1 September 2000

Five Years After Beijing –
Progress and Drawbacks *



- Review and Appraisal as a Regular Practice
- The Governments Accountable also to the UN
- Alternative Reports from People and NGOs
- Internet as a Channel for Women’s Voice
- UNGASS – Hard Work and Meagre Results
- Achievements, Obstacles and Further Actions
- Other Results - Mainstreaming Missing
- The Global Women’s Movement being Created
- Future World Conferences on Women – will there be any?


Five Years After Beijing – Progress and Drawbacks

Many people seem to believe still that there is no follow-up and control on whether the UN programmes and resolutions are implemented in practice in member states or not. This is very false assumption. On the contrary, the UN has an obligation to follow-up and assess the implementation of programmes and resolutions, which the member governments have adopted at the UN fora. The practice of five-year reviews and appraisals has been adopted in connection with all the world conferences organized by the UN in 1990s.

- Review and Appraisal as a Regular Practice
In the World Conference of International Women’s Year in Mexico City 1975 it was decided that first review and appraisal of the implementation of the World Plan of Action should take place five years later in the World Conference of the UN Decade for Women, which then was hosted by Danish government in 1980 in Copenhagen. Thus the regular practice of five-year reviews and appraisals on the world conferences on women was started as early as in the 1970s.

The review and appraisal of the whole UN Decade for Women 1976-1985 took place ten years after Mexico City and five years after Copenhagen in the third world conference on women in Nairobi 1985. However, it became obvious already in Nairobi that it would not be possible to organize a world conference every five years. It was foreseen that the participation of both governments and the NGOs was massively increasing from one conference to an other. It would have become all too heavy operation both financially and in practical terms to build up a world conference every five years.

Therefore, no world conference was planned for the five years review and appraisal of the implementation of Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies in 1990. It was scheduled to take place just as a modest administrative procedure. In practice, it did not succeed very well. When no great intergovernmental event was foreseen to highlight the outcome, the governments were not motivated to report. Only a low number of governments prepared proper reports, which was not enough to give a global overview. As the consequence of this experience it was decided already in 1990 to hold a world conference again at the time of next five-year review and appraisal in 1995. That was then to become the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

There is an explicit clause in the Beijing PFA that it constitutes "a basic group of priority actions that should be carried out during the next five years". Thus the year 2000 was to be the time for a five-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing PFA. Furthermore, that was to be a review and appraisal also for a longer period, since the Mexico World Plan of Action was extended in Nairobi in 1985, while the new Forward-looking Strategies were adopted in order the speed up and strengthen its implementation towards 2000. In conclusion all the UN programs and platforms for advancement and empowerment of women adopted by the governments in the past 25 years were to expire in 2000.

In June 1998 the UN General Assembly decided to convene – not a world conference - but the 23rd UN General Assembly Special Session, entitled "Women 2000: gender equality, development and peace for the twenty first century", for the sake of brevity called UNGASS Women 2000 or Beijing+5. The special General Assembly sessions have been chosen as the form of event also for other five-year reviews and appraisals of the world conferences in 1990s, such as Rio+5 for the UNCED, Cairo+5 for the ICPD and Copenhagen+5 for the WSSD. However, the special General Assembly session is fairly recent phenomenon to substitute a world conference. It was first used for Rio+5 in 1997.

The 23rd General Assembly Special Session for Beijing+5 was held in New York June 5-9, 2000. It was attended by 2 300 delegates from 178 Member States and more than 1000 accredited NGOs represented by 2 000 delegates. In addition there was about 1 000 NGO participants attending the parallel events for education and celebration of Beijing+5 organized by Coordinating Committee on Beijing+5 of CONGO (Conference of NGOs) and the US Host Committee at the US Custom House at lower Manhattan. Only five NGOs were allotted the opportunity to address the GA Special Session among the 207 speakers altogether.

- The Governments are Accountable also to the UN

The fifth review and assessment process was initiated by the UN sending in October 1998 a broad questionnaire to the member governments to report about their actions and policies for implementation of the Beijing PFA. The first deadline for reports was 31 April 1999 and by the end of the year 133 Member States and two observers had send in their reports. Before the UNGASS finally 146 of 188 Member States responded to the questionnaire. These replies were summarized into the report "Review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action", published in January 2000, which is an excellent source of information on the achievements at the official level (E/CN.6/2000/PC/2. United Nations, 2000a).

