China has suffered back-to-back losses in elections to two global bodies

China which doesn’t shy away from showing off its clout at an international forum, suffered a massive blow when it lost an election to the Commission of Status of Women (CSW), a subsidiary body of 54-member of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), to India by 11 votes.

The ECOSOC which conducted the first plenary meeting of its 2021 session in the General Assembly Hall on Monday, held elections for two seats in the Asia-Pacific States category with India, China and Afghanistan in the fray.

But despite being a permanent member of the UN Security Council, China could garner only 27 votes; worse, it failed to get the required majority of 28 votes in the election to the Commission of Status of Women, a global body which is focussed on gender equality and women empowerment.

After India’s victory, Permanent Representative of India to the UN, TS Tirumurti tweeted: “India wins seat in prestigious #ECOSOC body! India elected Member of Commission on Status of Women #CSW. It’s a ringing endorsement of our commitment to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment in all our endeavors. We thank member states for their support.”

It may be recalled that India’s Permanent Mission to the UN had worked tirelessly for the election. It reached out to member states of ECOSOC and sensitized them about India’s work for gender equality and women’s empowerment.

India’s victory was also appreciated by Union Minister Smriti Z Irani. She took to Twitter, stating, “India's election to @UN's CSW - a functional commission of the prestigious ECOSOC is recognition of India's efforts under the leadership of PM @narendramodi Ji to ensure gender equality. India stands committed to SDG-5 and is taking measures for sustainable Women-led Development.”

Afghanistan joined India in winning the election with 39 votes and now both countries will join Argentina, Austria, Dominica, Republic, Israel, Latvia, Nigeria, Turkey, and Zambia, which were elected to the CSW for a four-year term beginning from 2021-2025.

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Loss during 25th anniversary of Beijing Declaration

China lost the CSW election at a time when the world is commemorating the 25th anniversary of the 4th World Conference on Women held in Beijing in 1995. In fact, at this World Conference in China, more than 30,000 activists and governments from 189 countries had created the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action – the most comprehensive agenda to date, on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

China had shown off the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action as a mark of its record on gender equality. But 25 years since the Beijing Declaration, the result of elections to the Commission of Status of Women (CSW), speaks volumes of the international community’s faith in China’s record on gender’s equality and women’s empowerment.

A part of the Beijing Declaration had read, “Women's empowerment and their full participation on the basis of equality in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, are fundamental for the achievement of equality, development, and peace.”

However, a recent report by the Washington DC-based Peterson Institute for International Economics noted that the gender gap in labor force participation rates in China has risen from 9.4 percentage points in 1990 to 14.1 percentage points in 2020 - while the gap has been closing in other major economies including the US.

“Female labor force participation rates have fallen to levels that are low by international standards, gender gaps in pay have widened, gender discrimination in the labor market is widespread, and there is evidence of a worsening bias in views about women’s right to work and leadership in the workplace,” the Peterson Institute for International Economics said in its report.

China also slipped by three places to rank 106th out of 153 countries in The Global Gender Index report 2020.

These have raised questions on China’s record of women’s equality and empowerment.

Back-to-back losses for China

But losing the elections to the Commission of Status of Women is not the only setback for China. It suffered another loss, in the election to the United Nations Statistical Commission, where there was a contest between four candidates for two seats of the Asia Pacific Group.

While Samoa and Japan got elected by receiving 36 and 31 votes respectively, China came third, unable to secure a simple majority with just 21 votes. For China, losing the election to Samoa was quite an embarrassment.

India had not participated in the election to the UN Statistical Commission.

The United Nations Statistical Commission is the highest body of the global statistical system bringing together the Chief Statisticians of member states from around the world.

With two significant back-to-back losses, China seems to have lost its clout at the UN.