International Women's Tribune Centre, 777 United Nations Plaza, New York, NY 10017, Tel: (1-212) 687-8633. Fax: (1-212) 661-2704 . e-mail: [email protected]


August 22nd 1995

by Anne S. Walker


1. Visas: Based on faxes, phone calls, e-mail, letters and personal visits we have received, it has been a week of problems and frustrations for women from every world region as more and more have found that they cannot get visas to go to Beijing. The lack of Hotel Confirmation Letters (HCLs), .Registration Confirmation Letters (RCLS) or names not appearing on the data base supplied to Embassies and Consulates by the China Organizing Committee are all causing major obstacles. One problem with the data base is that the COC is slow in updating it, as missing RCLs are sent out and these names are added in New York and sent to Beijing. Then there are the women who have sent in complete visa applications, i.e. applications containing an RCL and an HCL and whose names are on the data base, and who are still told they cannot have a visa....When questioned as to why, many have been told "We don't have to tell you. China has the final say on who gets visas." In Central America, hundreds of women have been told that they cannot process their visas until 20 days, i.e. after the Forum is over. Visas have been denied to representatives of the US-based Taiwan International Alliance, Tibetan women carrying legal Identity Passports from India, Tibetan-Canadians and Iranian-Canadians. They are amongst what is beginning to look like thousands of women who will not be able to participate in the Forum because they cannot get visas.

At this point in time, it is hard not to conclude that these "technical difficulties" for denying visas, and the seemingly random way in which percentages of women in each region are being denied visas for no apparent reason, is an effort to limit the numbers of NGOs going to Beijing. Whether this is being done for political reasons or simply to control numbers, or both, we cannot say. There clearly is a problem with accommodations and space out at Huairou, and the hotels in Beijing are filling up.

IWTC has been actively involved in attempting to support the efforts of women in every region to overcome the hurdles they are facing obtaining visas. We strongly suggest that you keep fighting this travesty of justice, and make very sure that your name and Forum registration number is faxed to the COC in Beijing. Alert your government delegations to this problem. We think it is important to fight this at every level and to hold China to its commitment to host the NGO Forum on Women, a working forum of 36,000 registered participants. There is a definite role to be played by NGOs, governments, the UN and the world's media.

2. Ongoing planning of NGOs who will be lobbying governments in Beijing for a stronger Platform for Action: Many women's NGOs, issue networks and Conference of Non Governmental Organizations in Consultative Status with ECOSOC (CONGO) members have been meeting over the past weeks to come up with a plan for the daily caucuses at the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW). After much hard work on their part, the following agreements have been reached.

The Morning Meeting will be coordinated by a representative group of NGOs called the Equipo or the Team. The Equipo will consist of representatives of the following: the NGO Facilitating Committee; CONGO; the Linkage Caucus; the regional caucuses; the NGO Status of Women Committee; issue-oriented caucuses and networks such as disabled women, economic justice, environment, human rights, the girl child, lesbians, indigenous women, migrant and refugee women, media, older women, peace, reproductive rights/health, women of colour and youth. The Morning Meeting will take place every morning from 8.00 to 9.30 am at the Beijing International Convention Centre (BICC) where the FWCW is being held. At the beginning of each meeting there will be a briefing for NGOs by the UN. Then there will be daily reports by NGOs on issues of the day, etc. This will be followed by briefings and analysis of the Platform for Action and coordination of lobbying activities.

A number of sub-committees of the Equipo will be set up to deal with various functions, such as setting the agenda for the Morning Meetings, logistics, setting up briefings with government delegates, coordination of lobbying activities, and responding to any problems and/or crises which might arise. A support group has been set up to recommend a process to the regional and issue-oriented caucuses regarding the election of their representatives on the Equipo during the first days of the NGO Forum on Women in Huairou, and the coordinators of the issue and diversity tents will be notified. The Equipo should be ready to start its functions by September 3, 1995.