Effectiveness of the Beijing
Conference in fostering compliance
with international law regarding
Rebecca J. Cook
The effectiveness of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995 (the Beijing Conference), in fostering compliance with international law regarding women can be predicted by considering the resulting Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action, 1 the processes that gave rise to the platform and those that will give force to its implementation. The Beijing Conference was preceded by extensive preparation through UN regional conferences, non-governmental organization (NGO) meetings and expert consultations. An NGO Forum ran parallel to the conference at Huairou, about 50 km from Beijing, which was the site of many formal and informal workshops.
Much of the preparatory work for the Beijing Conference was aspirational, but conservative and even reactionary interests were alerted to the possibility of the conference advancing international law regarding women in directions they were disposed to resist. They contested much of the language of the text proposed for acceptance in Beijing, and the draft text presented at the opening of the conference included key phrases in brackets, indicating absence of agreement on their adoption. The conference itself tended to focus on crafting consensus around the contested language, which was reached through compromises that restrained the more forward-looking advances that women's rights advocates had hoped that the conference would achieve.