Friday Exchange: The 25th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action
The Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, was one of the largest gatherings of State delegates, international experts, and civil society (especially women’s rights groups) representatives in the history of the UN. With the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the conference represented a critical turning point in international efforts to promote gender equality, the empowerment of women and women’s rights. Endorsed by representatives from 189 governments, these documents were – and remain to this day – a defining framework for women’s rights and empowerment.
The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action defines twelve key areas of where urgent action is needed to ensure greater equality and opportunities for women and men, girls and boys: women and poverty; education and training of women; women and health; violence against women; women and armed conflict; women and the economy; women in power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; human rights of women; women and the media; women and the environment; and the girl-child.
The 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action next year therefore offers an important opportunity for the international community to reflect on progress, challenges and shortfalls since 1995, to reaffirm its commitment to women’s rights and gender equality, and to identify ways to re-energise progress in the future.
In September 2015, the global community adopted 17 goals to achieve sustainable development, ranging from ending poverty to protecting the planet. The 2030 Agenda recognises, inter alia, that there can be no sustainable development in the absence of gender equality. However, a landmark 2018 report by UN Women entitled ‘Turning promises into action: gender equality in the 2030 Agenda,’ based on empirical data and analysis, revealed that gender inequality remain pervasive across every dimension of sustainable development. In particular, the intersection of gender and other forms of discrimination pushes women and girls from poorer and marginalised groups even further behind. Women face an unprecedented set of economic, environmental, social and political challenges that prevent them from making progress across all aspects of the 2030 Agenda.
In light of these and other recent studies showing continued high levels of discrimination faced by women and girls around the world, it is clear that the international community must ramp up its efforts to achieve gender equality and the empowerment of women, if it is to secure the full achievement of all SDGs ‘leaving no one behind.’
It is in this context – of an urgent need to re-double international efforts to promote gender equality and achieve the SDGs – that the importance of the opportunities provided by the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action becomes apparent. Indeed, 2020 will see a range of important anniversaries for women’s rights. In addition to Beijing+25, it will mark: 20 years since the ground–breaking UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women and Peace and Security; the ten year anniversary of the establishment of UN Women; and five years since the starting gun fired on the 2030 Agenda.
In the lead-up to the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Member States have agreed to undertake comprehensive national-level reviews of the progress made and challenges encountered in implementation. The UN regional commissions will also undertake regional reviews between October 2019 and February 2020. The outcomes of intergovernmental processes at regional level will feed into the global review.
The review process will culminate in March 2020, when the Commission on the Status of Women will undertake a comprehensive review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. ECOSOC has also recommended to the General Assembly that it convene a high-level meeting, in September 2020, to mark the occasion of this important anniversary.
Against this background, the dialogue will consider the following questions:
- Based on Member States’ experience, what were the key factors behind the extraordinary political momentum that culminated in the Fourth World Conference on Women and the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action? What lessons learned from the First (Mexico, 1975), Second (Denmark, 1980) and Third (Kenya, 1985) World Conferences on Women? Is it possible to recreate that momentum today, as a crucial contribution to the 2030 Agenda?
- What are the main areas where progress has been made, in line with the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, since 1995?
- What have been the major obstacles to deeper progress, and shortfalls since 1995? What are today’s key challenges to the full realisation of the goals set forth in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action?
- What role(s) might the Council and its mechanisms, the Treaty Bodies, and the wider UN human rights pillar play in driving / contributing to international efforts to overcome these challenges and address important gaps in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action? What concrete steps (e.g. resolutions, panels, inter-sessional seminars, gap analyses) might the Council consider, in 2019 and 2020, to prepare for/mark the anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and to use that anniversary as a baseline for deeper progress in the future?
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