ENB:14:21 [Next] . [Previous] . [Contents]


CHAPTER I (Mission Statement): The Mission Statement notes that the Platform for Action is an agenda for women's empowerment, reaffirms the human rights of women and the girl child, and calls for strong commitments. As part of the package of agreements on references to human rights, delegates agreed to unbracket paragraph 2, which reaffirms that the human rights of women and the girl child are part of universal human rights. Subsequent references to "universal" human rights, advocated by the Holy See during the CSW, were deleted. During final adoption of Chapter I in the Main Committee, the G-77/China noted that the Chapter did not adequately reference development and peace, two of the three themes of the Conference. The Main Committee agreed to add a new paragraph 5, which recognizes the necessity of broad-based and sustained economic growth in the context of sustainable development for social development and justice.

Paragraph 6 (resources) generated considerable debate throughout the drafting process. The G-77/China called for new and additional resources, stressing their importance for implementation. The EU and others stressed adequate resources, national commitments and rearranged priorities. An informal group negotiating several paragraphs on resources drafted the final formulation, calling for the adequate mobilization of resources at the national and international levels, and new and additional resources from all available funding mechanisms.

CHAPTER II (Global Framework): The Global Framework describes the international condition in twenty-six paragraphs. It includes references to: past UN conferences; changes since the end of the Cold War; the movement towards democratization; the growing strength of NGOs; women and family; women and religion; and barriers facing women.

Paragraph 9 (implementation in conformity with cultural and religious backgrounds) was among the last paragraphs to be resolved at the Conference. Originally proposed by Iran, the compromise text drafted by an informal group folded in elements from a proposed footnote to Section C (health) that implementation would bear in mind the different cultural and religious differences that exist in countries. Chair Licuanan ruled that the footnote in paragraph 9 would stand, but that it would be deleted in Section C.

A paragraph regarding excessive military expenditures, debt and structural adjustment was opposed by the EU, but emerged from the informal group on resource questions in much the same form as originally drafted. Two other compromises were made on the paragraphs regarding women and family and women and religion. The paragraphs were proposed by the Holy See during the CSW, and came to Beijing entirely in brackets. The final paragraph, negotiated in an informal group, notes that women play a critical role in the family and that various forms of the family exist in different cultural, political and social systems. The final text on religion notes that the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion is inalienable and that religion and belief may, and can, contribute to fulfilling moral and ethical needs and to realizing one's full potential.

CHAPTER III (Critical Areas of Concern): Paragraph 43 of this Chapter reaffirms that the "advancement of women and the achievement of equality" are a matter of human rights and a condition for social justice. The Chapter also identifies political, economic and ecological crises along with war and terrorism among the impediments encountered by women since the World Conference in Nairobi. Governments, the international community, civil society and the private sector are called upon to address the interrelated areas of: poverty; unequal access to education and training; inequalities in health care; violence against women and the girl child; effects of conflict; participation in the definition of economic structures and policies; power sharing; mechanisms to promote advancement of women; human rights of women; the media; the environment; and persistent discrimination and violation of the rights of the girl child.

CHAPTER IV (Strategic Objectives and Actions): The introduction to this Chapter contains two paragraphs. The first introduces the twelve sections that diagnose the critical areas of concern and propose concrete actions. The second "diversity" paragraph recognizes that many women face particular barriers because of a certain group they belong to, based on race, age or culture.

The debate over "sexual orientation" concentrated on the bracketed reference in this paragraph. During the final Main Committee session, the debate moved out of an informal group and revealed two main positions. Canada, New Zealand, South Africa and others supported the reference, stating that discrimination on any grounds should be prohibited. Egypt, Iran and others opposed the reference, stating it would contradict their religious and cultural values and noted that no international precedent exists for using the term. Chair Licuanan ruled that since the term had not been aired in the UN before and given the strong opposition, the term should not appear in the text.

