Beijing+5 Global Forum / Online Discussions
ISSUES: 12 areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action
GOALS: Inform the preparations for Beijing+5
PARTICIPATING STAKEHOLDERS: open to anyone – participation by NGOs, UN, governments, researchers
TIME FRAME: scheduled online discussions of 4-6 weeks each
MSP CONTACT DETAILS; URL: UN Division for the Advancement of Women; web-site: www.un.org/womenwatch
Level of MSP: International
During 1999, WomenWatch held global online working groups to gather information on implementation if the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action (PfA).
The "Global Forum" was part of the UN Division for the Advancement of Women's (DAW) strategies to take women's NGOs contributions into account throughout the process of preparaing for Beijing+5. It consisted of 12 scheduled online discussion groups addressing each of the PfA sections and open for all stakeholders to participate.
Identifying the issues to be addressed in an MSP
Identifying issues was based on the Beijing PfA 12 Areas of Concern. Within these areas, DAW developed a set of questions for each of the dialogues which were fed in week by week.
The working groups focused on identifying, in particular:
a. Policies, legislation, strategies and partnerships that have been successfully furthering women's equality;
b. Case studies, best practices and examples of successful government, business and civil society efforts as well as lessons learned;
c. Remaining obstacles to progress and how they can be overcome.
Some of the topics generated a lot of interest in the discussions, others didn't. Thus some groups were large, some were small.
Identifying relevant stakeholders
UN DAW decided they wanted participation from NGOs and others; invitations were mostly targeting NGOs (DAW database and list servers, etc.).
Identifying MSP participants
Access was completely open; the 12 discussions had about 10.000 participants from over 120 countries altogether – mostly NGOs, and government representatives, intergovernmental organisations and researchers. Participants were allowed to participate in as many debates as they wished.
Setting the goals of an MSP
Goal was set by UN DAW.
Setting the agenda
UN DAW set the agenda, based on Beijing PfA.
Consultations among constituencies were possible but there is no information available summarising such activities by participants.
Setting the time-table
Weekly questions were developed by by experts within DAW.
There was no monitoring of preparations within stakeholder groups or by individual participants. Participants were not asked to speak for a particular group or body.
Email only. DAW were aware of power gaps arising from different access to the internet that people have but these were not addressed.
Decision-making process: procedures of agreement
There was no agreements being sought.
There was no implementation process being aimed at.
Closing the MSP
Closure was planned beforehand through scheduling the online discussions. Schedule developed by DAW.
Structures / institutions of the MSP
The online discussions were facilitated by WomenWatch.
"WomenWatch is the UN gateway to global information about women's concerms, progress and equality. It was initiated by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW). WomenWatch is an inter-agency activity involving the participation of many United Nations organisations" (UN SG Report to the 3rd PrepComm, March 2000).
Facilitation by DAW. 1 external moderator for each group was to screen the messages; criteria: relevant to questians on each topic / week; and going back to people to clarify what they mean if necessary. There was ongoing dialogue within DAW & WomenWatch bodies throughout the process, e.g. with experts within the organisations, between them and the moderators, etc.
The online discussions have been archived on the WomenWatch web-site (www.un.org/womenwatch) and contributions are publicly accessible. DAW also produced a summary document as a background document to the 3rd PrepComm for Beijing+5: Summary of the WomenWatch online working groups on the twelve critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action. Note by the Secretary General. United Nations: E/CN.6/2000/CRP.1
Relating to not-participating stakeholders & to the general public
Information (full archive & summaries) available on the WomenWatch web-site.
Linkage into official decision-making process
The background document was not discussed as such but was mentioned in the outcome document several times. Many NGOs felt that this execise has not informed the process or had any impact on the Beijing+5 outcome document – not aware that anyone used it to develop their positions.
Funding came out of the DAW budget for Beijing+5. This was about $ 600.000 out of the UN Foundation, plus UNDP – the online discussions where part of the whole package.
Additional Information / Remarks
This was an expensive process, particularly hiring moderators required substantive funding. Holding online discussions for 6 weeks might be too long (also expensive), reducing to 2-3 weeks would be possible.
The online discussions were useful in terms of building and educating a constituency. It would be better to link in all stakeholders rather than only NGOs. Involved UN bodies UNIFEM were delighted because it connected them with the public.
Online discussions should be summarised in a short report recommended, otherwise nobody will read it. The report should focus on which issues are being highlighted – what do people focus on, because that is important information for governments and others (to learn who thinks what). Maybe it would be good to conduct such discussions on issues that people are not yet discussing to generate interest and get a debate going.
[ information gathered as of 16 February 2001 ]