The identity as an international, voluntary, non-profit organization with emphasis on (partisan) political and religious independence has characterized our organization since its inception. The commitment to the work of the League of Nations has been consistent ever since the League was set up. An example of this early cooperation with the League of Nations is a resolution of the 8th Congress, Geneva, 1920, recommending “that a conference of women should be summoned annually by the League for the purpose of considering questions relating to the welfare and status of women” (A. Whittick “Women into Citizen”, p. 76).

At the deliberations preparing for the formation of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945 a separate commission on the status of women was proposed by Bertha Lutz of Brazil (a prominent member of the Alliance, elected Board member since the 14th Congress Interlaken (1946).  (Whittick, p. 195) [1]

And: „It is thanks to these early efforts of women’s organisations and groups that the principle of equal rights of men and women was embodied in the Charter of the United Nations” (Whittick, p. 13).

Since 1948 the Alliance is working closely with the UN Commission on the Status of Women and maintains close relationship with UN Women since its creation in 2010. The IAW has been granted general consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council[2]a status of responsibility towards the UN and the own membership based on the UN Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights – and is accredited to many specialized UN agencies, has participatory status with the Council of Europe and is represented at various other international and regional organizations.

For a very long time IAW operated as an umbrella organisation, providing its member associations with the possibility to be represented through its experienced representatives at the international and regional levels. In 1948, shortly after the founding of the United Nations, there were 45 NGOs in consultative status, mostly large international organizations, like IAW. Currently there are 3900 NGOs in consultative status with the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The cause of this considerable increase was the unprecedented level of NGO participation, especially from national NGOs, in the preparations for UNCED – the 1992 Earth Summit. The result: the number of NGO delegations is being gradually limited by an overburdened UN Secretariat, the important informal “corridor” contacts with government delegates are being made impossible and above all, WINGOs (women’s international NGOs) in consultative status are gradually losing access to UN premises.

Rosy Weiss
Honorary President
Convenor Herstory/Archives

[1] IWN January 1964, cf. Marguerite Bowie.

[2]. There are three classes of consultative status defined by Resolution 1996/31 on the consultative relationship between the UN and NGOs: General, Special, and Roster. IAW holds general consultative status with advantages concerning attendance at meetings, lengths of statements, oral presentations.