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Fourth World Conference on Women:
Action for Equality, Development & Peace

[ Back to Beijing ]

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 Women’s 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 women’s 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 Women (CEDAW);
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 Spanish. $12.00.
available at  http://www.un.org/geninfo/bp/women.html

 

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