Division for the Advancement of Women
Beijing + 5 - Future actions and initiatives
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia(ESCWA)
United Nations House
8 to 10 November 1999
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II. Organization of work
- Programme of work
- Election of officers
- Opening statements
III. Summary of presentations and discussions
A. Significant breakthroughs and achievements
B. The changed global context
C. Constraints to further progress
D. New opportunities for action Action-oriented recommendations
- List of participants
- List of documents
- Programme of work
An international Workshop on "Beijing +5 Future Actions and Initiatives" was convened by the United Nations Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and organized jointly with the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) at the United Nations House in Beirut, Lebanon, from 8 to 10 November 1999. The aim was to elaborate action-oriented recommendations for discussion by the Commission on the Status of Women acting as the Preparatory Committee for the Special Session of the General Assembly entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" (5 9 June 2000).
II. Organization of work
The meeting was attended by 10 experts from all regions and 10 observers: one from a non-governmental organizations and nine from the United Nations System (see annex I for the full list of participants).
The documentation of the meeting consisted of two working papers prepared by DAW, seven papers by experts and three background papers (see annex II). This report and documentation of the meeting are available on-line at the DAW website:
C. Programme of work
At its opening session on 8 November 1999, the meeting adopted the programme of work (see annex III).
D. Election of officers
The meeting elected the following officers:
Chairperson: Ms. María Elena Valenzuela (Chile)
Rapporteur: Ms. Nadia Hijab (Jordan/Palestine)
Facilitators: Ms. Nüket Kardam (Turkey/USA), Ms. Lin Lean Lim (ILO), Ms. Colleen Lowe Morna (South Africa)
E. Opening statements
Mr. Hazem El-Beblawi, the Executive Secretary of ESCWA, opened the meeting at a ceremony attended by dignitaries from the Government of Lebanon, ambassadors, representatives of the UN system and civil society. He expressed his gratitude and appreciation to Ms. Andrée Lahoud, the First Lady of Lebanon and President of the National Commission for Lebanese Women, for her generous patronage of the workshop.
The Executive Secretary welcomed the dignitaries and experts to the United Nations House, the permanent headquarters of ESCWA. He noted that the decision to convene such a workshop for the first time in this region and in Beirut represented a vote of confidence in ESCWA and an acknowledgement that Beirut had regained its stability, energy and vitality. In 1998, ESCWA had organized four regional meetings in follow-up to the major conferences of the 1990s. The Second Arab Meeting for the Follow-up to the Beijing Conference, which had taken place in December 1998, identified the new challenges facing women in connection with globalization, structural adjustment, and the technological and information revolution. It concluded with a vision for gender equality, equity and social justice based on democracy, human rights, including womens rights and the right to development. The meeting also called for good governance incorporating a participatory approach characterized by transparency, accountability and responsibility.
In her opening statement to the workshop, Ms. Yakin Ertürk, Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic of Social Affairs, United Nations, expressed gratitude to Mr. El-Beblawi, for hosting this meeting and thanked the First Lady, Ms. Andrée Lahoud, for her support. The Director noted that the Beijing Platform for Action was built on the consensus of 189 countries and represented an agenda for fundamental change in the twelve critical areas of concern for achieving gender equality. It was the product of a systematic process of dialogue and exchange within and among governments, international organizations and civil society. The Beijing Platform for Action built on commitments made during the United Nations Decade for Women, 1976-1985, including the Nairobi Conference, as well as other related commitments made in the series of United Nations conferences held during the 1990s.
Since its adoption, the Beijing Platform for Action had added value in a number of areas through a shift towards a rights-based approach to gender equality. Agreements reached at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development with regard to reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive health had been reflected in the Platform for Action. It highlighted womens role in attaining peace and conflict resolution, underscored the role of men, and reinforced a life-cycle approach that addressed the needs of women at all ages.
The June 2000 special session of the General Assembly would be an opportunity to take stock of achievements and to identify new challenges. The Director noted that safeguarding the gains made so far and further promoting the full implementation of the Beijing commitments remained central to the goals of the gender equality agenda at national, regional and international levels. The challenge, in the context of globalization, was to advance gender equality, development and peace through establishing new and innovative modalities and alliances for building an inclusive global society based on notions of social justice and equality. Universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the year 2000 was one of the goals in the Platform for Action. Since many of the 27 States that had not yet ratified the Convention were from the ESCWA region, the Director encouraged those States to ratify the Convention, if possible before the Beijing+5 Special Session.