Furthermore, several other reports were produced to facilitate the review and assessment. Every five years since 1984 the UN system has jointly produced a world survey on the role of women in development, which is a multisectoral and interdisciplinary survey in the field of women in development. These reports have been published timely to serve as important background resources for each quinquennial review and assessment of the platforms emanating from the successive world conferences on women. The fourth survey in this series was published in August 1999 with the most burning title of "1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Globalization, Gender and Work" (A/54/227. United Nations, 1999b). This survey is based on research , knowledge and data produced by appropriate UN organizations and agencies and not relying on the information given by the governments only.
Plenty of statistical information on the process is compiled and analysed in two statistical reports, which also came out timely for the Special Session. One was produced by UNIFEM as their new biennial report with the title "Progress of the World’s Women 2000". It covers the progress of world’s women from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s, i.e. from the Nairobi Conference to the GA Special Session 2000 (UNIFEM, 2000b). The other one is "The World’s Women 2000: Trends and Statistics" published by the UN Statistics Division. It is the third updated and complementary issue in the series of reports ( the other two issued in 1991 and 1995) that look at the status of women through the lens of statistical data and analyses (United Nations, 2000b).

These four new UN reports provide an abundance of information on the situation of world’s women today and the progress taken place in recent decades. They also provide a lot of criteria and indicators, which have been in shortage until lately. The information available on women in the UN sources is very broad and qualitatively high level, indeed, if only the governments, women researchers and activists would make full use of it. This does not mean that there were no shortages at all. For example the information on violence against women is still scattered and comparative statistics rare, due to the fact that this issue is so sensitive and traditionally largely silenced. One problem continues to be, that the national statistical offíces still don’t disaggregate their information adequately, although it has been requested seriously by the UN since 1970s. - Alternative Reports from People and NGOs

This time there was a double checking concerning the governments’ implementation of the programmes for advancement and empowerment of women. In addition to the obligation of Member States to report periodically to the UN, there are active and expedient NGOs and women’s groups in most of the member countries, which do follow up these issues more closely than the UN ever can. "For the NGOs the Beijing PFA is the ‘culmination of women’s struggles for justice in their diverse contexts around the world and an embodiment of their vision and hopes for the society that recognizes women’s rights as human rights’, and not just an international document to pay lip service to, as it is to many political delegates", as quoted from a NGO representative at the Beijing+5.

The NGO women attending the meeting of the Preparatory Committee for UNGASS in March 1999 initiated the idea to prepare alternative reports on the implementation of the PFA comparative to the reports of their governments. The NGOs would use the same questionnaire, which was sent to the governments by the UN. In their report the NGOs could comment the reports of their governments, make their own assessment on the implementation of the PFA in their respective countries, record their own activities in implementation, and propose additional actions to be implemented in forthcoming years for the full implementation of PFA.

The alternative reports were prepared for the first time. Altogether 116 alternative reports were received, of which 15 were regional reports, 80 national reports from 57 countries (several reports from some countries) and 14 theme reports. Obviously there were more reports prepared in countries and by groups, but they arrived late or not at all to CONGO in order to be included in the summaries. The reports received were compiled and summarized in each region or subregion to a regional report, which then were also compiled into the NGO Alternative Global Report by the Coordinating Committee of the Conference of NGOs (CONGO, 2000). This report was forwarded to the President of the Special Session, Theo Ben-Gurirab (Namibia), and the highlights of regional reports presented to him in the NGO working session before the opening of UNGASS.

The most important function of the preparation of alternative reports was to mobilize women in countries all over the world to study properly the reports of their governments, criticize and comment them at home. The work done and the ideas collected in this process also provided the NGO women with better competence and substance to comment then the official draft Outcome Document prepared for the special session. This background work was utilized effectively already during the Preparatory Committee session in March 2000, where the Coalition in Support of the Beijing Platform for Action, comprised of 171 NGOs and networks from every region of the world, compiled and presented their amendments to the draft outcome document.