Section A (Poverty): This Section describes the feminization of poverty and its causes, including the lack of women's participation in decision-making and economic structures, migration and changes in family structure, limited access to education, support services, training and resources and rigidity of socially ascribed gender roles. The actions States and other actors are called on to take include: ensure food security; strengthen social safety nets; support female-headed households and anti-poverty programmes; recognize women migrants' human rights; ensure access to financial services; use gender perspectives in economic policy making; examine the relationship between unremunerated work and poverty; provide new and additional financial resources to target women living in poverty; and integrate a gender perspective into lending programmes, including structural adjustment programmes.

Delegates debated whether to distinguish between documented and non-documented migrant workers in paragraph 60(l). The G-77/China preferred the reference to both while the EU and others preferred only a reference to documented migrants. The final paragraph refers to ensuring the full realization of the human rights of all women migrants, including women migrant workers, and also calls for empowerment of documented women migrants, including migrant workers.

A paragraph regarding inheritance was contested by many Islamic States, but was deleted once a similar paragraph was agreed to in the section on the girl child.

Section B (Education): This section notes that many children, especially girls, do not have access to primary education. More than two-thirds of adult illiterates are women. An environment where girls and boys are treated equally and where non-stereotyped images of women and men are promoted would help eliminate causes of discrimination and inequality. Actors are called on to: eliminate discrimination in education; ensure universal access to and completion of primary education; increase enrollment and retention rates of girls; eliminate barriers to the schooling of young mothers and pregnant girls; eradicate illiteracy among women; promote equal sharing of family responsibilities by girls and boys; remove barriers to sexual and reproductive health education; educate rural women; and ensure sufficient resources for educational reforms and monitoring implementation.

Points of discussion in this section included paragraphs that reference religious, moral and spiritual values (74), sexual and reproductive education (76), the parents' ability to choose education for the girl child (82(f)), freedom of conscience and religion in educational institutions (82(f)), and the expansion of the definition of literacy (83(f)). All these references are included in the final document, but delegates agreed to "work towards an expansion of the definition of literacy."

Section C (Health): This section contained almost a quarter of the unresolved text held over from the CSW. The theme of the text is "the human rights of women...to have control over and decide freely and responsibly on matters related to their sexuality, including sexual and reproductive health, free of coercion, discrimination and violence" (97). In this and other related paragraphs, including paragraph 95 (discriminatory and harmful practices), divisions in opinion were determined largely by religious/secular views on the permissibility of sexual relations outside marriage and attitudes toward contraception and abortion. A proposed footnote qualifying government commitment to implementation with references to sovereignty and respect for religious and cultural values was dropped from this Section, but the reference remains in paragraph 9.

A commitment to "consider reviewing laws containing punitive measures against women who have undergone illegal abortions" was retained after the addition of a reference to paragraph 8.25 of the ICPD Programme of Action, which notes that abortion should not be promoted as a method of family planning. References to the "integrity of the body" previously used in the ICPD Programme of Action and the Report of the 1975 Women's Conference in Mexico were amended to refer to "integrity of the person" in paragraphs 97 and 108(d). Language on parental rights and duties balanced the right of adolescent girls to privacy and counseling (e.g. reporting sexual abuse involving family members) with the rights and duties of parents, but notes that the primary consideration is the best interest of the child. References to "race and ethnicity" (105, 110(a), and 111(d)) were replaced by references to demographic factors after delegations expressed fears about racial discrimination. Disagreements over reference to the ICPD were resolved in a formula referring to the commitments contained in the Programme of Action in the report of the Conference. The section also reaffirms the ICPD goal of universal access to health services by the year 2015, addresses gender sensitive programmes on HIV/AIDs and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and shared responsibility between men and women in matters related to sexual and reproductive behavior.

Section D (Violence against women): In this Section, delegates resolved that in "all" societies, to a greater or lesser degree, women and girls are subjected to physical, sexual and psychological abuse. Among the types of abuse that are identified are acts of violence in situations of armed conflict (115) and forced sterilization, abortion and forced use of contraceptives, prenatal sex selection and female infanticide (115 bis).

