UNESCAP AGENDA ITEM 2: Thematic Review with focus on “the Summit of the Future”

UNESCAP                                                                                                                 AGENDA ITEM 2: Thematic Review with focus on “the Summit of the Future”

Statement to be delivered by Cielito Perez, Center for Women’s Resources, Philippines 

As we sit here discussing the prospects of the Summit of the Future, women in our communities are grappling with depressed wages, insecurity of jobs and livelihoods, rising food and fuel prices, reduced public services on health, education, social protection, and social welfare. Democratic spaces continue to shrink with increased militarism, fundamentalism, and authoritarian patriarchal regimes. 

While we appreciate the emphasis on human rights and gender equality in the Pact of the Future, it is more important to move beyond mere rhetoric. We are presented with real problems that need real solutions and actions. Member States must demonstrate resolute commitment to dismantling systemic barriers and injustices by a system that takes away wealth and resources from developing countries to developed countries, and thus, exacerbates inequalities within our countries.

Despite affirmations of commitment to the 2030 Agenda, glaring gaps in financing remain unaddressed. In the Asia-Pacific region alone, USD 1.5 trillion is needed annually, to achieve the SDGs. Yet, half of the region’s developing economies rely on external debt to meet our needs, burdening us with crippling debt repayments. As a result, women bear the brunt of austerity measures imposed on us. Meanwhile, ODAs have been declining in quantity and quality and donor countries are failing to uphold their historical commitment to appropriate 0.7% of their Gross National Income towards development assistance. 

We are alarmed by increasing reliance on the private sector to fund the SDGs. The Public Private Partnership approach at different levels, gave more roles to the corporate sector in development policies strengthening corporate capture of our economies. Privatization of essential services and infrastructures widens disparities, depriving and displacing marginalized people.

The Summit also talks about international peace and security, but this will remain elusive as militarism is used to pursue economic and hegemonic interests. There is no peace and inclusive development when military expenditure continues to divert resources away from sustainable development spending. Peace cannot exist when the military-industrial complex profits from wars and conflicts that claim the lives and future of women and children.

We recognize the need to strengthen digital cooperation and harness the potential of science, technology and innovation, and with this, we want a Global Digital Compact that will end the concentration of power in a handful of big digital and tech companies and ensure that technologies will be a tool of development for the most marginalized, and not used to maintain the status quo or reconcentrate much bigger resources and profits in the hands of a few. 

In transforming global governance, we are concerned that we are falling short of realizing the vision of a multilateral system that is more effective, more trusted, more inclusive, and better equipped for the challenges, opportunities, and capacities of the present and the future. It is essential to overhaul the global debt architecture, and prioritize climate finance, and human rights. The Summit of the Future must advocate to democratize global economic and financial governance, referencing ongoing processes such as the UN Tax Convention to tackle illicit financial flows and promote fiscal transparency. 

While the Summit of the Future presents a crucial opportunity to chart a course toward a more just and equitable world, this can be done if, and only if, we acknowledge that the current system has failed and that a new framework of development is needed. We urge our governments to chart a course towards development justice – an alternative model of development that puts people and planet over profit, centering on and respecting human rights and people’s right to development – a future of global equity, of ecological sustainability, of social justice, and genuine peace.

Thank you very much.

CWR Position Paper on Increasing Women’s Participation in Political Parties

CWR Position Paper on Increasing Women’s Participation in Political Parties

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) supports the proposed legislative measures aimed at increasing women’s participation in political parties (House Bill No. 6604 and House Bill No. 9667). This proposed measure is of critical importance and represents a stride towards empowering women within the political sphere, aligning with principles enshrined in international human rights frameworks.

The right of women to participate in public and political life, including their representation, is vital for fully realizing their role as agents of change and beneficiaries of sustainable development and progress. The meaningful involvement of women in public life is crucial to ensure the integration of their concerns and perspectives in decision-making processes and policy formulation.

Examining the current landscape of women’s political participation in the Philippines reveals a modest increase in women’s representation in elected positions, with the proportion of female elected officials rising from 22% in 2016 to 31% in 2022. Despite an 8.47% increase in the number of women elected officials between the 2016 and 2022 National and Local Elections, the overall proportion fell short of the envisioned 50-50 distribution in decision making positions.