This was just the beginning of the NGO lobbying operations to influence the proceedings of UNGASS conference by means of same lobbying strategies as used in earlier UN conferences. The Coalition paper mentioned above was the first "package" of amendments, additions and deletions to be introduced and negotiated directly with the members of delegations in all possible occasions. During the months between March and the Special Session in June a lot more work was done among the NGOs to follow up the government negotiations on official draft documents and to prepare a lot more suggestions and amendments on their behalf. The lobbying activities naturally continued intensively until the last sessions of the negotiating groups during the Special Session.

Altogether the official and the nongovernmental reports on implementation of the PFA contain a huge amount of information and experience to be analysed and comparatively processed also afterwards in order to facilitate further work in advancement and empowerment of women. Unfortunately, there is probably very little research and financing resources in the UN system and in research communities of Member States to enable this kind of research and elaboration work. Even such political and women researchers are rare, who have found their way to the sources of material and information of the UN system.

- Internet as a Channel for Women’s Voice

There has existed for some years a gateway to global information on women within the United Nations Internet websites called WomenWatch. In connection with the five-year review of Beijing the UN system itself introduced an other alternative way for individuals from all over the world to communicate their views, experiences and suggestions directly to the intergovernmental system. Through the WomenWatch Internet pages the three UN agencies on women, the Division for Advancement of Women, UNIFEM and INSTRAW, opened global online working groups on the implementation of the 12 critical areas of concern of the Beijing PFA and invited concerned people, men and women, everywhere to participate in the review and appraisal process with their views and experiences.

This new innovative use of Internet became a very successful and exiting exercise in communication, which could be called even as a global democracy experiment. Most of the lists were open about six week in the autumn 1999, but the list on "End violence against women" lasted 16 months from October 1998 to February 2000. It culminated in a great live global video conference on "A World Free of Violence against Women" in the General Assembly Hall at the UN on the International Women’s Day 1999. Altogether 10.000 individuals from over 120 countries subscribed to these virtual working groups and more than 1000 contributions were posted on the lists. Many others had one-to-one exchanges that contributed to the overall dialogue but were not seen on the screen.

This kind of a follow-up exercise has not been provided for the review of any other UN world conference or summit before. One may ask, was this just another privilege for women of the global North? But the participation spread surprisingly evenly between the South and the North. All together there was about 45 % from the South and 52 % from the North, while only 19% of Internet users in general are outside Europe and North America. (It was difficult to get exact distribution, due to difficulties to identify e-mail addresses, which don’t indicate the country of origin!) In some of the working groups, for example on environment and decision-making, more than half of the contributions came from the South. As to the background of the contributors, in average more than half of them were from the NGOs, government representatives varied from 13-30 %, the participation of academic people was 24% and the lowest group was from the intergovernmental organizations, 7%. (E/CN.6/2000/PC/CRP.1. United Nations, 2000c)

Furthermore, the Internet working groups provided an unparalleled new opportunity for the civil society participation directly into the intergovernmental process. One might like to ask, what was the weight and importance of 1000 interventions of representatives of NGOs and civil society through Internet directly to the UN bodies compared, for instance, with only five statements allotted to the NGO representatives in the formal plenary of UNGASS?

All the material of this Internet exchange is available in the archives of WomenWach. It is a huge amount of case examples, failures and successes, experiences and reviews, which are more authentic and personal than the governmental or even the NGO reports as such. Will it be analysed and benefited by relevant UN bodies or researchers from outside as an interesting material by substance or as experimenting a new option of the use of the ICT?

The material and full length reports of each working group are available via WomenWatch website at


- UNGASS – Hard Work and Meagre Results

The Beijing Platform for Action is so rich and progressive, and its recommendations for policies and actions so concrete and practical, that it is apt to create overwhelming hopes and expectations. The visions about forthcoming improvements and progress in women’s lives makes women to expect a lot from their governments. They also motivate, encourage and mobilize women to struggle and work by themselves. The review and assessment does not summarize only the achievements but also reveals the shortcomings and draw backs, which cause disappointment and frustration.

Since Beijing also some new trends and macro processes have gained momentum more than it was foreseen five years ago. The consequences of expansion and further liberalization of international trade and accelerating globalization of economic structures have grown into unexpected dimensions. The economic liberalization and globalization has had repercussions on the policies of industrialized countries vis-á-vis the financing of development cooperation and allocations to the UN agencies. The decline of allocations from the North has seriously hampered implementation of plans and programmes adopted in the world conferences by the recipient countries and the UN.

