Saudi Arabia to chair UN forum on women’s rights and gender equality

A decision by the United Nations to appoint Saudi Arabia as the chair of a gender equality forum has been criticized by women’s rights advocates.

The UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) unanimously appointed Saudi Arabia to chair its 69th session in 2025, according to the Saudi Arabia Mission to the UN. Saudi ambassador to the UN, Abdulaziz Alwasil, was elected as chair Wednesday.

Ahead of the decision, Amnesty International Deputy Director for Advocacy Sherine Tadros called out Saudi Arabia for its notorious treatment of women.

“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. Saudi Arabia’s abysmal record when it comes to protecting and promoting the rights of women puts a spotlight on the vast gulf between the lived reality for women and girls in Saudi Arabia, and the aspirations of the commission,” Tadros said Friday.

“Saudi Arabia cannot prove its commitment to women’s rights merely by securing a leadership role in the commission. It must demonstrate its commitment through concrete actions domestically,” Tadros added.

Human Rights Watch also warned about the UN decision, saying last week that “Saudi Arabia systematically discriminates against women and persecutes women’s rights activists.”

But Saudi Arabia says it is eager to help women by working with the CSW as part of its new vision for the kingdom.

“The kingdom’s chairmanship of the committee comes as an affirmation of its interest in cooperation within the framework of the international community in enhancing women’s rights and empowerment, and it is also in line with the qualitative achievements achieved by the kingdom in this field, thanks to the special attention and care the kingdom’s leadership pays to (women’s) empowerment and rights,” state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported Wednesday.

The Saudi government website “Saudi Vision 2030” says it aims for “a strong, thriving, and stable Saudi Arabia that provides opportunity for all.”

The Saudi Press Agency added, “The Saudi Vision 2030 also included priorities and targets that focused on women’s full participation at all levels and investing their energies in a manner consistent with their enormous capabilities.”

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