While legal impediments to women’s political representation do not exist, and despite the enactment of the Magna Carta of Women, systemic and cultural barriers persist. The slow growth in women’s political representation is attributed to various challenges, including persistent patriarchal norms and gender stereotypes, domestic responsibilities, and inadequate training and education. Financial constraints and limited economic resources for political campaigns greatly impedes women’s ability to compete on an equal footing with male counterparts.

Instances of violence against women in politics remain a significant concern. Women candidates and politicians face threats, harassment, and discrimination, creating a hostile environment that discourages many from active political engagement. For instance, the Gabriela Women’s Party, the lone women’s political party and sectoral representation in the Philippine Congress, faces ongoing disqualification cases filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) with the Commission on Elections. This troubling trend underscores the urgency of addressing not only the barriers to women’s political participation but also the systemic harassment and intimidation they encounter in the pursuit of their political roles.

In this light, the Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) supports the provisions of the proposed legislative measure to increase women’s participation in political parties and recommends the following:

  1. On supporting women quota, CWR emphasizes the importance of prioritizing women from marginalized sectors in the implementation of the Women Participation and Representation in Political Parties Act. Women from the marginalized sectors of workers, farmers, migrants, indigenous peoples, possess a unique understanding of the challenges faced by their communities, and this will ensure that policies are not only inclusive but also responsive to their specific needs.
  2. On Women and Gender and Development Agenda and Program, CWR notes that political parties must integrate gender perspectives and women’s human rights into their core philosophy and ideas. The Women and Gender and Development Agenda and Program must give emphasis to addressing pressing issues of women, including economic security, access and control over resources, access to health and education, and addressing gender based violence, among others.
  3. On establishing the Women in Political Parties Empowerment Fund, CWR supports the creation of the financing of the Women and Gender and Development Agenda and augmenting campaign expenditures for women candidates. However, mechanisms should be in place to ensure that the funds will be used by women candidates from marginalized sectors who have limited access to resources.
  4. CWR underscores the need to strengthen mechanisms to ensure a safe and enabling environment for women’s political participation and safeguard them from potential risks. This will ensure a robust and fearless representation that is essential for promoting genuine democracy. There must be mechanisms to prevent discrimination and hate speech against women politicians and women candidates in political and public discourse. Concrete steps must be taken to prevent harassment and threats against women candidates and politicians.

These recommendations aim not only to rectify the current gender imbalances in the political sphere but also to pave the way for a truly inclusive and democratic political landscape. The Center for Women’s Resources remains steadfast in its dedication to supporting the full participation of women, especially those in the marginalized sectors, in the political sphere.

PH Gov’t #3 buyer of Israeli arms used to fund Palestine genocide, killing women & children

PH Gov’t #3 buyer of Israeli arms used to fund Palestine genocide, killing women & children

The Center for Women’s Resources joins people’s organizations and rights groups in condemning the Philippine government for its complicity to the Israeli genocide in Palestine. Its position in the recent UN resolution calling for a humanitarian truce, where the Philippine government abstained, clearly shows where its support and interest lies – to the oppressors and repressive regimes backed by imperialist powers and colonizers who continuously violate international human rights and humanitarian laws.   

According to the Gaza Health Ministry, more than 8,000 Palestinians have been killed since October 7, including 3,648 children and 2,187 women. Despite its own people demanding an end to the violence in Palestine, the extremist Zionist regime resorted to cold-bloodedly targeting civilians, homes, schools, hospitals and churches with absolute disregard of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Before this, the Palestinian people, especially in Gaza strip, have suffered decades of bombings, offensives, and blockade of food, water, electricity and supplies from the Israeli government, an extreme violation Palestinian’s right to life and self-determination.

The Philippine government’s abstention to the resolution and its full support to Israel is appalling. The position however comes as no surprise when the Philippine government, under Pres. Duterte has kept Israel as a close military ally, purchasing P15 billion worth of arms from Israel since 2018.

The Marcos Jr. administration is no different from the Duterte administration in playing a crucial role in supporting Israel’s genocide in Palestine.

Despite 30,000 Filipinos living in Israel and 100 in the Gaza Strip, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. expressed support to Israel, assuring that the Philippines will always stand with Israel in its war against the Hamas. However, this kind of support further legitimizes Israel’s impunity and violence inflicted not only to the Palestinian people, but also endangering the lives of Filipino migrant workers.