Delegates identified as particularly vulnerable displaced women, repatriated women, migrant workers, women living in poverty, and those living under conditions of foreign occupation, wars of aggression, civil wars, and terrorism, including hostage taking (116). Delegates noted the adverse impact of images in the media in paragraph 119. A reference to "unwanted pregnancy" is included in paragraph 123, calling for implementation and strengthening of the 1949 Convention for the Suppression of the Traffic in Persons and of the Exploitation of the Prostitution of Others, and other relevant instruments. The term "female foeticide" was deleted from paragraph 125(i), which calls for legislation against female genital mutilation, prenatal sex selection, infanticide and dowry-related violence.

Section E (Armed conflict): This Section links peace with development and equality between men and women. It also sets forth the human rights abuses that often accompany armed conflict and notes their disproportionate effect on women. Actors should: increase women's participation in conflict resolution and leadership; train officials dealing with cases of violence against women in situations of armed conflict; convert military industries to peaceful purposes; recognize effects of excessive military expenditures and the need to combat trafficking in drugs, arms, women and children; establish moratoria on anti-personnel land-mines and assistance in mine clearing; ratify international instruments on the protection of women and children in armed conflicts; recognize that rape is a war crime; and protect, assist and train refugee and displaced women.

Delegates debated the references to foreign occupation and alien domination (paragraphs 132, 136, 144(c), and 144(d)). The G-77/China preferred to keep the language, but others wanted it deleted. An informal group formulated a reference that was used throughout the document. Malta objected to the reference to forced pregnancy (132), which was only retained in paragraph 136 (consequences of armed conflict). An informal group expanded the language on land mines (145(e)) to five sub-paragraphs that call for: working towards ratification of international instruments prohibiting or restricting the use of land mines; consider strengthening the 1981 Convention on Prohibitions and Restrictions on Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects; promoting assistance in mine clearance; support for efforts to coordinate a common response programme of assistance in demining; adoption of a moratorium on the export of anti-personnel land-mines; and solutions for problems caused by land mines.

In paragraph 149(l), Canada, the EU and US wanted to delete reference to increasing funds for refugee programmes, but the G-77/China objected. The final version calls for recognition of the effects of large numbers of refugees on host countries and the need to share this burden.

Section F (Inequality in women's access to and participation in the definition of economic structures): This Section notes that there are differences in women's and men's access and opportunities to exert power over economic structures and their societies. Discrimination in education and training, hiring and remuneration, restricted employment and other professional opportunities for women. Actors are called on to promote women's self-reliance, facilitate women's equal access to resources, and create a flexible work environment.

An informal negotiating group revised paragraph 158 on women's unremunerated work, noting that it is both undervalued and under-recorded and, in the case of domestic work, is often not measured at all in quantitative terms. The contribution of women to development is therefore "seriously underestimated and thus its social recognition is limited" contributing to a lack of sharing of responsibilities. The issue is also addressed in paragraph 167(g). Brackets were lifted from paragraph 159, which addresses the exacerbation of inequalities between men and women as a result of economic globalization. New Zealand introduced a specific reference to the creation of pressures on the employment situation of women to adjust to new circumstances. Recognition of labor sectors where women predominate and measures to enhance access to male dominated sectors are addressed in paragraph 162. The US redrafted paragraph 156 to note the contribution of migrant workers. Funders are called upon to develop strategies to consolidate assistance to micro, small and medium-scale enterprises in paragraph 171(c). In paragraph 181, governments are called on to use labor laws to: protect part-time, temporary, seasonal and home-based workers; ensure that full-time and part-time work can be freely chosen by women and men on an equal basis; and support opportunities for women and men to take job-protected parental leave and benefits. The promotion of equal sharing of responsibilities is also addressed in this Section.

