To achieve the spirit and intent of international human rights instruments in securing the human dignity and wellbeing of every person equally in every country, the strong political will of the State is required. Two critical elements of the State’s role is in the creation of an enabling environment and an accountable State, one that respects human rights in its universality and based on principles of gender equality and non-discrimination. Both are not easy for Malaysia as a member State to the United Nations to achieve on its own.
EMPOWER recognises that there is a need to both work closely with the State but also to enable critical and constructive monitoring of Malaysia’s pledges and promises at the international level, that these are effectively translated to real benefits for peoples in Malaysia on the ground. Malaysia in particular is well recognised and respected internationally and has always, as part of its nomination to the Human Rights Council seat, Malaysia makes voluntary pledges to protect and promote the rights of the people not only within Malaysia, also among nations. Understanding that there will always be gaps between what is promised and what is realised through policy, law and programme implementation, EMPOWER participates in various reporting mechanisms of the United Nations to aid the government in fulfilling its internationally expressed commitments at the national level.
Malaysia ratified the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1995. As such, the government of Malaysia must report to the CEDAW Committee on the progress of realising its commitments in eliminating all forms of discrimination against women in Malaysia. EMPOWER actively monitors and reports on how Malaysia has fared on its commitments in relation to Articles 7 and 8 of CEDAW, as well as Article 2 and General Recommendation No.28.
Article 2 Duties of the State
States agree to pursue by all appropriate means a policy of eliminating discrimination against women, undertaking to take concrete steps to eliminate discriminatory laws, policies and practices in the national legal framework.
Article 7 Political and Public Life
States shall ensure that women have equal rights with men to vote, hold public office and participate in civil society.
Article 8 International Representation and Participation
States shall ensure that women are allowed to represent their governments at the international level and to participate in the work of international organisations.
General Recommendation No. 28, on the Core Obligations of States Parties under Article 2 of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women
Universal Periodic Review (UPR)
A strong civil society is crucial as part of a system of checks and balances in any thriving democracy. With the participation of the Coalition of Malaysian NGOs in the UPR Process (COMANGO), EMPOWER embarked on a project to monitor the Malaysian government’s implementation of recommendations which the State accepted through the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.
The project monitors the implementation of UPR recommendations with the collaboration of civil society organisations and communities on the ground. Inputs are then collated to become part of the Stakeholder reports submissions. COMANGO’s stakeholder reports can be viewed here. We also strive to engage with state agencies and the public. A sub-site on the Malaysia’s UPR process can be accessed here.
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
Malaysia has, at the international level, made commitments to achieve the internationally agreed upon Sustainable Development Goals, https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/sustainable-development-goals/. Malaysia again makes these commitments as a member of the United Nations, like it does for CEDAW and the UPR. For the SDGs, EMPOWER monitors the state of progress in Malaysia fulfilling its commitments in relation to Goals 5 and 16.
Goal 5: Achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls
While the world has achieved progress towards gender equality and women’s empowerment under the Millennium Development Goals (including equal access to primary education between girls and boys), women and girls continue to suffer discrimination and violence in every part of the world.
Gender equality is not only a fundamental human right, but a necessary foundation for a peaceful, prosperous and sustainable world.
Providing women and girls with equal access to education, health care, decent work, and representation in political and economic decision-making processes will fuel sustainable economies and benefit societies and humanity at large.
Goal 16: Promote just, peaceful and inclusive societies
Goal 16 of the Sustainable Development Goals is dedicated to the promotion of peaceful and inclusive societies for sustainable development, the provision of access to justice for all, and building effective, accountable institutions at all levels.