Beijing’s Unfinished Agenda: The Way Forward

15-year review of the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995) and the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly (2000) will be undertaken at this year’s Commission on the Status of Women from 1-12 March in New York

Government officials, representatives of civil society and the media, as well as the private sector will assess what has been achieved since the historic Fourth World Conference on Women, held in 1995 in Beijing, share experiences and good practices, with a view to overcoming remaining obstacles and new challenges, and contribute to shaping a gender perspective towards the full realization of the MDGs.

Since the Beijing Conference, progress has been made in a number of areas, most significantly in education. For example, over the last decade, access to education has increased globally for girls at all levels, particularly in primary education. In 2007, there were 96 girls for each 100 boys enrolled in first grade, compared with 92 girls in 1999.

On the other hand, illiteracy remains a serious constraint for women, who, for the last 20 years, have accounted for nearly two thirds of the currently 776 million illiterate adults in the world. It is particularly prevalent among women who are older, poor, disabled, from ethnic minorities or from rural areas.

Little progress has been made on reducing maternal mortality rates. Every year, 536,000 women and girls die as a result of complications during pregnancy, childbirth or following delivery, the overwhelming majority in developing countries. Most of these deaths are preventable.

While gender-sensitive legislation and policies have addressed inequalities and discrimination against women, overall progress in implementation remains uneven. Disparities exist between regions and within countries. Global averages also hide differences among women based on location, economic status, ethnicity, age, disability and other factors.

It is not enough to adopt laws and policies; they have to be effectively implemented. Measures that help ensure successful implementation of laws and policies include training public officials and raising women’s awareness of their legal rights, as well as allocating adequate resources for implementation. The share of budgets and of development assistance specifically dedicated to gender equality and women’s empowerment, through both gender mainstreaming and women-targeted activities, should be increased.

To accelerate progress in implementation, strengthened efforts are needed to address persistent gaps and challenges and emerging obstacles, as well as to build on achievements, lessons learned and good practices in implementation in relation to all critical areas of concern in the Platform for Action.

Furthermore, across all critical areas, the importance of increasing the participation of women in decision-making processes is emphasized, both as a right in itself and as a means to ensure the incorporation of gender perspectives and to facilitate positive outcomes in decision-making processes at all levels.

Political will and leadership are critical for generating determined action for gender equality and empowerment of women and for progress in development, peace, security and human rights. Only then will States be able to finish the agenda to which they committed 15 years ago in Beijing, achieve the Millennium Development Goals and respond effectively to global crises.

More information on the Beijing Agenda