The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action in 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains as the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action today, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls worldwide.
After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, representatives of 189 governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. In addition, The Platform for Action covers 12 critical areas of concern which still classify as relevant challenges today: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child. For each critical area of concern, strategic objectives are identified, as well as a detailed catalogue of related actions to be taken by governments and other stakeholders, at national, regional and international level.
Since 1995, governments, civil society and other stakeholders have worked to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and achieve equality in all areas of life, in public and private spaces. Discriminatory legislation is being removed, and violence against women and girls and harmful practices addressed. There have been significant gains in girls’ school enrolment, and women’s participation in the labour force and the economy is growing in some regions. Women’s representation in national parliaments now exceeds 20% globally. Significant normative advances have been made in the global agenda on women, peace and security. Much has been achieved, but progress has been unacceptably slow and uneven, particularly for the most marginalized women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
At the 23rd special session of the General Assembly in June 2000, held to review the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, Governments agreed on further actions to accelerate implementation of the Platform for Action and to ensure that commitments for gender equality, development and peace were fully realized.
However, nearly 20 years later after the adoption of the Platform for Action by 189 Members States meeting in China, its stature and significance as a roadmap for the achievement of gender equality remains undiminished. Critical areas of insufficient progress include access to decent work and closing the gender pay gap; rebalancing of the care workload; ending violence against women; reducing maternal mortality and realizing sexual and reproductive health and tights; and participation in power and decision-making at all levels.
Therefore, year 2015 marks a significant milestone – the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action- which will be the focus of CSW59. CSW59 represents the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which took place at United Nations Headquarters in New York from 9 to 20 March 2015. At the annual high-level gathering, global leaders and activists took a stock of progress and remaining challenges for implementing this landmark agreement. Representatives of Member States , UN entities, and ECOSOC-accredited non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from all regions of the world attended the session.
Every year, CSW attracts thousands of NGO members and hundreds of country representatives from around the world to discuss critical issues for women, galvanize attention and spur action. Setting a new record this year, more than 1,100 NGOs and a total of 8,600 representatives have registered to participate.
The review (Beijing+20) also include the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, the first 5-year assessment conducted after the adoption of the Platform for Action, which highlighted further actions and initiatives. This milestone anniversary coincides with the once-in-a-generation opportunity presented in 2015. During this single year, we must do our utmost to achieve the Millennium Development Goals, adopt a post-2015 agenda with a new generation of sustainable development goals, and approve a meaningful, universal climate agreement.
Apart from that, UN Women also launched a global campaign in 2014 titled ‘Empowering Women, Empowering Humanity: Picture It”, to reignite the urgency behind the Beijing call and galvanize a new generation to address gender equality issues. In the lead-up to the session, a record-breaking of 166 countries have also undertaken national reviews on the status of women, and rich contributors from civil society have been generated.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, there is a new sense of real urgency, a recognition that we are at a turning point for women’s rights, a recognition that realizing gender equality, the empowerment of women and the human rights of women and girls must be a pressing and central task.
As the international community is in the final stages of crafting a post-2015 development agenda, this anniversary edition of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, together with the outcomes of the 23rd special session of the General Assembly, is a timely reminder that gender equality is not only a goal in itself, but a means for achieving all other goals on the global agenda. Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to transform the structure, institutions and norms- economic, political and social- that are holding back progress on gender equality. These systemic changes must be deep and irreversible.
Overall, gender equality is a shared vision of social justice and human rights. Everyone has a responsibility to act, particularly governments as the primary duty bearers. The advancement of women and the achievement of equality between women and men are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice and should not be seen in isolation as a women’s issue. Gender equality is the only way to build a sustainable, just and developed society as empowerment of women and equality between women and men are prerequisites for achieving political, social, economic, cultural and environmental security among all people.