The Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) recommended that Ukraine ensure the meaningful participation of women at all stages of the peace process. In its Concluding Observations, adopted at its 66th session, the Committee echoed recommendations in the joint shadow report by WILPF and several Ukrainian organizations (see later) that Ukraine place high priority on women’s participation in peace efforts. We are pleased that it prioritized for its follow-up procedure a recommendation that Ukraine: “Place high priority on the meaningful and inclusive participation of women at all stages of the peace process and in all reconstruction initiatives as well as in transitional justice processes, in particular the inclusion of women at the decision-making level, at the national and local levels and develop capacity-building programmes for women seeking to participate in such processes.”
The Committee also made recommendations on women’s enjoyment of economic and social rights (e.g. access to health, employment and education), with a particular focus on internally displaced and rural women. Women’s enjoyment of their social and economic rights is fundamental to achieve their meaningful participation in preparations for a peace process. In addition to the direct impact on the wellbeing of Ukrainian women, violations of their social and economic rights hinder women’s meaningful participation. If women do not have the economic resources to free them up to be able to be active participants in Ukraine’s political life and peace and mediation efforts, to speak about their meaningful participation is meaningless.
In our joint report to the CEDAW Committee, we highlighted the specific harmful impact on women’s economic and social rights of austerity measures linked to increased interventions by international financial institutions, mainly the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The cuts in public spending affect women disproportionately in two ways: firstly, women tend to be the primary beneficiaries of pro-social spending. For example, cutbacks in public health and social service expenditures rely on shifting the burden of care to women. Gendered social norms mean women are expected to compensate for reduced state support by spending more time to care for sick and elderly family members. This, in turn, also reduces the amount of time available for remunerated work. Secondly, due to the feminization of care in both paid and unpaid work, women tend to be employed in those sectors where most job cuts have taken place. As a result, their enjoyment of human rights, such as the rights to an adequate standard of living, work, education, health and access to justice has been considerably negatively impacted.
WILPF activities relating to the CEDAW Committee’s review of Ukraine
On 13 February 2017, the Committee reviewed Ukraine’s efforts and challenges in implementing CEDAW. WILPF made a submission for this review, in collaboration with various Ukrainian NGOs (Alternative Youth Center, Centre for Social and Labor Research, Child Smile, Gender Dnipro, NGO Center for the Future, Theatre for Dialogue), drafted with the help of the Charity Fund East SOS and several independent activists.
WILPF participated in the Informal Meeting and the informal Lunch Briefing with Committee members held before the Committee’s dialogue with the Ukrainian delegation. WILPF consultants Olga Koreniuk and Nina Potarska from Ukraine emphasized the disproportionately detrimental impact of IMF conditionalities on women’s social and economic rights in Ukraine. WILPF also supported the participation in the Committee’s session of Hanna Yanova, representing the Coalition of Human Rights Organisations “Justice for Peace in Donbas”. The Coalition submitted a report on the situation of women in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. While in Geneva, Olga, Nina and Hanna also met with various NGO and UN representatives and diplomats to discuss WILPF research findings and recommendations.
Prior to the Committee’s session, WILPF worked closely with women activists in Ukraine to support their engagement in the CEDAW review process through monitoring the situation, with a particular focus on the impact of austerity measures. WILPF facilitated meetings with Committee members as part of the CEDAW pre-session on Ukraine in July 2016. Through a workshop on the CEDAW and the UPR reporting processes in December 2016, WILPF also provided advice on the process for preparation of NGO submissions.
The CEDAW Committee’s dialogue with the Ukrainian delegation and Concluding Observations
During the interactive dialogue, the Committee addressed several issues that women face in the labour market, amongst others their underrepresentation and the gender pay gap. It noted that budget cuts had a disproportionate impact on rural women and asked Ukraine if there were any specific programmes in place to address these negative implications. Furthermore, it drew attention to the need of an equitable distribution of social income and pensions, including internally displaced persons, and it emphasized that in this, women should be a priority.
