Women's Rights in International Law: A Prediction concerning the Legal Impact of the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women

By Dormady, Valerie A. | Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law, January 1997 | Go to article overview

Women's Rights in International Law: A Prediction concerning the Legal Impact of the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women


Dormady, Valerie A., Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. INTRODUCTION II. BACKGROUND

A. The Beijing Conference

1. Contents of the Platform for Action

2. Debate Over the Platform Objectives

3. Reservations and Statements Made

About the Platform

B. The Creation of Customary International Law

1. Potential International Legal

Norms that were Endorsed at

the Conference III. INDICATORS OF WHETHER THE POTENTIAL NORMS

PROPOSED IN THE CONFERENCE WILL EVENTUALLY

BECOME INTERNATIONAL LAW

A. Clarity with Which Participating States

Understood the Potential Legal Impact

of the Adoption of the Platform Objectives

B. Level of Support Given the Platform by

Conference Participants; Number of

Objecting States

1. Paragraphs Subject to Debate,

Interpretation, or Reservation

2. Level of Support Overall

C. Nature of the States' Objections and

Importance of the Interests They Were

Protecting

1. Objections Based on Religious Beliefs

2. Objections Based On Cultural Norms

3. Strength of the Objections

D. Whether the Substance of Objections to the

Platform Goes to the Heart of the Proposed

Rule or to Subsidiary Issues

F. Relative Geopolitical Standing of the

States Opposing and Supporting the

Disputed Platform Provisions

G. Whether Support for the Platform Cuts

Across Interest Groups IV. THE LEGAL IMPACT OF THE CONFERENCE V. CONCLUSION

I. INTRODUCTION

Amid fanfare and controversy, the United Nations' Fourth World Conference on Women (hereinafter Conference) convened in Beijing, China, on September 4, 1995.(1) The event attracted 25,000 registered delegates(2) from 190 countries.(3) Over 36,000 additional people(4) attended a related meeting of nongovernmental organizations in nearby Huairou, China, between August 30 and September 8, 1995. The Conference ended on September 15, 1995, with all attending states approving the adoption of the Conference's final document, the Platform for Action and Beijing Declaration (hereinafter Platform). Although the objectives stated in the Platform are not binding legal obligations of the participating states, the Platform is to serve as a guideline for the development of women's human rights. One and one-half years later, the import of the Conference remains unclear. Ultimately, what impact, if any, will the Conference have on international law regarding women's rights? Are any portions of the Platform likely to result in new international legal norms relating to women? Using a framework of predictors about the legal impact of such conferences, this Note attempts to answer these questions.

Part II of this Note discusses the Conference and the contents of the Platform, indicating which countries made interpretive statements or stated reservations to various sections of the Platform. Part III analyzes the level of state support for the proposals expressed in the Platform and applies a predictive analytical framework to the information from and regarding the Conference. Based on the results of this analysis, Part IV predicts the ultimate legal impact of the Conference. This Note finds that international consensus was strong for most sections of the Platform. Given state practice, the proposals contained in these widely supported sections should attain the status of law more quickly as a result of their endorsement at a multilateral forum. Opposition to the contested proposals in the Platform, however, was strong. News reports of the Conference emphasized the role that Catholic and Islamic countries played in opposing aspects of the Platform. As the analysis of this Note shows, however, most of the damage done to consensus on the Platform provisions was done by the Islamic countries. …

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