III. Summary of presentations and discussions
The experts reviewed progress in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action under the three key themes and by critical area of concern: (1) equality (including education, media, decision-making, the girl-child, institutional mechanisms and violence); (2) development (including poverty, economy, health, institutional mechanisms and environment) and (3) peace (including violence and armed conflict). The overarching framework for all these themes was that of womens rights as human rights. The recommendations of the participants set out in section IV were cross-cutting and fell within this larger integrated framework.
A. Significant breakthroughs and achievements
The participants discussed the achievements since the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing 1995):
- A dual approach to the empowerment of women had been embraced: the debate recognized womens rights as human rights as well the transformational potential of women to achieve gender equality and improve society, locally and globally.
- A system of global governance on gender equality was emerging, based on a set of principles, norms, rules and institutional mechanisms (national and international), with the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women at its core. The understanding of gender equality as a "common good" had also been accepted at the international level and perhaps less fully embraced at the national and regional levels.
- The Beijing Conference had introduced a focus on the roles and responsibilities of men in working for gender equality, which implies changing roles and identities of women and men, and addressing issues of masculinity.
- The Platform had driven forward the process of gender mainstreaming at all levels for gender equality, shifting the approach from " women in development" to "gender and development".
- The Platform gave formal recognition to the roles of actors other than Government in promoting gender equality. The commitment of a number of actors had increased, including international organizations, civil society, political parties, the media and the private sector.
- There was a rise of national and transnational womens networks, which were influencing the global gender agenda in the formulation of principles, norms and institutional mechanisms.
- Violence against women, including domestic, societal and war-related violence, had been brought into the public arena and made a human rights issue.
B. The changed global context
All these breakthroughs led to new legislation and increased awareness of womens rights and gender equality, which, unfortunately, were not matched by significant changes in attitudes and practices in key areas. Womens participation in economic and political life at decision-making levels was stagnating, new perceptions of gender identities and roles were evolving at the margins rather than in the mainstream, and there was a persistent gap between legislation and enforcement as demonstrated in the field of violence against women. Additionally, in the five years since the Fourth World Conference on Women, the global context had changed, posing new challenges. Therefore, future actions and strategies needed to respond to these new realities.
Experts noted that:
- In the new age of globalization, Governments policy choices had shifted in favour of openness of trade and financial flow. Policies calling for lighter regulation of industry, privatization of state-owned enterprises and lower public spending had characterized the programmes of Governments around the world. Liberalization policies coupled with technological advances in communications accelerated the impact of economic integration, thus eroding conventional boundaries particularly that of the national state.
- Globalization had been also hegemonizing cultural values and life styles. Populations around the world were being familiarized through economic exchanges and exposure to advertising, the media and tele-communications, to a culture of instant gratification through material consumption. Additionally, globalization was tied to momentous political changes of the present era such as the rise of identity politics, transnational civil society, new forms of governance and universalization of human rights.
- Globalization, information and communications technology had increased production, consumption and trade in some instances, but also brought instability and risk in other cases. Governments proceeded with deregulation without the introduction of new forms of regulation to ensure the observance of social protection and provision of needs. This increased the risks of globalization for many social groups and led to widening economic and social inequalities between and within countries, exacerbating human vulnerabilities and insecurities. Poverty remained at the top of the agenda in many countries and the burden of increasing poverty had been disproportionately borne by women.
- While globalization had brought some women greater economic opportunities and autonomy, others were exposed to increased economic and social vulnerabilities. Although in many countries, female labour force participation rates had been rising while those of males had been falling, the increases in womens employment were not matched by improvements in the working conditions. Most women had been employed in low paid, part-time jobs marked by insecurity, safety and health hazards. Women continued to be among the first to lose jobs and the last to be rehired.
- The patterns of migratory flows of labour had been changing. Women were increasingly involved in international short-term labour migration mainly in domestic work and the entertainment industry. The adoption of restrictive immigration policies by many of the labour receiving countries resulted in increased illegal migration which involved trafficking, mainly of women, and other forms of abuse. Women and girls were more likely than men and boys to become victims of trafficking, in particular if they were poor, uneducated, unskilled, and came from ethnic minorities. They often ended up in forced prostitution, exploitative domestic service, and manufacturing production under slavery-like conditions.
