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March 30, 2024

Saudi Arabia Chosen to Lead UN Forum on Women’s Rights: A Step Forward or a Cause for Concern?

In a decision that has stirred both praise and controversy, the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) has unanimously selected Saudi Arabia to preside over its 69th session in 2025, as reported by CNN citing the Saudi Arabia Mission to the UN. Abdulaziz Alwasil, the Saudi ambassador to the UN, was elected as the chair on Wednesday.

While some view this appointment as a progressive move towards gender equality, women’s rights advocates have expressed concerns. Sherine Tadros, the Deputy Director for Advocacy at Amnesty International, criticized the decision, highlighting Saudi Arabia’s notorious record in women’s rights. “The Commission on the Status of Women has a clear mandate to promote women’s rights and gender equality, and it is vital for the chair of the commission to uphold this,” Tadros emphasized.

Human Rights Watch echoed similar sentiments, pointing out Saudi Arabia’s systemic discrimination against women and persecution of women’s rights activists. Despite the criticism, Saudi Arabia insists that its leadership role in the CSW signifies its commitment to women’s empowerment, as part of its ambitious Saudi Vision 2030.

According to the Saudi Press Agency (SPA), the kingdom sees its chairmanship as an opportunity to collaborate internationally in advancing women’s rights. The Saudi Vision 2030, a national development strategy, pledges to create a thriving society where women have equal opportunities for participation and empowerment. The SPA underscored the importance of women’s full engagement at all levels, aligning with the objectives of the CSW.

However, skepticism remains regarding Saudi Arabia’s sincerity in championing women’s rights, given its history of gender inequality and repression. Critics argue that mere rhetoric and symbolic gestures are insufficient without tangible progress in safeguarding women’s rights domestically.

As Saudi Arabia assumes leadership in the CSW, the international community closely watches how the kingdom balances its commitments with its domestic policies. The scrutiny reflects the broader challenge of reconciling geopolitical considerations with the imperative of promoting universal human rights.

In conclusion, while Saudi Arabia’s appointment to lead the UN forum on women’s rights signals a potential shift in its approach, it also underscores the ongoing debate surrounding its commitment to gender equality. As discussions unfold during the 69th session of the CSW, the world awaits concrete actions from Saudi Arabia to substantiate its rhetoric and demonstrate genuine progress towards advancing women’s rights.

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