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Saudi Arabia takes over chairmanship of UN Commission on the Advancement of Women

Saudi Arabia will chair the UN Commission for the Advancement of Women.

The 45 member states of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) appointed Saudi Ambassador Abdulasis Alwasil as Chair of the next session by acclamation on Wednesday in New York. The mandate lasts one year.

The human rights organization Amnesty International expressed its shock on Thursday. Saudi Arabia is an absolute monarchy in which the royal family rules with an ultra-conservative interpretation of Islam. It is ranked 132nd out of 146 countries in the World Economic Forum (WEF) 2023 report on gender equality.

"This is a shock for us, although not a surprise," said Natalie Wenger, who is responsible for Saudi Arabia at Amnesty Switzerland. Saudi Arabia is running a big-money image campaign to present itself as a modern country. "But these are gestures that have no substance."

Women's rights are constantly violated there. In a recent report, Amnesty mentioned the case of a mother of two children who stood up for women's rights during her doctoral thesis on platform X (formerly Twitter) and was sentenced to 27 years in prison as a result. Countries that hold such chairmanships of UN commissions must set an example, said Wenger. "That's why we see this chairmanship as tragic."

At the commission meeting, the current chairman from the Philippines had presented the Saudi ambassador as the only candidate. "May I assume that the Commission wishes to elect His Excellency Abdulaziz Alwasil of Saudi Arabia by acclamation as Chairman of the Commission at its 69th session?" he asked the 45 member countries. "I hear no objections. So it is so decided." The decision was met with brief applause.

There was also no objection from the "Western Europe and other countries" group. The Group is currently represented there by Austria, Israel, Liechtenstein, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey.

©Keystone/SDA

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