We also condemn the US government’s support and for heavily funding the Israeli government’s atrocities, all for its strategic expansion of their imperialist control over the Middle East and the region’s oil and gas reserves. For decades, billions of dollars’ worth of US military aid and armaments paved the way for Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

The Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) stands with Palestine because Palestinians and Filipinos share a common history fighting against colonial rule and oppression in all of its forms – reforms, protest actions, political campaigns, and armed struggle – all towards liberation, genuine freedom, and democracy. #

Filipino women mired in gender equality and human rights setbacks despite CEDAW commitment – women’s think tank

Filipino women mired in gender equality and human rights setbacks despite CEDAW commitment – women’s think tank

Forty year-old research institution Center for Women’s Resources (CWR) reports worsening gender inequality and human rights violations against Filipino women, an alarming lack of commitment of the PH government to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), during 9th periodic review for the Philippines this October.

Neoliberal development policies of liberalization, privatization, and deregulation, along with state repression, resulted in the patterns of violations encroaching upon women’s economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights. Furthermore, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated pre-existing inequalities and discrimination, adding to the difficulties endured by Filipino women.

Economic insecurity, joblessness, and abuse of workers’ rights

According to the May 2023 Labor Force Survey, over 21.14 million Filipino women are “economically insecure”. This includes the unemployed (996,000), those lacking work and income or underemployed (1.899 million), and those outside the labor force (18.248 million).

The number of unemployed women doubled during the pandemic, from 852,000 in 2019 to 1.69 million in 2020. Many women lost their jobs and livelihoods, particularly in sectors that shuttered during lockdowns. By December 2022, an estimated 2.2 million individuals were unemployed, with 1.06 million being women.

Gender wage inequality remains a pressing issue, with women consistently earning less than men. The gender pay gap across occupations ranges from 4% to 44%, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). In a case study by CWR in Northern Luzon provinces, women farm workers receive 28.57% lower wages than men, earning $5.45 compared to men’s $7.25. In other rural communities, women earn just $2.72 for a day’s work.

Due to the lack of viable jobs in the country, many Filipino women are forced to go abroad as migrant workers in low-skilled, low-wage, insecure jobs. In 2019, there were 1.23 million overseas Filipino women workers, 24% more than men.

Abuse against migrant workers also persists. In 2020, the Middle East recorded 4,302 cases of OFW abuse. There were also 23,714 contract violations reported, including passport confiscation and the failure to provide domestic workers with the protections outlined in labor codes and labor protection laws.

Cases of violence and abuse remain high

Most violence victims come from the poorest quintile, 16% of women in the lowest wealth quintile have endured physical violence. Poverty deters many women from pursuing legal action due to the high costs, lengthy procedures, and complexity of the judicial process. Two in five women (42%) age 15–49 who have experienced physical or sexual violence have never sought help to end the violence or told anyone about the violence.

Alarmingly, top officials in the country perpetuate misogyny that could encourage violence against women and contribute to the culture of impunity. Filipino women are also subjected to objectification and sexualization in media, advertising, and politics.

Women and girls are forced into prostitution and various forms of body commodification due to poverty. Increased use of technology coupled with restrictions in mobility during the pandemic also gave rise to new methods of commodifying women’s bodies as “traditional” prostitution transitioned online.

Lack of access to judicial and legal processes

Women also continue to suffer from the slow and ineffective justice system. From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings, many of whom are women human rights defenders. There are also cases of enforced disappearances and abductions believed to be detained against their will in military camps and facilities.

As of June 2022, there were 162 women political prisoners and 14,073 women deprived of liberty (WDLs). In the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW), 67% of the detained women are jobless and/or housewives/housekeepers or are in the informal sector with meager income and lacking social protection, and mainly commit crimes closely linked to poverty. These women continue to suffer from congestion and poor living conditions in jail facilities.

Violation of women’s right to political participation

Women’s meaningful participation in public life is vital in ensuring that their concerns and perspectives are integrated into decisions and policy-making processes. Concerningly, instances of harassment against women’s representation persist. Gabriela Women’s Party, the sole women’s political party and sectoral representation in the Philippine Congress, faces ongoing disqualification cases filed by the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) with the Commission on Elections.

