Magazine article UN Chronicle

Thousands Gather in Beijing for Fourth Women's Conference

Magazine article UN Chronicle

Thousands Gather in Beijing for Fourth Women's Conference

Article excerpt

Thousands of women and men from all over the world will assemble from 4 to 15 September in the Beijing International Convention Center, in the heart of the Chinese capital, for the Fourth World Conference on Women.

From almost every country and from all walks of life - from Heads of State, government officials and diplomats to housewives, from representatives of international and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to students, teachers and farmers - they will come together to: * Assess progress in achieving equal opportunities for the female half of the population in every country and in every field; * Agree on a worldwide strategy for a Platform for Action to advance the situation of women. * Determine priority actions to be taken by the international community, including the UN system; and * Mobilize both women and men at the policy-making and grass-roots levels to achieve the agreed objectives.

Parallel to the official conference will be the NGO Forum on Women, to be held from 30 August to 8 September. It is expected to attract some 25,000 participants from all continents who will share their experiences in improving women's lives and advancing their status in society.

Workshops at the Forum will cover everything from women's health and labour-saving technologies to gender and politics, elimination of violence against women and female careers in cyberspace. Particular attention will be given to the concept of sustainable human development.

Meanwhile, the official conference will discuss and adopt the draft Platform for Action, focusing on 12 "critical areas of concern" that have been identified as obstacles to the advancement of women. These areas deal with: poverty, education, health, violence, armed conflicts, economic disparity, power-sharing, institutions, human rights, mass media, environment and the girl child.

The draft Platform - the main document for adoption in the Beijing meeting - sets out more than 1200 actions to be undertaken by Governments, the international community, the private sector and NGOs to rectify existing obstacles to women's equality.

An informal meeting of Governments, held in New York in July, continued efforts to agree on controversial portions of the text. Many of these refer to sexual and reproductive health, reproductive rights, foreign occupation and alien domination, cultural background, and philosophical convictions.

What is non-negotiable, according to Conference Secretary-General Gertrude Mongella, is the issue of equality between men and women, an accepted principle that permeates the entire Platform.

She recently told government and NGO representatives in a meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women: "A revolution has begun and there is no going back. There will be no unravelling of commitments - not today's commitments, not last year's commitments, and not the last decade's commitments. This revolution is too just too important, and too long overdue."

Fourth world conclave

The Beijing Conference is the fourth in a series of UN-sponsored global conferences on women which laid the foundation for action in this field. The previous ones were held in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980) and Nairobi (1985).

The Fourth World Conference carries forward the themes of "Equality, Development and Peace", adopted at the first conference in Mexico City. The Copenhagen Conference added three sub-themes: "Education, Employment and Health". The third conference incorporated those themes into the "Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000". …

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