Beijing+5: 23rd special session of the General Assembly

United Nations General Assembly Special Session
"Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-first Century"
New York, 5-9 June 2000

"The commitments made by governments in Beijing reflect the understanding that women's equality must be a central component of any attempt to solve the world's social, economic and political problems. Thus, where once women fought to put gender equality on the international agenda, gender equality is now one of the primary factors shaping that agenda."

Kofi Annan
United Nations Secretary-General

The Beijing Conference

The Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, 4-15 September 1995) brought about a new international commitment to the goals of gender equality, development and peace for all women, and moved the global agenda for the advancement of women into the twenty-first century.

The 12 Critical Areas of Concern

Adopted unanimously at the Fourth World Conference on Women along with the Beijing Declaration, the Platform for Action constitutes an agenda for women's empowerment.

The Beijing Platform for Action defines a set of strategic objectives and spells out actions to be taken by the year 2000 by Governments, the international community, non-governmental organizations and the private sector for the removal of the existing obstacles to women's advancement. The twelve critical areas of concern identified in the document, considered to represent the main obstacles to women's advancement, are:

Action since Beijing

Great efforts have been made by Governments, the United Nations system and civil society in the follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women. Governments have enacted and revised legislation in line with the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, other international and regional human rights instruments, and the demands of the Beijing Platform for Action. Women's access to justice at the national and international level has improved, with courts in various countries having rendering judgements that reflect commitment to gender equality.

 Governments have taken steps to ensure that the realities of women's lives are more explicity addressed in planning and policy-making processes designed to confront the great social challenges of our time, in particular to eradicate poverty. Non-governmental organizations have become more sophisticated in their advocacy work for women's empowerment and equal participation in decision-making processes at all levels. The entities of the United Nations system are now placing gender units and focal points strategically in central policy- and decision-making positions to enable them to better influence such processes for gender equality.

Addressing Gender Equality Concerns
in the Follow-up to Global Conferences and Summits

Attention to gender equality concerns has also continued in intergovenmental processes, particularly through the follow-up to global conferences and summits. For example, the link between the persistence of poverty and women's inequality are being highlighted at various international fora, such as the UN General Assembly and in the preparatory process for the five-year review of the World Summit for Social Development in June 2000. Attention is being drawn to women's empowerment and gender equality as both a means and an end in the fight against the ancient enemy of poverty.

Why a Special Session?

As a follow-up to that Conference, the United Nations General Assembly will convene a special session for the five-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted by the 1995 Conference. This special session will take place in New York, from 5-9 June 2000, under the theme of "Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the Twenty-First Century". Also called Beijing + 5, the special session will focus on examples of good practices, positive actions, lessons learned, obstacles and key challenges remaining. It will consider further actions and initiatives for achieving gender equality in the new millennium. At the end of the special session, Governments will issue a political declaration calling for recommitment to the Beijing Platform for Action.

 The call for a high-level review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action was made by the UN General Assembly in January 1998, when it reaffirmed that the implementation of the Platform for Action would require immediate and concerted action by all to create a peaceful, just and humane world based on all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the principle of equality for all people of all ages and from all walks of life.

Who Will Attend the Special Session?

Participants at the special session will include high-level political representatives from Governments and Observer States, and representatives of the United Nations system, intergovernmental organizations and non-governmental organizations.

The Role of the Commission
on the Status of Women

As the UN intergovernmental advocate for equality between men and women, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) acts as the preparatory body for the special session. Each year since the adoption of the Platform for Action in 1995, the Commission, which is responsible for monitoring the follow-up to the Beijing Conference, has examined several of the critical areas contained in the Platform for Action, to assess progress and recommend priorities for accelerating implementation. In its preparatory role, CSW is holding open-ended deliberations allowing for the full participation of all UN Member States, specialized agencies and observers.

Preparatory Activities

Numerous preparatory activities for the special session are currently underway or planned at the national, regional and international levels. Among them are:

  • Preparation of national action plans by Governments: So far, 116 Governments and two Observer States have prepared such plans.
  • Five regional meetings in 1999 and 2000: Bangkok, Thailand (October 1999), Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (November 1999), Beirut, Lebanon (December 1999), Geneva, Switzerland (January 2000), and Lima, Peru (February 2000).
  • Meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women, as preparatory body for the special session, one in March 1999 and another from 3 March to 17 March 2000.
  • A UN workshop on "Beijing + 5 — Future Actions and Initiatives" in Lebanon in November 1999.
  • Analysis by the UN Secretariat of the replies from UN Member States and Observers to the Secretary-General's questionnaire on the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action (A/52/231): over 130 responses have been received.
  • Activities by various UN bodies, organizations and agencies as input to the special session.
  • On-line working groups on the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing Platform for Action, conducted on the WomenWatch website of the United Nations
  • Activities around the world by non-governmental organizations.

A Commitment

In her address to the fifty-fourth session of the General Assembly in October 1999, Angela E.V. King, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, reiterated, "As we prepare for the special session to appraise progress made in the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and to commit ourselves to further actions and initiatives, we recognize that much has been done to achieve gender equality. Many areas still need our thought, imagination, careful attention and energy."

Published by the United Nations Department of Public Information
DPI/2035/N—May 2000