The NGO Alternative Global Report identifies policies that have aggravated "feminization of poverty", such as the privatization of public services, trade liberalization, deregulation of economies, withdrawal of subsidies, downsizing of governments, substitution of food production by cash crops and failure to monitor and regulate the inflow of foreign capital and enterprise. The Report draws attention also to the low pay and insecurity of women’s jobs and claims, that "government policies of the last five years have not only failed to address this issue, but some policy decisions have actually exacerbated the situation".

An other, even more fatal and devastating plague are the constantly increasing HIV/AIDS infections, especially in Africa, but spreading in all continents. Originally it appeared more often among men, but in recent years has rapidly increased among women and girls, due to several reasons, customs and beliefs. In Africa the prevalence of HIV infection among women is now higher than among men, with young women under age 25 constituting the group most at risk. 95 % of people with HIV live in developing countries, where the resources and prerequisites for effective health policies are already insufficient and strained. The African regional alternative report claims that Africa now is worse off than it was five years ago in terms of armed conflicts, rendering women more vulnerable to violence, HIV and AIDS.

The shadow of these trends was labelling the atmosphere of the review and appraisal process especially in the minds of women from the global South. The realities of their lives contradicted the expectations and hopes created by the Beijing Conference and adoption of the PFA five years ago. "We cannot speak about the Beijing plus five, for us it is a Beijing minus five!", many Southern women felt, while the women in the economically prospering North don’t adequately realize the connections between the fate of the South and the policies of their governments in the North.

The same forces, which in Beijing were fiercely fighting against progress and for drawing back the achievements made in Cairo and other world conferences before Beijing, have not given up, They were active again both during the Preparatory Committee meeting in March and Special Session in June. The Catholic fundamentalists from various countries with their allies from some Islamic countries managed to retard and even hamper the negotiation process to the extent that at times it was felt as if the whole conference will fail. The question was raised, whether it would be better not to have any outcome document at all than adopting a lousy paper diluting even the PFA text?

All this resulted in the delegates as well as NGO observers spending long nights in struggling through irrelevant arguments and mere filibuster by certain governments. The session itself exceeded its time more than 24 hours. Finally, the five-year review and assessment of the implementation of the Beijing PFA was concluded, which is very important outcome as such, but very little steps forward was made.

The outcome document, containing the Political Declaration and the document on "Further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action", was unanimously adopted in the final plenary, with governments firmly reaffirming their commitments to the goals and objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and pledging to take further action to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of the Platform (THE CODE OF THE DOCUMENT?). This decision implies that the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is extended for five more years until 2005 as the single valid intergovernmental programme for advancement and empowerment of women in these years.

- Achievements, Obstacles and Further Actions

The section on "Actions and initiatives to overcome obstacles and to achieve the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing PFA" in the outcome document consists of more than two hundred paragraphs of recommendations to be implemented in forthcoming five years. In comparison with the language of the Beijing PFA this document is weak and incoherent. It is like a patchwork, hundreds of detailed suggestions and recommendations follow each other without systematic structure and priorities. Obviously this is due to extremely difficult atmosphere, lack of time and lack of unity among the Member States. Little more than a year was allocated for the preparations of the Special Session, while the preparations for a world conference usually take three to four years.

The first thing to do for the governments after Beijing was to translate the PFA into the national language in those countries where no one of the official languages of the UN (English, French, Russian, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic) is generally spoken. There is no statistical information available about this task, but fairly soon after the Beijing Conference it was heard that PFA was translated in some big countries even into several native languages like in India in six languages, that women in East African villages were studying PFA in the regionally spoken language, Swahili, that the PFA was operationalized into more "reader-friendly" language even in English speaking Canada, etc.

The second task given to governments in the PFA was to prepare the National Action Plans for implementation of the PFA in each country within a year, latest by the end of 1996. The instructions and dead line for this task was set in the PFA itself, one of the rare time bound targets in the PFA as such. Not all countries were able to produce it in given time, but according to WEDO survey in September 1997 – two years after Beijing – 112 countries had an action plan finalized and another 21 countries had it as a draft, that makes 133 countries or 70% of those 189 countries, which participated in Beijing (WEDO, 1997). The UN Secretariat reports having received national action plans only from 116 Member States, two observer states and five regional or subregional groups, which makes 123 action plans altogether.