Section G (Decision-making): This Section notes that women's equal participation in decision-making and political life plays a pivotal role in the advancement of women. Women are under-represented at most levels of government and in decision-making positions in most other fields. Socialization and negative stereotyping have kept decision-making in the domain of men. Women have gained access to power through alternative structures such as NGOs. Actors are called on to: create a gender balance in government and administration; integrate women into political parties; recognize that shared work and parental responsibilities promote women's increased participation in public life; promote gender balance within the UN system; work toward equality between women and men in the private sector; establish equal access for women to training; increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and leadership; and increase women's participation in the electoral process and political activities.

There was some discussion as to whether women's participation strengthens democracy or is a prerequisite for the proper functioning of democracy. The final text says that women's participation in decision making is needed in order to strengthen democracy and promote its regular functioning. Delegates also discussed whether to set specific targets for women's participation, but agreed to omit them.

Section H (Insufficient mechanisms): This Section notes the lack of sufficient mechanisms at national, regional and international levels for the advancement of women. It calls for the creation or strengthening of national machineries, integrating a gender perspective in public policy and generating gender-disaggregated data.

References to data collection and presentation on unremunerated work required extensive negotiations. The EU supported the language used at the World Summit for Social Development in Copenhagen, but others supported stronger language. The final agreement reached in an informal group calls for a more comprehensive knowledge of all forms of work by: improving data collection on the unremunerated work that is already included in the UN System of National Accounts; improving measurements; and developing methods for assessing the value of unremunerated work that is outside national accounts, with a view to making visible the unequal distribution of remunerated and unremunerated work between women and men.

Section I (Human rights): This Section notes that human rights are the birthright of all human beings. Governments must work actively to promote and protect these rights and the systematic and systemic nature of discrimination against women must be taken into account when international human rights instruments are applied. Lack of awareness is an obstacle that prevents women from fully enjoying their rights. Actors are called on to implement human rights instruments, ensure non-discrimination under the law and achieve legal literacy.

Among the critical issues discussed in Beijing was paragraph 223 (the right to decide number and spacing of children and to attain the highest standard of sexual and reproductive health). Resolution was reached by an informal group working on health issues. Original bracketed references to the World Conference on Human Rights and the ICPD (which did not create any human rights) and the reservations expressed and definitions developed at those conferences, were replaced by noting that the FWCW bears in mind the outcomes of the two conferences.

A reference to sexual and reproductive rights in paragraph 232(f) also generated debate. A number of delegates, including Morocco and Argentina, wanted to delete 232(f), while others, including Namibia and Jamaica, urged retaining the language. Jordan pointed out that in marriage an Islamic woman has sexual rights. The high-level discussions on Thursday, 14 September, recommended a reformulated text that remains in this Section.

Section J (Mass media): This Section notes that the potential exists for the media to make a greater contribution to the advancement of women, however, few women have attained positions at the decision-making level in the communications sector. The continued projection of negative images of women in the media must be changed, and women should be empowered by enhancing their skills, knowledge and access to information technology. Action is called for to increase participation of women in the media and promote a non-stereotyped portrayal of women in the media.

Delegates called for professional codes of conduct rather than regulatory mechanisms in paragraph 244(a), and agreed to insert "consistent with freedom of expression" in a number of places, at the request of the US. Several countries, including the G-77/China and the EU wanted to delete the reference in paragraph 245(b) (media materials on role models) calling for materials on "caring mothers and nurturers of happy families." Some, including Peru, Guatemala and Pakistan, supported shortening the reference to "mothers." The final text calls for media materials on women as leaders who bring to their positions of leadership many different life experiences, including balancing work and family responsibilities as mothers and as professionals.

Section K (Women and the environment): In this Section, delegates called on governments and relevant organizations to ensure full compliance with international obligations relating to the transboundary movement and safe storage of hazardous and radioactive wastes. Governments are also asked to consider action to prohibit movement of those materials that are unsafe and insecure. Paragraph 246 reaffirms the linkage between poverty and environmental degradation, and identifies unsustainable patterns of consumption and production as the major cause of deterioration. The paragraph also notes the special risks toxic chemicals pose to women's health. Noting the lack of recognition and support for women's contribution to conservation, paragraph 252 calls for an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective in all environmental policies and programmes. In paragraph 253(c), governments are invited to encourage the effective protection and use of "the knowledge, innovations and practices of women of indigenous and local communities," in accordance with the Convention on Biological Diversity. They are asked to ensure that their application is promoted with the approval and involvement of the holders of such knowledge.

