Saudi Arabia assumes chairmanship of UN’s forum on women’s rights

Geneva, Mar. 28, (dpa/GNA) – The United Nations has selected Saudi Arabia to chair its Commission on the Status of Women (CSW).

The 45 member states of the CSW appointed Saudi Ambassador Abdulasis Alwasil as chair of the next session by acclamation on Wednesday in New York. The mandate lasts for 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, whose responsibilities at Amnesty Switzerland include Saudi Arabia.

The country is running a big money image campaign to present itself as a modern nation, she said, “but these are gestures that have no substance.” She pointed out that 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 on the social media platform X during her doctoral thesis and was subsequently sentenced to 27 years in prison.

Countries that hold chairmanships of UN commissions must set an example, said Wenger. “That is why we regard this chairmanship as tragic.”  

At the commission meeting, the current chair from the Philippines had presented the Saudi ambassador as the only candidate. “May I take it that the commission wishes to elect by acclamation his excellency, Abdulaziz Alwasil of Saudi Arabia as Chair of the commission at its 69th session?” he asked the representatives of the 45 member countries. “I hear no objection. It is so decided.”

The decision was met with brief applause.