-governmental organizations from around the world who are as excited as we are to make that future of a digital world where women and girls are empowered and protected under international human rights law a reality.
While many of the events at CSW are reserved for registered attendees, many parallel events are free and open to the public.
Explore the events that Equality Now will be involved in at CSW here, and for a list of all open parallel events, visit ngocsw.org.
If you cannot attend CSW events in person, follow our social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook) or check back here for live updates about all things CSW. We hope that you will join us for an exciting two weeks of exploring ways to globally advance equality and the empowerment of women and girls! We look forward to connecting in person and virtually.