Section L (The girl child): This Section notes that fewer girls than boys survive into adulthood and that gender-biased educational processes reinforce existing gender inequalities. The percentage of girls enrolled in secondary school remains low and the girl child's health is endangered by discrimination in her access to nutrition and physical and mental health services. Actions to be taken focus on eliminating all forms of discrimination, especially education, health and nutrition and negative cultural attitudes and practices. Actors are also called to educate the girl child about social, economic and political issues and to strengthen the role of the family in advancing the status of the girl child.

A number of debates revolved around using "family" or "families." The reference appeared in several paragraphs, including 263 (reasons for girls not attending school), 285(a) (policies to help the family) and 285(b) (strengthening the family). Guatemala, Benin and others supported "family," but the EU and others supported "families" or "in its various forms." An informal group proposed reference to "the family, as described in paragraph 30," which notes that, in different cultural, political and social systems, various forms of the family exist.

Another significant agreement was reached in paragraph 274(d) (equal right to succession and inheritance). Egypt explained to delegates that Islamic countries could not accept "equal inheritance." Norway noted that countries with different systems could not accept "equitable" inheritance rights, and suggested using reservations. An informal group negotiated text calling for the elimination of the injustice and obstacles in relation to inheritance faced by the girl child by, inter alia, enacting, as appropriate, legislation that ensures the equal right to inherit regardless of sex. A number of Islamic states still reserved on the text, although Iran stated that the text was not contrary to its economic system.

CHAPTER V (Institutional Arrangements): This Chapter notes that, while the primary responsibility of States, implementation is dependent on a wide range of institutions at all levels. Changes in the internal dynamics of institutions and organizations and strong mandates for national and regional institutions are also required. Actions are then noted for the national, subregional/regional and international levels. At the international level, actions by the UN system and other international institutions are specified.

Paragraph 293 (conference of commitments) was one of the bracketed paragraphs negotiated in Beijing. Australia had proposed that the FWCW be a "Conference of Commitments," whereby States would make commitments during Plenary speeches and a list of the commitments would appear in an annex to the report of the Conference. The EU offered an alternative text, which excluded the reporting component. An informal group agreed to note that the FWCW is a conference of commitments, that States and the international community have been encouraged to make commitments for action, and that many have done so in their national statements.

Paragraph 309 (high-level post in the office of the Secretary-General) was also bracketed coming into Beijing. The EU proposed inviting the Secretary-General to consider "designating" a high-level official in his office to advise on gender issues, but many joined Benin's call for the "creation" of the post. The agreed text, which was moved to paragraph 327, invites the Secretary-General to "establish" the post, using existing human and financial resources.

Paragraphs regarding the CSW, UNIFEM and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) were entirely bracketed at the CSW. Delegates drafted language calling for: a strengthened mandate for the CSW with sufficient resources, through reallocation of resources within the regular UN budget; a review by INSTRAW of its work programme to develop a programme for implementing those aspects of the Platform that fall within its mandate; and a review by UNIFEM of its work programme in light of the Platform.

Paragraph 343 (international financial institutions) was resolved in Beijing by the informal group working on resource issues. It encourages international financial institutions to review policies and to increase the number of women in high-level positions. The Bretton Woods and UN institutions are called on to establish substantive dialogues for more effective coordination of their assistance.

CHAPTER VI (Financial Arrangements): This Chapter notes that financial and human resources have generally been insufficient for the advancement of women, and notes the necessity of political commitment to make available the human and financial resources. Actions at the national, regional and international levels are specified.

Very few brackets remained in this Chapter after the CSW. Delegates in Beijing agreed that resources from the international community for UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies, in particular UNIFEM and INSTRAW, need to be sufficient and should be maintained at an adequate level.

[Return to start of article]