Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean commit to promoting actions to achieve substantive equality and parity democracy

The Declaration of the Ministers and High Authorities of the national mechanisms for the advancement of women represents the region's contribution to the 65th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women to be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York from March 15 to 26, 2021.

Date: Thursday, March 11, 2021

The 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women will take place from 15 to 26 March 2021. During this meeting, women's full and effective participation and decision-making by women in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, will be addressed as a priority theme to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. The theme for International Women's Day on March 8, 2021 “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world,” highlights the importance of women's full participation in all spheres of public life.

Members of governments from Latin America and the Caribbean met between February 23 and 25, 2021 at the 60th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean. Within the framework of this Meeting, organized by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) as Secretariat of the Conference, in coordination with the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Special Regional Consultation Session was held prior to the 65th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW65). The Ministers and High Authorities of the Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women of the region reaffirmed their commitment to the achievement of substantive equality and parity democracy with the adoption of the Regional Declaration for CSW65.

With this, the Ministers and High Authorities pledged to redouble their efforts to make gender parity a State policy and to ensure women's equal access to decision-making positions in all areas and at all levels. They also stressed the need to guarantee, from an intersectional approach, the protection of the human rights of women who participate in political and public life, women human rights defenders and women journalists, and to condemn political violence against women.

Through this Declaration, Latin America and the Caribbean will present an advanced position as the region's contribution to the multilateral debate within CSW65, promoting the guarantee of women's political rights and their autonomy in decision-making as a fundamental element for a democratic, equal and inclusive horizon. This agreement also reaffirms the centrality of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, a subsidiary body of ECLAC, as the main intergovernmental forum for the advancement of an ambitious and comprehensive Regional Gender Agenda, which is the result of the articulated work over the last 40 years between governments, United Nations agencies, funds and programmes and civil society organizations, particularly feminist, women's, youth, indigenous and Afro-descendant women's organizations.

It should be noted that the recognition of women's political rights has been consolidated through the Regional Gender Agenda and various national efforts and policies that have been pioneering and inspiring for the world, such as quota laws, parity, affirmative and intersectional policies, regulations and mechanisms to eradicate violence against women in politics.

Previously, and as part of the regional debate that took place during the Special Regional Consultation Session prior to CSW65, the Ministers and High Authorities had the input of the Preparatory Document "Towards Equal and Inclusive Participation in Latin America and the Caribbean. Regional overview and contributions to CSW65", prepared by UN Women with contributions from ECLAC and civil society organizations, which systematizes the main achievements, trends and challenges towards the consolidation of parity, inclusive democracies free of gender-based violence in the region.

Some of the milestones in the last twenty years are: the first quota law in the world that took place in Argentina (1991); parity in the Constitutions of Ecuador (2008), Bolivia (2009), Colombia (2015) and through successive reforms since 2014 until the "parity in everything" in Mexico (2019); the first specific law for the eradication of violence against women in politics in Bolivia (2012); and the first parity constituent process that will take place in Chile (2021), among others. This is a region that is advancing in the regulatory framework towards parity democracy with 10 countries with some provision on parity in the political and electoral sphere, and 8 countries with quota laws.

However, despite these advances, there are still gaps between and within countries. Women still face great challenges in advancing towards equal representation. The region has only 32.9% of women parliamentarians in lower chambers, 28.5% of women in ministerial cabinets, 24.5% of seats occupied by women in local governments and 32.1% of women in the highest court of justice or supreme court.  In only three countries and territories in the Caribbean do women hold decision-making positions at the highest level of the Executive Branch; Barbados and Aruba have a woman Prime Minister and in Trinidad and Tobago a woman holds the office of President, while no woman currently holds the office of President in Latin America.

On the other hand, in the Declaration, the governments agreed, among other things, to move forward with the following actions:

  1. Promote measures, including changes at the legislative level, affirmative policies, specific budget allocations and political education and training initiatives for women's leadership in all its diversity, aimed at promoting gender parity, inclusion and ethnic and racial alternation in all branches of government, in special and autonomous regimes, at the national, subnational and local levels, in private institutions and in the labor, trade union and academic spheres.
  2. Promote concrete measures to improve transparency and guarantee equal access to public financing of campaigns through political financing with a gender perspective.
  3. Strengthen the institutional framework and gender architecture through the prioritization of mechanisms for the advancement of women and the mainstreaming of the gender perspective at different levels of the State, by increasing the allocation of financial, technical and human resources, budgeting with a gender perspective, and monitoring and accountability with citizen participation.
  4. Promote mechanisms for greater incorporation of women in all their diversity, as well as women's organizations, including civil society and community experts and leaders, in crisis response and recovery, especially in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic.
  5. Additional initiatives to overcome barriers to women's full participation in public life and decision-making:
  • Reaffirm the commitment to promote the adoption and implementation of comprehensive and multisectoral laws, policies and action plans to prevent, address, punish and eradicate different forms of gender-based violence and discrimination against women and girls in the private, public, political, economic, institutional and symbolic spheres.
  • Promote universal access to comprehensive health services, including sexual and reproductive health services.
  • Reaffirm the commitment to implement counter-cyclical policies sensitive to gender inequalities to mitigate the effects of economic crises and recessions on the lives of women and girls and promote comprehensive systems of care.

During 60th Meeting of the Presiding Officers of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, governments reported on their progress in implementing the Santiago Commitment, adopted at the XIV Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (Santiago, January 2020) and urged that policies to respond to and recover from the HIV/AIDS pandemic incorporate a gender perspective, include the participation of women in their design and execution and contribute to overcoming the multiple and interrelated forms of violence, discrimination, and inequality that disproportionately affect women in all their diversity. As a result, the governments also reaffirmed their commitment to take all necessary measures to accelerate the effective implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the Regional Gender Agenda in order to contribute to a transformative, sustainable and gender-equal recovery.

Within this framework, the Santiago Commitment: A regional instrument to respond to the COVID-19 crisis with gender equality was presented. The preliminary document Measures and actions promoted by the governments of Latin America and the Caribbean in response to COVID-19 in key areas for women's autonomy and gender equality on national initiatives in response to the pandemic was also presented, based on the information published in ECLAC's COVID-19 Observatory in Latin America and the Caribbean, whose gender section is being developed jointly with UN Women.

The meeting was attended by representatives of 32 ECLAC Member States, 10 associate members, the Vice Presidents of the Republic of Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador and Uruguay, the Foreign Minister of Chile and the Foreign Minister of Panama, as well as representatives of United Nations agencies and feminist, women's and civil society organizations. Over the course of the three-day meeting, more than 200 people attended the live working sessions, and an even larger number followed the webcast across social media channels.