Explanation of Position on the Adoption of the CSW 2021 Agreed Conclusions (Long-Form)

United States Mission to the United Nations
March 26, 2021


The United States thanks the CSW Chair, our facilitator, and our colleagues for their efforts on arriving at consensus on these Agreed Conclusions. The document contains important observations and recommendations on the themes of women’s participation and decision-making. If implemented, certain recommendations have the potential of effective real improvements on the ground.

We are pleased to see language on indigenous women and girls, women and girls with disabilities, and women and girls living with HIV included in various issues related to social protection in this text. Women and girls from these marginalized groups often experience additional discrimination related to social protection. Drawing attention to their challenges helps mainstream their concerns across the UN system.

The United States welcomes the references to women human rights defenders in the text. Civil society plays an important role both in the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy, and the rule of law, and in providing expertise and advocacy within the UN system. Strong, vibrant civil societies are critical to having strong, successful countries. We encourage all states to work together with relevant regional, UN, and civil society mechanisms to create an enabling environment for civil society and to ensure human rights defenders are able to carry out their work without the threat of violence.


2030 Agenda

We underscore that the 2030 Agenda is non-binding and does not create or affect rights or obligations under international law, and that its implementation is without prejudice to the independent mandates of other processes and institutions.

Economic and Trade Issues

The term “illicit financial flows” has no agreed-upon international meaning. We prefer to focus on the underlying illegal activities that produce these financial streams. Technical experts with the appropriate expertise and mandate should lead on how best to identify and combat revenue streams from illegal activities. It is not appropriate to consider illicit financial flows generically in the CSW.

All sources of finance should be used effectively to accelerate the achievement of equality between women and men and the empowerment of women and girls, so Official Development Assistance (ODA) should not be singled out.

The United States believes that each Member State has the sovereign right to determine how it conducts trade with other countries, and that this includes restricting trade in certain circumstances. Economic sanctions are a legitimate means of achieving foreign policy, national security, and other objectives. The United States uses sanctions in a manner consistent with international law, including the UN Charter, with specific objectives in mind. These include using sanctions as a means to promote a return to rule of law or democratic systems, to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms, or to prevent threats to international peace and security. We again register our concern that language in this document in effect seeks to call into question the ability of members of the international community to respond effectively and by non-violent means against threats to democracy, human rights, or international peace and security. In sum, we believe that economic sanctions can be an appropriate, effective, legitimate, and peaceful tool to respond to threats.


The United States supports the goal of equal access to education, including having women and girls receive high-quality education. Within the federal structure of the United States, education is primarily a state and local responsibility. We will address the education-related goals of this document as appropriate and consistent with U.S. law and the authorities of its federal, state, and local governments.

“Equal Pay for Equal Work or Work of Equal Value”

The United States had hoped that the phrase “equal pay for equal work or work of equal value” would have appeared consistently throughout the Agreed Conclusions. This is negotiated consensus language from the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action. We understand that the phrase intends to promote pay equity between men and women. The United States implements it by observing the principle of “equal pay for equal work.”

The United States continues to work toward pay equality, including for our U.S. national sports teams who have had so much success on the international stage. We call upon countries to recognize the full value of women’s skills and their significant contributions to the labor force, acknowledge the injustice of wage inequality, and join efforts to achieve equal pay.

ESC Rights

As the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights provides, each State Party undertakes to take the steps set out in Article 2(1) “with a view to achieving progressively the full realization of the rights.” We interpret references to the obligations of States as applicable only to the extent they have assumed such obligations, and with respect to States Parties to the Covenant, in light of its Article 2(1). The United States is not a Party to the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights and the rights contained therein are not justifiable as such in U.S. Courts. We note that countries have a wide array of policies and actions that may be appropriate in promoting the progressive realization of economic, social, and cultural rights. We therefore believe that resolutions should not try to define the content of those rights, or related rights, including those derived from other instruments.

International Conventions and Conferences

The listing of various international conventions neither changes the current state of conventional or customary international law nor implies that states must join or implement obligations under international instruments to which they are not a party. For the United States, this understanding includes references to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, and Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are not party. We understand abbreviated or imprecise references to certain human rights to be shorthand references for the more accurate and widely accepted terms used in the applicable treaties, and we maintain our longstanding position on those rights. Moreover, this text does not create or elaborate any new rights under international law.

Policy Space

We note that references to “policy space” do not affect potential constraints under international law or agreements that apply to any such “policy space.” Countries should not use “policy space” as an excuse to not develop and implement measures “achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls.”