The Committee also asked the Ukrainian delegation how the government ensured women’s participation in the formal peace negotiation and particularly with regards to the Minsk agreements. The delegation replied that women had been closely involved in these negotiations, something that is in contrast with the assessment of women activists. For example, the lack of gender equality in decision-making processes in Ukraine was highlighted by participants in a workshop organised by WILPF in 2015, together with Interpeace and the International Center for Policy Studies, on women’s role to ensure durable peace.
On 6 March, the Committee released its Concluding Observations on Ukraine, in which it made specific recommendations on women’s meaningful participation at all stages during the peace process. It expressed concerns that “women have been marginalised in general and they are not actively and meaningfully participating in ongoing peace negotiating efforts, including the Minsk 2 agreements”. The Committee also urged measures to address the particular dire situation of rural women and internally displaced women aimed to, for example, ensure rural women’s “access to justice, education, housing, formal employment, skills development and training opportunities, income-generating opportunities and microcredit, and ownership and use of land” by improving infrastructure in rural areas and formulating policies to combat poverty among rural women, “ensure that internally displaced women and girls have adequate access to health services, education, food, shelter, free movement, registration, social benefits […]”. It recommended “appropriate budget allocations to the health services and [to] improve women’s access to high-quality health care and health-related services.” The Committee asked that Ukraine “strengthen cooperation with international organizations and the donor community”, a recommendation prioritized for its follow-up procedure. A strengthened cooperation with international organizations such as the IMF is one that relies on the respect, protection and promotion of human rights, including women’s economic and social rights. Ukraine should therefore assess the human rights and gender implications resulting from conditionalities imposed by international financial institutions, in line with the CEDAW Committee’s previous recommendation that Ukraine “assess the impact of domestic economic reforms and of the international financial and economic crisis on women, counter the negative effects on women through adequate measures and sufficient funding”.
We are pleased that the Committee addressed the urgency to ensure women’s effective and meaningful participation in Ukraine’s peace process. WILPF will continue to advocate for Ukraine and other States to fulfill their international obligations to promote women’s participation in political decision-making, in peace processes and in contexts of transitional justice. Crucially, we believe that this also means that States are to protect and promote economic and social rights, as ends in themselves but also as important “pre-conditions” for women’s meaningful political participation. For this reason, in our joint submission for the UPR, we have reiterated our recommendations that Ukraine: conduct a human rights and gender impact assessments before accepting conditionalities by international financial institutions, such as IMF; address the outcomes of these assessments with these institutions; and seek and implement alternative policies to those that would lead to human rights violations arising from those conditionalities.
For more information, read “The Effects of Intervention by International Financial Institutions on Women’s Human Rights in Ukraine” and Obstacles to Women’s Meaningful Participation in Peace Efforts in Ukraine Impact of Austerity Measures and Stigmatisation of Organisations Working for Dialogue. Joint submission to the UPR.
About the CEDAW Committee’s reporting process
The CEDAW Committee is a body of 23 experts on women’s rights who serve in a personal capacity four-year terms. These experts examine initial and periodic reports submitted by States parties on steps they have taken to implement the Convention. The Committee makes observations and recommendations based on those reports and issues general recommendations that clarify the scope of the Convention and provide detailed guidance to States parties on how to implement the obligations of the Convention.
Every four years, States parties have to provide a report on their implementation efforts and challenges. The reporting cycle consists of 1) State’s report (on legislative, judicial, administrative & other measures); 2) Pre-session (which consists of a working group, based on state’s report(s) and other info, e.g NGOs); 3) List of Issues (Outcome of the Pre-session, intended to provide focus for the dialogue), 4) Written Replies by the State 5) the Session (interactive dialogue with delegation of State party); 6) Concluding Observations; 7) Follow-up (two issues of Concluding Observations are selected to be reported on by State party within 1 or 2 years); 8) Next State’s report.
 13 February – 3 March 2017
 Paragraph 13 (a), CEDAW/C/UKRCO/8 (3March 2017). The Committee requested that Ukraine provide, within two years, written information on the steps taken to implement the recommendations contained in paragraphs 13 (a), (f) and 29 (a), (c) of its Concluding Observations.