Attacks against women human rights defenders and civil society

Women human rights defenders who are at the forefront of the fight for land, jobs, wages, public services, and against extractivist projects continue to face direct attacks from state agents. From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings. This includes human rights worker Elisa Badayos, killed in 2017; Zara Alvarez, a human rights advocate, educator, paralegal, and health activist killed in 2020; and Leonila Pesadilla, an active member of the Compostela Farmers’ Association and has been vocal in their opposition to major mining projects in their community.

There are also cases of enforced disappearance such as Loi Magbanua, a labor organizer and women’s and LGBT rights advocate, who was abducted along with a fellow labor organizer, and peasant organizers and human rights defenders Cha Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal who went missing in Moncada, Tarlac. 

As of June 2022, there were 162 women political prisoners. This includes human rights workers Alexandrea Pacalda and Glendhyl Malabanan, development worker Rita Espinoza, writer and women’s rights advocate Adora Faye de Vera, community journalist Frenchie Mae Cumpio, and peasant women organizer Amanda Echanis.

The Center for Women’s Resources joins women’s groups and rights defenders in their call to the Philippine government to fulfill its obligation as a signatory to the CEDAW and its local counterpart, the Magna Carta of Women. We challenge the Marcos Jr administration to fulfill the following demands:

1. Respect and fulfill the recommendations of UNHRC member states;
2. Allow Special Procedures and mandate holders to conduct official visits within the Philippines;
3. Undertake a comprehensive review of macroeconomic neoliberal policies; and lastly,
4. Revoke the Anti-Terror Law, Executive Order 70 and disband the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC) to ensure a secure and supportive environment for the crucial work carried out by advocates for women’s rights and human rights defenders. #

CWR’s full submission to the Office of High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) can be accessed here.

More than half a century later, women face the same repressive conditions under the dictator’s son

More than half a century later, women face the same repressive conditions under the dictator’s son

The Center for Women’s Resources joins the Filipino people in commemorating the 51st anniversary of the declaration of Martial Law, one of the darkest moments in Philippine history under the Marcos dictatorship. Fifty one years later, women continue to face the same crisis, corruption, and brutal forms of political repression.

We remember the courageous and fierce women of the resistance that continue to inspire us today. We remember trade union activist, Elsa “Liza” Balando, who was killed by military forces; community organizer, Rizalina Ilagan, who was forcibly disappeared; student writers, Liliosa Hilao and Nimfa “Nona” Del Rosario; and Maria Lorena Barros who was instrumental in mobilizing women’s resistance against the Marcos dictatorship.

Tens of thousands were killed, imprisoned, tortured, and were never seen again by their families under the Marcos Sr. regime. More than half a century later, women face the same conditions under the dictator’s son.

The son’s Anti-Terror Law is the father’s Martial Law

In recent months, we have seen increasing cases of use of the Anti-Terror Law against human rights defenders and activists. With its ambiguous and sweeping definitions, it has empowered authorities to label activists and human rights defenders as terrorists or enemies of the state. 

Many of the individuals and activists charged by Anti Terror Law,  those included in the terrorist list, and those subjected to relentless attacks are rights defenders who are at the forefront of the fight against neoliberal development and repressive state policies impacting women’s and people’s lives.

From July 2016 to December 2022, there were 66 women victims of extrajudicial killings. Amongst them are educators, health activists, human rights advocates, and small farmers opposing destructive development projects in their communities.

Meanwhile, enforced disappearances remain rampant. Labor organizer Loi Magbanua is yet to be surfaced since her enforced disappearance in May 2022. This is the same case with peasant organizers Cha Pampoza and Elgene Mungcal, who went missing in Tarlac. There are also 162 women political prisoners as of June 2022, including human rights workers, development workers, writers, peasant organizers, journalists, and youth. These individuals have been detained without due process, often on trumped-up charges, and are denied their basic rights while in custody. The imprisonment of these women not only silences their voices but also serves as a warning to others who dare to speak out against injustices. The government’s lack of action and transparency in addressing these cases has only fueled public outrage and further eroded trust in the justice system and undermines the country’s “commitment to upholding human rights”. 

Despite these relentless attacks and the worsening economic and social crisis, we stand firm, committed, and grounded. It is with the same courage and grit that we reaffirm our commitment to hold tyrants, plunderers, and rights violators accountable. It is in this way that we honor the brave women and men who fought the same battle before us.  #