Opening Remarks by Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield at a Briefing for NGO Representatives on the Commission on the Status of Women

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield
U.S. Representative to the United Nations
New York
February 28, 2023


Welcome, everyone. It is so good to have so many of you here in-person for this briefing for the first time since the pandemic started.

This meeting is so important to us. We learn so much from consulting you. You are the ones on the front lines, doing the hard work of advancing our urgent humanitarian and human rights goals.

And we’re meeting on an auspicious day – as we say farewell to Black History Month and welcome Women’s History Month and International Women’s Day.

The sad fact is, for the past twelve months, women and girls around the world have been under assault.

Each day in Afghanistan, for example, we hear more painful news about how the Taliban is repressing women and girls.

Women and girls are forced to stay at home, denying them work, education, and fundamental rights and freedoms. They are effectively banned from public life.  In no other country in the world are women and girls barred from receiving an education.

We must stand up for education as a basic right at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women.

Or as another example, look to Iran, where women and girls are literally being killed in the streets. We were all inspired by the peaceful protestors, who ignited a global movement for women, for life, and for freedom.

So when Iran’s brave activists called on us to suspend Iran from CSW, Vice President Harris and I stepped up. Iran’s presence was a stain on the Commission, and we removed it. Now we must follow up on that work and ensure that this strong rebuke to the Iran regime’s actions was more than symbolic. That’s especially true now, since the demonstrations have been quashed by the government’s brutal aggression.

As the leader of our U.S. delegation to this year’s Commission, I am committed to calling out Iran and other repressive regimes that violate the rights of women.

The same is, of course, true of Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine. Ukrainian women and girls, whether they are refugees, internally displaced, or in Russian-occupied lands, are facing dramatic increases in trafficking and gender-based violence.  We’ve all read the reports, detailing one horror after another.

But what I saw on the ground in Kyiv went beyond anything you could read in a report. I met with victims. Women who had been raped and tortured by Russian forces. It is hard for me, even now, to think of the pain and anguish etched onto their faces.

What’s happening to Ukrainian women and girls is despicable. Russia has perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity. And we cannot rest until these women have justice.

In Afghanistan, in Iran, in Ukraine, and in countless other countries and contexts, women and girls are facing a barrage of attacks and threats like no other.

So this year’s CSW, and the role you will play at it, takes on heightened importance.

And given the global nature of the challenges women and girls are facing, this year’s theme is apt: advancing gender quality in digital spaces.

After all, the internet is global. It connects us all. And that means that women and girls everywhere are facing threats online.

Gender-based violence is increasingly facilitated by technology. And pervasive discrimination and violence online threatens women and girls’ access to health, education, and social services. It denies us our rights.

In our modern world, where the digital realm is as real as the physical, the rights of women and girls need to be defended both online and off.

Here’s the simple truth: We can do better. Technology shouldn’t be the problem – it should be the solution. Instead of letting the digital divide deepen, we should instead harness the power of technology to achieve gender equality.

And as we do this hard work, we need to make sure rural women and girls are not left behind or forgotten.

For our part, the White House has established a task force for addressing online harassment and abuse, which is establishing programs, reports, hotlines, surveys, and research centers to counter digital violence.

We are also advancing this work in the multilateral sphere. The United States is proud to be a part of the Global Partnership for Action on Gender-Based Online Harassment and Abuse, which was launched at last year’s CSW.

And just yesterday, the White House Gender Policy Council released publicly its first progress report to President Biden on the U.S. National Strategy on Gender Equity and Equality.

Reflected in that strategy are many of the core elements we are seeking to address in this year’s agreed conclusions such as: defending access to reproductive healthcare, addressing online harassment and abuse, and advancing gender equality in crisis and conflict settings.

At this year’s CSW, we will be hosting two side events to advance these themes and priorities.

The first, on “Accelerating Gender Equality in the Digital Economy,” will highlight USAID’s new initiative to mobilize partnerships that accelerate gender equality in the digital economy.

The second, on “Catalyzing Action to End Technology-Facilitated Gender-Based Violence,” will showcase the progress we’ve made so far on this issue and build momentum toward President Biden’s second Summit for Democracy.

We will also co-sponsor many other important side events, including on topics like gendered disinformation, survivor-centered justice, securing land tenure and natural resources, and gender-transformative investments in the care economy, just to name a few.

At these events, and throughout CSW, we need your help. We will be relying on your input. On your insights. And on our partnership.

I have been advocating for women and girls my entire career. So I mean it when I say that I believe this year, when it comes to the status of women, we face an inflection point.

Will we let women and women’s rights face constant assault, each year worse than the next? Or will we make progress, and work together to do everything we can to protect, support, and uplift women and girls around the world?

I know we can build a better world for my granddaughters, and for all the little girls growing up right now.

And I look forward to building that world with you. With that, I’ll pass things over to Ambassador Carty.