Quotas/Affirmative Action/Temporary Special Measures

With respect to quotas, affirmative action measures, and temporary special measures, the U.S. position is that each country must determine for itself whether such measures are appropriate. We do not believe it is a useful exercise for these Agreed Conclusions to urge the use of quotas and rigid numerical targets, particularly in the context of political representation and government employment, without consideration for domestic anti-discrimination legal frameworks and obligations under international law to ensure every citizen has an equal right and opportunities, without discrimination, to take part in the conduct of public affairs. The best way to improve the situation of women and girls is through legal and policy reforms that end discrimination against women and promote and provide equal access to opportunities.

Right to Development

Our view about the “right to development” are long-standing and well known. The term lacks an internationally accepted definition.

Sexual and Gender-Based Violence (GBV)/Intimate Partner Violence (IPV)

We support references to “gender-based violence” or “sexual and gender-based violence,” a more inclusive term rather than the binary “violence against women.” We also support references to intimate partner violence. It is important to recognize that violence takes place within families, and also in situations in which individuals in a relationship live together in close quarters.

Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)

The United States advocated to strengthen commitments on sexual and reproductive health and rights in these Agreed Conclusions. Promoting women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights are fundamental to women’s empowerment. The United States sees this as a critical area we must address if we are to build back better for everyone. Through expanding U.S. global health assistance and partnerships, we seek to increase women’s and girls’ access to critical health services. Investing in women’s health and well-being, including their sexual and reproductive health, saves lives, reduces poverty, and allows women greater opportunities that are critical to achieving gender equality. The United States remains committed to improving health outcomes and empowering women and girls so that they can realize their full potential and help drive economic and social development.

SOGI/Women and Girls in All Their Diversity

While the United States strongly supports references in the text to “women and girls in all their diversity,” we regret the lack of an explicit reference to sexual orientation and gender identity. LGBTI women and girls face significant additional challenges across all societies that deserve explicit inclusion.

Traditional and Ancestral Knowledge

Regarding paragraph pp, the United States does not support using the term “protecting” in connection with traditional knowledge because of uncertainty over the scope of such terms and the extent that such terms may imply the existence of legal rights not recognized, or not recognized to the same extent, in U.S. law.

We have concerns about inclusion of a new concept of “ancestral knowledge,” apparently distinct from “traditional knowledge,” and question the utility of introducing such a concept, which appears to lack a clearly defined or accepted meaning.

Unpaid Care Work

We recognize the importance of unpaid care work and have released periodic time-use surveys and estimates of the monetary value of unpaid work, but do not factor the value of unpaid work into our core national accounts, including gross domestic product (GDP).

Violence, Harassment/Sexual Harassment, and Abuse

The United States strongly supports the condemnation of harassment, intimidation, gender-based violence, and other acts that can amount to human rights violations or abuses, but believes it is important for resolutions to accurate characterize these terms, consistent with U.S. law and our international obligations. The United States would have preferred that the Agreed Conclusions use the terms “violence,” “abuse,” and “harassment,” or “sexual harassment,” in appropriate places throughout the document to be precise about which acts the relevant language covers.

While reprehensible, all of the acts in cited in various paragraphs discussing violence, including “privacy violations” in paragraph 27, are not acts of violence as defined by U.S. law. In U.S. law, the term violence refers to physical force or the threat of physical force. Words alone, even when hateful, are generally protected by freedom of expression. The United States robustly protects freedom of expression, both online and offline, because the cost of stripping away individual rights is far greater than the cost of tolerating hateful words. Equating speech with violence can also undermine and weaken efforts to address actual physical and sexual violence against women and girls which is a serious problem.

Women and Girls’ Participation

We disagree with some delegations who have suggested that girls are not involved in participation and decision-making activities. In my own country, there are numerous examples of girls’ participation. Many may be familiar with the Girl Scouts, which aims to build girls’ leadership, confidence, and commitment to bettering communities. We also note that some member states appoint youth advisers to particular UN sessions.

Women, Peace, and Security

We would have preferred greater emphasis on women, peace, and security and an explicit mention of Security Council Resolution 1325. Women peacebuilders contribute to preventing and ending conflict, countering terrorism and violent extremism, and rebuilding societies. To everyone’s detriment, women continue to be excluded from conflict and reconstruction processes.

We look forward to participating in next year’s Commission session, when we will once again join in discussions on how to best remove barriers to the empowerment of women and girls.

Thank you.