25 February 2005 Ten years after the landmark United Nations women's conference in Beijing, hundreds of delegates and thousands of non-governmental organization (NGOs) representatives will meet at the United Nations for nearly two weeks to review the world's progress towards equality for women.
The review that will take place during the 49th session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will focus on what still needed to be done to turn the Beijing pledges into practice, Commission Chairperson Kyung-wha Kang told a news conference on "Beijing+10"at UN Headquarters in New York.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan is slated to launch the event on Monday and a three-day high-level plenary session featuring about 80 government ministers and other senior government officials will follow, with a commemoration next Friday of International Women's Day, she said.
With the meeting marking not only the 10th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference, but also the 30 years since the first summit in Mexico City, the official delegations promised to be large and, in addition, some 6,000 NGO representatives had registered to attend, Ms. Kang said.
As part of its agenda, the Commission will discuss forward-looking strategies for the advancement of women and girls and prepare for the review in September of the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000, she said. The MDGs include promoting gender equality and universalizing basic education.
Asked what she identified as the biggest obstacle to women's advancement, Ms. Kang said, "I don't think we can ever have gender equality if women continue to suffer the many manifestations of violence, domestic or otherwise."
The framework for the meeting is the Secretary-General's report, based on Government responses to questions about the implementation of Beijing's Platform for Action. It covers female poverty, education, health care, violence against women, armed conflicts, economic opportunities, decision-making positions, human rights, media, the environment, the girl child, and governmental action to achieve gender equality.
The Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on women's issues, Rachel Mayanja, told the briefing an analysis of the material received from Governments had shown overall progress towards the advancement of women in most regions, but "in some critical areas, that progress had been uneven, or often, much too slow."
Persistent stereotypes of women and long-time discrimination against them were among the gaps and challenges facing them in all countries, she said.
The Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), Carolyn Hannan, said the questionnaires sent to Governments had elicited 143 responses, eight of them after the report had been written.
A second report to the CSW summarized UN agency efforts to promote gender equality, she said.
At the World Bank's Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Division, A. Waafas Ofosu-Amaah said earlier this week that in addition to the problem areas already spotlighted, the Bank had been involved in many legal and judicial reform projects, including the question of women's right to own land in many countries "because women's lack of access to land is one of the significant barriers to economic advancement."
"Land is one of the most productive resources in the world, because it opens up opportunities for women to engage in other activities," she said.