- Increased life expectancy combined with lower fertility rates resulted in the ageing of populations. With the gap in life expectancy between men and women, the number of widows and single women increased considerably. The rights, needs and obligations of elderly women, particularly in view of signs of weakening in traditional family support systems and diminishing state welfare programmes, did not receive adequate attention in all regions.
- The progression of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the developing world had a strong impact on women. The burden of care for people living with HIV as well as care for orphans was falling on women as state infrastructures were inadequate to respond to the challenges being posed by the epidemic. Women infected with HIV often suffered from discrimination and stigma. Issues related to mother-to-child transmission, breastfeeding, abortion and partner notification had not been sufficiently addressed.
- Peace remained the single most important, and most elusive, objective of the international community. Five years after Beijing, there had been an increase in violent conflict. The interstate wars of the Cold War years had been succeeded by intrastate armed conflicts, often underpinned by political transition, economic dislocation, weak civil society, and a weakening of the state leading to virtual anarchy. Various forces, such as arms and drugs dealers, and organized crime syndicates, had capitalized on and exacerbated the tensions. The majority of the casualties in recent wars were civilians, women and children. Targets set for mainstreaming gender considerations in all stages of the peace process were far from being met.
- The shift to intrastate armed conflicts and wars had witnessed a frightening increase in gender-based violence. Ironically, just after rape had been recognized as a war crime in 1994, the period from 1995 to the present had witnessed shocking instances of rape as a deliberate weapon of war, particularly in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Other forms of gender-based violence included forced impregnation and the deliberate spread of HIV/AIDS virus as a means of annihilating the enemy.
C. Constraints to further progress
Experts identified the following constraints to further progress:
- Despite the emerging thinking on issues of masculinity and gender identities, traditional gender stereotypes and discriminatory attitudes towards women continued to pose a barrier to gender equality.
- The growing political rhetoric in support of gender equality was not matched by policies and programmes to make this a reality.
- The absence of a critical mass of women in decision-making was a major obstacle to moving the agenda forward.
- The role of the state in enforcing rights and securing social protection for women, children and men, was being undermined with policy shifts towards liberalization, privatization and deregulation.
- The absence of democratic culture and rule of law, in some instances, was a continuing constraint to the full enjoyment of human rights, undermining the goal of gender equality.
- Governments did not pay enough attention to creating enabling conditions for the exercise of mens and womens rights to reproductive and sexual health, and free and responsible decisions in matters related to sexuality. In particular, there had been insufficient focus on the interrelated dimensions of male and female experiences of sexuality and reproduction.
- Current economic strategies were producing inequality, and legitimizing this as the price necessary for growth and integration into the global economy. Adjustment costs associated with economic restructuring had increased the economic hardship of the poor and those who were least prepared to withstand it, in particular poor women. One result of adjustment had been a "disinvestment" in human capabilities. Womens workload inside and outside of the household was increasing, and household survival strategies under market conditions were also leading to the extensive use of child labour. Both these factors affected the girl-child and adolescent girls.
- Export led growth was generally viewed as a panacea for development, with very little critical attention to its negative side effects, especially for the poorest countries. There was an increasing differentiation in the economic situation between and within countries, and a danger that the concerns of the poorest countries, where women constituted the poorest of the poor, would be increasingly marginalized.
- Heavily indebted countries were cutting back on social services to meet debt obligations, with a differential impact on womens access to services and opportunities.
- The decreasing level of funds available to the international development cooperation programmes and United Nations entities posed a challenge, particularly in developing countries, to the implementation of the Beijing goals.
- Even where early warning systems had given ample signals (for example in Rwanda and Kosovo) the political will and ability to act quickly and decisively in averting conflict remained weak. There remained a huge disparity between military expenditure at the national level and the resources set aside at the international level for preventative diplomacy, peacemaking and peace-keeping.
- The representation of women remained at its lowest in all areas pertaining to peace and conflict resolution. These included foreign affairs, defense, permanent missions to the United Nations, the United Nations Security Council, the Department of Peace-keeping Operations, and peace-keeping missions.
- Violence against women in all its forms, ranging from domestic to war-related violence, remained a main obstacle to gender equality and the transformation towards more democratic, peaceful and just societies.
- Existing approaches and institutions had proven to be ineffective in the face of increased natural disasters resulting in destruction and displacement. Women who were more often than men charged with the practical tasks of establishing order in a state of disorder had no support system to fall back on.
