CSW, insider/outsider, gender, human rights, NGOization, United Nations


The goal of this article is to explain micro-political aspects of women’s participation within the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) by explicating how NonGovernmental Organization’s (NGO) representatives negotiate and perceive their work. Data from ethnographic participant observation of CSW meetings between 2009 and 2012 demonstrate the simultaneity of both clear insider/outsider distinctions as well as blurred and permeable boundaries between the intergovernmental body of the CSW and civil society in the form of women’s rights activists who attempt to shape CSW outcomes. Concepts of fluid insiderness and outsiderness (Naples 1996) help explain that women activists perceive themselves simultaneously as insiders and outsiders in relation to the UN system, but also in relation to other, more privileged, activists. The concept of "situated accessibility" – the varying accessibility to the UN according to NGO background and NGO notoriety, geopolitical location, funding, experience as well as language skills, personal relationships and notoriety within the UN system – brings nuance to notions of insiderness and outsiderness and adds to a deeper understanding of the intricate and complicated global human rights agenda. It may help to enhance accessibility to the CSW which requires efforts on the part of the UN system, but also on the part of women’s NGO networks.