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United Nations
Division for the Advancement of Women


Beijing + 5 - Future actions and initiatives

Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
United Nations House
Beirut (Lebanon)
8 to 10 November 1999
Opening Statement by Ms Yakin Ertürk, Director, DAW

Distinguished guests,

It is an honour for me to open the Workshop "Beijing + 5 - Future actions and initiatives."

On behalf of the Division for the Advancement of Women, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to Mr. El-Beblawi, the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) for hosting this meeting at the United Nations House in Beirut (Lebanon) and thank his staff for their assistance in the preparations.

It is a privilege for us to be honoured by the presence of the First Lady of Lebanon and so many distinguished participants at this opening session. As the Director of the Division for the Advancement of Women and also as a person who has come to regard Lebanon as another home, I would like to extend my warm welcome to the experts who have gathered here from all over the world to discuss emerging issues in the implementation of Beijing +5.

The Beijing Platform for Action was built on the consensus of 189 countries and is an agenda for fundamental change in the twelve critical areas of concern for achieving gender equality. It is the product of a systematic process of dialogue and exchange within and among governments, international organisations and civil society. The Beijing Platform for Action builds 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.

At its core, the Platform for Action established that women share common concerns that can be addressed only by working together, and in partnership with men, towards the goal of gender equality around the world. It respects and values the full diversity of women’s situations and conditions, and recognises that different women may face different barriers to their empowerment. The Platform for Action is unequivocal in its assertion that increased equality between women and men, based on human rights and an inclusive development process, is one which benefits families, communities and societies as a whole.

Since its adoption, the Platform for Action has yielded added value in a number of areas:

- Firstly, it has refocused attention on human rights of women thus leading to a marked paradigm shift towards a rights-based approach to gender equality;


  • It has advanced a major step beyond the 1985 Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies in its approach to reproductive rights and sexual and reproductive health, reflecting agreements reached at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development, and reconfirmed recently at the 1999 Special Session of the General Assembly;
  • The Platform for Action highlighted women’s role in attaining peace and conflict resolution as an area deserving particular attention;
  • It underscored the role of men and their important contribution to achieving gender equality, based on the understanding that the dynamics of gender roles and relationships have a significant, if not defining, impact on development outcomes. Flowing from this is an emerging interest in addressing issues of masculinity as a means of better understanding gender-based power relationships; and
  • Finally, the Platform for Action reinforced a life-cycle approach that calls for actions to address the needs of women from infancy to old age, and in this context special attention is given to the girl child, one of the critical areas of concern.

In operational terms, the Beijing Platform for Action assigns primary responsibility for implementation to Governments, but also includes recommendations for the United Nations system, non-governmental organizations, political parties, the private sector, international development organizations and other institutions.

The Platform for Action strongly endorses "gender mainstreaming" as the principal global strategy for promoting gender equality. The adoption of gender mainstreaming also reaffirms the importance of incorporating issues of equality between women and men in all areas of human activity. It requires a commitment to the use of gender analysis as an integral tool in policy and programme development, as well as in decision-making on resource allocation, management and institutional development.

The Platform for Action also contains specific recommendations for bridging the gap between women and men in many areas through targeted support to women, such as for skills development and for promoting access to a range of social and economic goods and services previously denied to them. It calls for action to ensure the eradication of gender-based discrimination, and for measures to achieve gender equality, through institutional reform, commitment of resources and fundamental changes in attitudes and behaviour.

One of the goals in the Platform for Action is universal ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by year 2000. 27 States have not yet ratified the Convention, a large proportion is from the ESCAP region. I would like to take this opportunity to urge those States to ratify the Convention, if possible before the Beijing+5 Special Session.

The unanimous adoption of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women by the General Assembly last month (resolution 54/4) is clear testimony of the firm commitment of Governments to provide women not only with the necessary legal framework to protect and promote their human rights, but also with concrete procedures for translating those rights into reality. We are certain that once the Optional Protocol is opened for signature on 10 December, we will quickly obtain the necessary 10 ratifications for its entry into force. It was positive to note that some Member States indicated in their statements to the Second Committee to the General Assembly their intention to ratify the Optional Protocol.

The Division for the Advancement of Women, the Substantive office within the United Nations charged with the development of policy advice for the promotion of women's advancement, is currently preparing for the special session of the General Assembly, "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty-first century" which will take place in New York between 5-9 June 2000. Our analysis of the country responses to the Secretary General's questionnaire on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action indicates that significant progress has been achieved in creating an enabling environment for gender equality world-wide. The United Nations Decade for Women (1976-85) and especially the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 have had a profound impact on bringing gender equality issue to the centre of public awareness and policy making. More importantly, over the past two decades, the global gender agenda has systematically trickled down and across to all segments of societies around the world. Women, who have gained ownership of this agenda, have become major actors in pushing forward the implementation of Beijing commitments.

Despite the many success stories and good practices towards achieving gender equality we are all too conscious of the fact that we are still at the beginning of the challenging and difficult journey we have started. Safeguarding the gains made so far and further promoting the full implementation of the Beijing commitments remain central to the goals of the gender equality agenda at national, regional and international levels. The challenge, in the context of globalization, is 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.

This workshop is looking at "Beijing +5 – Future actions and initiatives" in the context of emerging global trends. Through the valuable contributions of experts from all over the world, the workshop will elaborate action-oriented recommendations and forward them for discussion to the Commission on the Status of Women, which is also acting as the preparatory committee for the special session of the General Assembly.

Finally, I would like to convey the warm regards and best wishes of Ms. Angela King, the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women.

I wish you success in your deliberations.