Interesting enough that the number of countries reporting about having a National Plan of Action prepared by 1997 is almost the same as countries returning the Questionnaire on Review and Appraisal, 135 by the end of 1999 (altogether 146 at the time of UNGASS).

Among the 12 critical areas of concern of the PFA Education and training is the field, where signs of progress are very clear. The school enrolment in general has increased in almost all regions and girls’ enrolment in many countries more than boys’, thus the inequality gap is declining. Also at the secondary level many countries show great increases in female enrolment in 1985-1997 (UNIFEM, 2000a). Feminization of the tertiary level education is a spreading phenomenon in many countries, while women attending the colleges and universities in increasing numbers and doing longer studies than men.

Among the goals set in terms of women’s education is the time-bound targets to close the gender gap in primary and secondary education and to reduce the women’s illiteracy by half from the level of 1990 by 2005. An other general target is to ensure free compulsory and universal primary education for all, both girls and boys and improve the adult literacy with 50 % by 2015.

Violence against women has been criminalized almost everywhere, but is still increasing both at homes and in new types of armed conflicts. Special session condemned "the honour killings" and forced marriages first time in an international consensus document. Strengthened measures are called also for the elimination of "dowry related violence", female genital mutilation, and stronger legislation against domestic violence in general, including marital rape and sexual abuse of women and girls.

It was confirmed that violence against women and girls is a human rights issue and thus the various forms of violence against women are human rights violations. There was also agreement to work towards the elimination of commercial sexual exploitation, as well as economic exploitation, including trafficking in women and children, and female infanticide.

In the field of Women and economy women’s participation in paid work has risen in almost all regions of the world, and it has also spearheaded the overall employment growth in recent years. Everywhere else, but Africa, women’s employment has grown substantially faster than men’s since 1980 – but usually under conditions inferior to those associated with men’s employment. (United Nations, 1999b) The problems in reconciling employment and family responsibilities are increasingly felt along with the rising employment of women due to lack of supportive services and participation of men in household chores.

- Other Results – Mainstreaming Missing

Furthermore, there are important results and outcomes achieved in these years, which are not recorded in the outcome document, and also omissions. The World Survey on the Role of Women in Development considers as a great achievement that "… the conferences and summits of the 1990s and their five-yearly reviews (as such) were crucial in raising gender awareness in the world, as they had the cumulative effect of placing gender at the centre of international discourse on policy-making relating to environment, population, human rights, food security and social development"(United Nations, 1999b).

The improvement of the status of women in the UN Secretariat is not recorded in the review and appraisal documents, although there are clear targets set for it in the PFA. Very rapid improvement has taken place in this field in recent decade. The percentage of women in the Secretariat in senior and decision-making positions has increased for instance at D-1 level from 6.4 % to 34.3 % and at D-2 level from 8.2 % to 23.2 % from 1989 to 1999 respectively. As these figures indicate, the proportion of women more than quintupled at D-1 level and almost tripled at D-2 level in ten years of 1990s. The great improvement is due to very radical instructions given by the SG in 1993 for "exceptional measures to recruit, promote and deploy women in the shortest possible time" and to the Strategic Plan of Action for Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat (1995-2000) introduced in 1994. The latest target is to achieve parity 50/50 by the year 2000.

In the early stage of his time of office Secretary General Kofi Annan also established two important positions for enhancement of his cabinet vis-à-vis the expertise in gender-related issues and representation of women. In January 1997 he appointed a very experienced UN veteran Angela E.V. King from Jamaica as an Assistant Secretary General and the Special Adviser to the Secretary General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. In the beginning of 1998 the post of the Deputy Secretary General was established as the highest position next to the Secretary General, and which is understood to be held by a women as long as the SG is a man. The Secretary General appointed Ms. Louise Fréchette from Canada as the first one to hold this post.

These recent developments are worth while mentioning, since many people believe, that the UN itself is not very good in implementing the recommendations jointly adopted by the Member States. (A/54/405. 27 Sept. 1999). The progress made in1990s regarding the status of women in the Secretariat probably beats any administration in the member states.