D. New opportunities for action
Experts identified the following new opportunities for action:
- The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of all Discrimination against Women, a complaint mechanism, strengthens womens ability to seek recourse against discrimination and provides new opportunities to achieve womens human rights and to monitor progress.
- Increased civil society action to give content to economic, social, and cultural rights is providing an opportunity to put into practice an integrated approach to human rights.
- There is a deeper and more holistic approach to achieving equality, which includes redefining power relationships, strengthening legal enforcement, literacy and reform, and overcoming non-legal barriers to equality, including confronting gender stereotypes.
- Non-governmental organizations and civil society are growing stronger and networking across borders to hold corporations as well as Governments and international organizations accountable for social and economic rights.
- The changing context of gender relations, as well as the discussion of sexuality and reproductive rights, has encouraged some men and groups of men to question their ascribed gender roles and to find new ways to define and live masculinity, opening the way for a new discussion on redefining social relations characterized by patriarchy.
- There is an emerging debate around custom, culture, religious practices and tradition, which offers an opportunity to better understand gender inequality.
- Parallel to the understanding of the indivisible nature of human rights, is an understanding of the integrated political, economic, social, cultural and environmental nature of development. This is an opportunity to forge a powerful human rights and development movement. Economic development will have meaning only within a social and economic justice and human rights framework. A gender mainstreaming approach has to be combined with a rights-based approach to development: the two are necessary and complementary for achieving true gender equality in sustainable economic and social development.
- Science and technology are fundamental components of development, and are now transforming patterns of production, creating new jobs and ways of working, and contributing to the establishment of a knowledge-based society. Technological change brings new opportunities. Many women world-wide are effectively using new communication technologies for networking, advocacy, exchange of information, and e-commerce initiatives. Nevertheless, it should be recognized that millions of the worlds poorest women and men still do not have access to these facilities, and it is important to guard against new forms of exclusion.
- There is a growing understanding that advancing the status of women is not necessarily predicated on the allocation of new resources, but rather on the way existing resources are allocated. There is now a body of experience with gender budgeting to be drawn upon, which could overcome the danger of symbolic but minimal pockets of money being allocated to "women's projects", and demonstrate the differential effect of government expenditure on men and women.
- There is greater understanding that development and human rights for women and men should extend over the entire life course from childhood to old age.
- The 1990s have witnessed an emergence of vibrant, civil society-based peace movements in which women often play a role. The importance of such non-state actors in supporting and sustaining peace has been demonstrated in countries such as South Africa, where the potential for massive conflict was averted by a combination of skilled leadership and homegrown conflict resolution mechanisms.
- A more holistic approach to peace has started to emerge. The Secretary-General's "Agenda for Peace" distinguished among preventative diplomacy, peacemaking, peace-keeping and peace-building. Thinking around gender and decision-making has progressed from merely seeking a "critical mass" of women in such positions, to ensuring that they are able to participate effectively and hence contribute to the transformation of institutions and of society.
- A more holistic approach to violence against women has also become better understood and applied in practice. The activities of numerous womens networks aim at the eradication of domestic violence and holding national authorities accountable for the protection and promotion of the human rights of women. This has been accompanied by increased efforts at the international level to bring to justice the perpetrators of war-related gender-based crimes, end their immunity and compensate the victims.
IV. Action-oriented recommendations
The experts found that human rights civil, cultural, economic, political and social provided the integrated framework within which to place their recommendations, most of which cut across the three themes of equality, development and peace. In addition, although experts organized their discussions around equality, development, and peace, they took note that these themes had been chosen over two decades ago and that the changing context had led to considerable shifts in their meaning. For example, when the word "peace" was used in 1975, the shadow of the Cold War loomed large; "equality" was then still a term that had legalistic and equality of opportunity connotations; and "development" was basically perceived within a needs context. Accordingly, the experts decided to move beyond the themes of equality, development and peace, and to focus on five broad areas where interventions would make, in their view, the most appreciable difference in the coming period.
