Ryan Smith and Rebekka Read

Dr Ryan Smith and Rebekka Read.


Dr Ryan Smith, WCC representative to the UN in New York City, and Rebekka Read, WCC’s advocacy assistant at the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations (EOUN), took time to offer their reflections on CSW68—and the many ways in which churches contributed.

What were the highlights of the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations involvement in CSW68? And who were your key partners?

Read: We welcomed our largest delegation in over a decade, with over 20 delegates from four continents participating in the commission. Delegates were able to serve on panels and attend parallel events, bringing WCCs core values to the table on issues of womens rights, with a specific focus on poverty and economic justice. The office is also heavily involved in Ecumenical Women which is a coalition of ecumenical partners and denominations. This office was involved in providing written statements which were sent to member states and added the ecumenical voice to the agreed conclusions. 

How do you see the role of the EOUN in terms of facilitating access and convening ecumenical partners in key events such as CSW? 

Smith: The Ecumenical Office to the United Nations serves as an entry point for WCC member churches and ecumenical partners to be heard within the United Nations community. Together with ACT Alliance, through the office in New York the WCC plays a key role in convening and facilitating advocacy at different levels and building joint ecumenical strategies on priority issues. Through written documents that are submitted in advance of meetings to accreditation to attend events in person, the office helps member churches bring their voices into UN events. Yearlong planning goes into most UN events, where the office represents the policies and voices of member churches who then come together in New York to advocate and advance global change. 

What were the core issues at stake at CSW68 and how can the ecumenical voices be part of the discussion and action? 

Smith: The core issues at stake at the CSW68 revolved around gender equality, women's rights, and empowerment. These encompassed various concerns such as access to education, healthcare, economic opportunities, and political participation for women worldwide. Ecumenical voices contributed significantly to these discussions and actions by advocating for inclusive policies that uphold the dignity and rights of all individuals, regardless of gender or background. Together, we emphasized the importance of addressing intersecting forms of discrimination and marginalization faced by women, particularly those from marginalized communities. At events like CSW we see the ecumenical movement offer valuable grassroots insights and experiences, highlighting the realities of women's lives and advocating for policies and programs that prioritize their wellbeing. By fostering dialogue, collaboration, and solidarity across diverse religious and cultural backgrounds, ecumenical voices can play a crucial role in advancing gender equality and women's empowerment within the framework of the CSW and beyond.

What are the greatest challenges for better ecumenical involvement in the UN system in the struggle for women's rights?

Read: It is important for us, as ecumenical organizations, to collaborate with one another on our shared values and priorities when it comes to womens rights. The World Council of Churches membership of 580 million Christians across the globe together used our voices to advocate for all aspects of womens rights. It is important for civil society to maintain an active and engaged presence with member states during negotiations. As representatives of a large population of Christians, it is imperative that we stand together and put womens rights at the center of all that we do, be that Indigenous issues, climate justice, or peace and security. 

WCC brings voice of communities to Commission on the Status of Women (WCC news release, 28 March 2024)

“Zacchaeus Tax” panel brings faith-based lens to tax justice, gender justice (WCC news release, 20 March 2024)

Girls from Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America participate in advocacy at the UN (WCC feature story, 20 March 2024)

Orientation session opens ecumenical participation at UN talks on women’s rights (WCC news release, 12 March 2024)

Learn more about the work of the Ecumenical Office to the United Nations