There are also issues, which the outcome document definitely should have dealt with, but does not
do. A very important one is the mainstreaming of a gender perspective in all policies and actions of Member States and the UN system, which is the core issue penetrating the whole PFA. The recommendation for "an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes and an analysis of its effects on women and men, respectively," is emphasized and repeated in connection with almost everyone of the twelve critical areas of concern in the PFA.

Also the report of the Secretary General on Review and Appraisal reminds, that "Gender analyses was established as a basic requirement for mainstreaming strategy. The current situation of women and men in relation to different issues/problems and the impact of planned policies, legislation, and projects and programmes on women and men respectively - and on the relations between them - should be analysed before any decisions are made. Gender analysis should go beyond cataloguing differences to identifying inequalities and assessing relationships between women and men…. Mainstreaming also requires transformative change."(United Nations, 2000)

In the Outcome document there is hardly anything about mainstreaming and only a couple of passing references to gender impact assessment. The only achievement mentioned in this respect is that "within the UN system much progress has been made in the mainstreaming of a gender perspective"(para 18) and "Progress has also been made to integrate the human rights of women and mainstream a gender perspective into the UN system, including into the work of the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights and the Commission on Human Rights"(para 20).

However, the gender mainstreaming and the gender impact assessment are the most far reaching obligations set by the PFA. Its enforcement to become a legal procedure in Member States would constitute an automatic mechanism operating all through legislation and policy making for gender mainstreaming and equality in the future. Therefore this is an issue, which’ implementation absolutely needs to be enhanced.

- A Global Women’s Movement being created

Within the decades since 1970s the mobilization of women has taken place in the world scale and in accelerating pace, a world wide women’s movement has been born. The NGO Tribune in Mexico City already in 1975 was described as the "largest consciousness–raising session ever held". The NGO Forum in Nairobi 1985 has been referred to as the "birth of global feminism" (UN, 2000d). The NGO Alternative Global Report states, that "As we moved beyond the 1980s, it became clear that what we had created was a global women’s movement and what we had set in motion was nothing less than a revolution" (CONGO, 2000).

The global conferences of the 1990s were pivotal in the development of a politically able and astute global women’s movement. "Strengthened by the three women’s world conferences of 1975, 1980, and 1985, women moved to the forefront in these conferences (in 1990s), claiming a space and voice in the resulting policies. These conferences served as training grounds for a new leadership by bringing hundreds of women into the public policy process and resulting, in many countries, in a ‘critical mass’ of women with political clout" (CONGO, 2000).

From the beginning the world conferences in 1990s were seen as constituting a Global Agenda for Development. Thus the governments and the UN have adopted an "integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the major United Nations conferences and summits" as the method in their review and appraisal. It concerns then the Rio+10,Vienna+10, Cairo+10, Copenhagen+10 etc. processes, which are on the way after the five-year review and appraisal process has been concluded.

The follow-up of the Beijing Conference seems to be lumped together with all the other major conferences and summits in this process. However, the purpose and nature of the Beijing Conference as well as the earlier world conferences on women is basically different from other world conferences. The conferences on women have not dealt with a particular theme but brought to global Agenda the interests and aspirations of women, which have not been heard equally before. The particular nature and importance of advancement of women was understood in the UN system already, when the series of world conferences on environment, human rights, population and social development , the so called global agenda was planned in the beginning of 1990s, while it was stated that "The goals they [the other world conferences] seek are all dependent upon the advancement of women" (United Nations 1995b, para 220)

The ECOSOC Agreed Conclusions (ECOSOC 1997/2) place an obligation on the UN system to apply gender mainstreaming throughout the whole UN system. In a way these conclusions are a recognition that gender mainstreaming is – indeed – an element and means to integrate and coordinate all the work of the UN system in this respect. In fact, this principle and understanding is expressed also in the Political Declaration of the special session, whereby the Governments,

"Reaffirm the importance of mainstreaming a gender perspective in the process of implementing the outcome of other major United Nations conferences and Summits and the need for a coordinated follow-up to all major conferences and Summits by Governments, regional organizations, and all of the bodies and organizations of the UN system within their respective mandates." (para 7.) - Future World Conferences on Women – will there be any?