1. Attitudes and practices
a) All actors Governments, international organizations, civil society, political parties, the media and the private sector - should encourage continuous public debate and campaigns on gender-related attitudes, perceptions, stereotypes and inequalities, drawing on the new discussion on the role of men and their responsibilities, and the potential for more equal male-female relationships.
b) Actors in the field of education, both formal and informal, should be aware of their key role in socializing future generations to gender relations without bias and prejudice and provided with the necessary tools to fulfill that role.
a) The actors responsible for governance at the national and international levels should respect, promote and implement norms and commitments, and enforce legislation regarding gender equality. The UN system should coordinate the work underway on indicators of gender equality so that one set of acceptable, comparable indicators can be used to monitor performance.
b) Governments, international organizations, civil society organizations and corporations should set specific time-bound targets for the achievement of gender equality and meet these targets, in order to achieve gender parity in all areas and levels.
c) All actors should intensify efforts to promote the participation of women in decision-making and leadership positions, especially in political and economic areas. International and national organizations should introduce or strengthen mechanisms for research and training for the empowerment of women.
d) International organizations which shape global governance such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organization, the World Intellectual Property Organization, G-7 and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) should introduce gender equality in their decision-making, implementation and evaluation processes, as is being done by the United Nations system and other organizations.
e) International non-governmental organizations and networks, trade unions and consumer associations should play a role in monitoring the implementation of gender equality and core labour standards, including respect for the rights of women workers by international organizations and transnational cooperations.
f) All national and international organizations implementing policies and programmes and disbursing budgets should publicly report on their performance, and national and international civil society organizations should be empowered to monitor this performance. There should be systematic gender analysis of budget allocations at all levels, with special emphasis on the reallocation and more effective utilization of existing resources. Good practices in gender budgeting should be shared and used by civil society to monitor the allocation and re-allocation of existing resources to promote gender equality.
g) Governments and international organizations should review and strengthen the mandates and performance of national machineries established to promote gender equality in order to enhance their effectiveness. Their work should be systematically monitored. New mechanisms should be established where they do not exist. In addition, mechanisms to promote gender mainstreaming in other public institutions should be created, and synergies between public and non-public institutions promoted.
3. Alliances and coalitions
a) Governments, international organizations, civil society, political parties, the media and the private sector should further interact and establish new, broad alliances and coalitions within and across countries to promote human rights, codes of conduct, and socially responsible investment which would include gender equality. Such alliances could be forged with trade unions, professional and consumer associations, foundations and others. Promoting dialogue and communication among women should also be encouraged, especially at local and regional levels.
4. Social and economic justice
a) In the global context of increasing precariousness and vulnerability, affecting in particular women in least developed countries and poor women, Governments should take measures to ensure that the role of national states in providing social protection and social security is upheld. Governments and international organizations should also increase their efforts to make the eradication of poverty a reality.
b) All actors should, in the context of the growing trend towards knowledge-based economies, ensure equal participation of women and men in the production, dissemination and application of scientific and technological knowledge, both for achieving gender equality as well as for expanding the pool of talent for better science and technology. In this context, equal access to new technologies and essential drugs should be ensured, including provision of AZT for women living with HIV.
c) Governments, the private sector and other actors involved in formal and non-formal education should enable women and men to learn new skills, adjust to rapid technological developments, take on new tasks, switch careers and move between work and training and retraining over the course of their lives. Gender equality in human resource development and life long learning should be ensured.
d) Governments and law enforcement authorities should address violence against women in all its forms, including "honour crimes", rape, and female genital mutilation as a public offence, subject to public prosecution. Comprehensive legislation to eradicate violence should be introduced where it does not exist. The criminal justice system should be equipped with proper tools to address the issue. Relevant international instruments should be publicized and disseminated, and support systems for survivors established.
a) The United Nations should act as a role model by achieving gender parity in all areas related to peace processes, from preventative diplomacy to peace-building, by 2010, and by ensuring that access by women to these processes leads to effective participation and transformation. Member States should be encouraged to make similar tangible commitments to increase the participation of women in all dimensions of peace.
b) International organizations, Governments and other relevant actors should involve women in all stages of the design, planning and implementation of post-conflict transformation as opposed to simply reconstruction. War crimes, especially gender-based violence, should be exposed, investigated and punished. Local peace movements and civil society should be encouraged to promote a culture of peace, human rights and tolerance.
c) All relevant actors should share good practices in all of these areas, especially the planned UN study on "Gender Perspectives in Multidimensional Peace-keeping Operations", so as to tangibly demonstrate the value of a gender perspective in peace processes.
d) The international and national communities should set voluntary targets for reduction in military spending (e.g. one percent of GDP by 2005). Monitoring mechanisms to sanction the arms trade and guidelines for investing the resources released in peace-keeping operations and development should be established. In addition, research should be conducted to expose illicit arms dealing and the crime syndicates mushrooming around intrastate wars, and sanction the illegal arms trade through existing international mechanisms.