Fourth World Conference on Women:
Action for Equality, Development & Peace
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A Brief Introduction *
The Fourth World Conference on Women was convened by the United Nations in September
4-15, 1995, at the Beijing International Conference Centre, People's Republic of China.
Government delegates worked on a Platform for Action aimed at achieving greater equality
and opportunity for women. The three previous World Conferences were in Mexico City
(International Women's Year, 1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985).
World Conference Secretariat / Division for the Advancement of Women was responsible
for organizing the conference and preparing the documents. Ms. Gertrude Mongella
(Tanzania) was Secretary-General of the World Conference. The World Conference Secretariat
was located at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
The official name of the Conference was The Fourth World
Conference on Women: Action for Equality, Development and Peace. Informally is has been
called the Beijing Womens Conference or the Beijing Conference. 189 Governments
participated at the Conference. More than 5,000 representatives from 2,100
non-governmental organizations and 5,000 media representatives attended the Conference and
nearly 30,000 individuals attended the independent NGO Forum 95.
The principal themes of the Conference were the
advancement and empowerment of women in relation to womens human rights, women and
poverty, women and decision-making, the girl-child, violence against women and other areas
of concern. The resulting documents of the Conference are The Beijing Declaration and
Platform for Action.
Follow-up: In addition to the national mechanisms,
the primary UN bodies to follow-up the Conference include
the Commission on the Status of Women;
the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against
the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM);
the International Research and Training Institute for the
Advancement of Women (INSTRAW);
and the Division for the Advancement of Women.
The Conference, which brought together almost 50,000 men and women, focused on the
cross-cutting issues of equality, development and peace, and analysed them from a gender
perspective. It emphasized the crucial links between the advancement of women and the
progress for society as a whole. It reaffirmed clearly that societal issues must be
addressed from a gender perspective in order to ensure sustainable development.
The overriding message of the Fourth World Conference on Women was that the issues
addressed in the Platform for Action are global and universal. Deeply entrenched attitudes
and practices perpetuate inequality and discrimination against women, in public and
private life, in all parts of the world. Accordingly, implementation requires changes in
values, attitudes, practices and priorities at all levels. The Conference signaled a clear
commitment to international norms and standards of equality between men and women; that
measures to protect and promote the human rights of women and girl-children as an integral
part of universal human rights must underlie all action; and that institutions at all
levels must be reoriented to expedite implementation. Governments and the UN agreed to
promote the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in policies and programmes.
The Beijing Platform for Action
This outcome of the Beijing Conference is an agenda for women's empowerment. It aims at
accelerating the implementation of the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the
Advancement of Women. It deals with removing the obstacles to women's public participation
in all spheres of public and private lives through a full and equal share in economic,
social, cultural and political decision-making.
The Platform for Action sets out a number of actions that should lead to fundamental
changes by the year 2000 - the 5 Year Review of the Beijing Conference at a Special
Session of the UN General Assembly (Beijing +5).
Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action is mainly a responsibility of
Governments, but also of institutions in the public, private and non-governmental sectors
at the community, national, subregional, regional and international levels. The Platform
acknowledges that significant progress will depend on building strategic partnerships and
involving all stakeholders in the efforts towards change.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were adopted by consensus on 15
September 1995. The Declaration embodies the commitment of the international community to
the advancement of women and to the implementation of the Platform for Action, ensuring
that a gender perspective is reflected in all policies and programmes at the national,
regional and international levels. The Platform for Action sets out measures for national
and international action for the advancement of women over the five years until 2000.
If implemented, the Platform for Action will enhance the social, economic and political
empowerment of women, improve their health and their access to relevant education and
promote their reproductive rights. The action plan sets time-specific targets, committing
nations to carry out concrete actions in such areas as health, education, decision-making
and legal reforms with the ultimate goal of eliminating all forms of discrimination
against women in both public and private life.
* taken and adapted from: UN Briefing Papers/The World Conferences:
Developing Priorities for the 21st Century. 1997, 112 pp., ISBN
92-1-100631-7, Sales No. E.97.I.5. Availab le now in English, forthcoming in French and
available at http://www.un.org/geninfo/bp/women.html