To continue the above described progress in the global women’s movement and to maintain the momentum in the process for advancement and empowerment of women a strong demand was expressed by the NGO community in the ECE Regional Preparatory Meeting in Geneva in January 2000 and the CSW/Prepatory Meeting in New York in March that a world conference on women should be held again in 2005. This call received broad support also from the global NGO community gathered during the UNGASS in June 2000 In fact the Governments also agreed in paragraph 9 of the Political Declaration adopted in the UNGASS
"to regularly assess further implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action with the view to bringing together all parties involved in 2005 to assess progress and consider new initiatives, as appropriate, 10 years after the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action and 20 years after the adoption of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies".

Thus the request of the NGOs to the governments is only to specify the event in 2005 to become a world conference of a particular kind. That kind of a world conference would not be a replica of the Beijing, but it should first of all review and assess comprehensively the gender mainstreaming in the whole process of integrated implementation of the other major United Nations conferences and summits.

The central aims of such an overarching "meta" world conference in 2005 would be:

- review and appraisal of the progress made in the empowerment of women since the Mexico Conference in the years 1975 – 2005 and the implementation of and follow-up to the Beijing Platform for Action;

- assessment of the progress made in mainstreaming a gender perspective in the integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to the other major United Nations conferences and Summits as well as of the impact of these conferences and summits on the life of women in 1990 - 2005;

- development of goals and strategies to meet the needs of women arising from new global trends and to enhance women’s full participation in shaping the policies for integrated and coordinated implementation of the Global Agenda for Development in the 21st Century.

The governments in the Special Session "Women 2000" were not yet ready to define exactly the form and nature of the event planned to bring "together all parties involved in 2005 to assess progress and consider new initiatives".

ECOSOC substantial session in summer 2000 has made the first "Assessment of the progress made within the United Nations system, through the conference reviews, in the promotion of an integrated and coordinated implementation of and follow-up to major United Nations conferences and summits in the economic, social and related fields". This assessment gives a new ground to consider thoroughly what kind of a major conference "on women" i.e. on mainstreaming of a gender perspective in the whole process of the implementation of the Global Agenda would best serve the purpose.

The outcomes of the GA Special Sessions on the five-year reviews of a series of world conferences reveal that this kind of a process did not assess the implementation of gender mainstreaming in the whole Global Agenda as the UN system it committed to do. Even in the review of the implementation of Beijing PFA the mainstreaming was neglected.

Concerning the outcome of the Beijing+5 process as such, it became obvious that a GA special session would not be the effective mode of event to bring about new plans and strategies for the continuation of the process and maintaining the momentum in the future. The process cannot be continued without limits by extending the time for implementation of Beijing PFA only.

Therefore an other kind of a review and appraisal procedure is needed for a comprehensive assessment of gender mainstreaming, guaranteeing its continuation, and providing an appropriate forum for world’s women for bringing their views and aspirations into the proceedings of the Global Agenda in the future.


CONGO, 2000. Beijing Plus Five. NGO Alternative Global Report to the UNGASS 5 Years after Beijing, June 5-9. 2000. New York.

UNIFEM, 2000a. Targets and Indicators. Selection from Progress of the World’s Women. New York.
------------, 2000b. Progress of the World’s Women. A New Biennial Report. New York.

United Nations, 1999a. Improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat. Report of the Secretary General, A/54/403. 27 September 1999.
-------------------, 1999b. 1999 World Survey on the Role of Women in Development: Globalization, Gender and Work. General Assembly , A/54/227.
-------------------, 2000a. Review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. Report of the Secretary General. E/CN.6/2000/PC/2.
-------------------; Statistical Division, 2000b. The World’s Women 2000: Trends and Statistics. New York
-------------------; 2000c. Summary of the WomenWach Online Working Groups on the 12 Critical Areas of Concern. E/CN.6/2000/PC/CRP.1.
-------------------, 2000d. Women 2000. Information folder published by DPI. Including i.e. article: Elisabeth Ruziska-Dempsey and

Abigail Loreguard-Kasmally: The Four Global Women’s Conferences 1975-1995. Historical Perspective.


* This is a new chapter for updating the INSTRAW Occasional Paper No 1/1999: Engendering the Global Agenda: A Success Story of Women and the United Nations.

With compliments from

Hilkka Pietilä,
The NGO Coalition on Beijing+5
1 September 2000



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