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Women´s Issues After Beijing
Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Positions - Networks - Results


Preface

The Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in September 1995 was a highlight in the post-Rio sequence of UN-conferences. More than 50,000 participants turned the event into the largest conference ever in the history of the UN: 27,000 women participants took part in the Forum of Non-governmental Organizations (NGO Forum), the Conference itself saw 5,000 delegates from 189 countries as well as 4,000 women representatives from NGOs and 3,200 journalists.
It was the objective of the Conference and the NGO Forum to review the Forward-looking Strategies, which had been drawn up at the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi in 1985, in respect of their world-wide implementation and to work out a Plan of Action for expediting their realization.
The Platform for Action is the central document, a comprehensive catalogue of actions to be taken in order to eliminate world-wide discrimination against women. With the aim of enabling concerns and interests of women to be included in the Draft Platform, five preparatory regional conferences were held which brought together representatives of Governments and a large number of NGOs. During the whole preparatory period, women and women´s organizations met in countless workshops to work out common strategies and negotiating positions and thus to exert an influence on the process of preparation and on the Conference itself.
Since the mid-80s, advancement of women has become more important in international development cooperation. The primary object is to improve general social and political conditions to enable women to enjoy equal participation in the political, economic and social development of their countries. The "Guide-lines for the Advancement of Women in International Development Cooperation of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung", adopted in 1994, give an idea of how the Foundation wishes to contribute to improving the status of women in the Third World in all areas of its activities, ie in social and political and trade-union cooperation, in economic and social development and in media cooperation.
The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung assisted the process of preparation for the 4th World Conference on Women with a number of activities:

  • in many project countries, the Foundation supported the national preparations for the Conference;
  • during the preparatory regional conference for Africa in Dakar, Senegal, the office of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung organized supportive measures for women representatives of NGOs from among their partner organizations;
  • international conferences and workshops in Germany and the project countries provided a basis for the exchange of experience and for setting up a network of women in Germany and in the developing countries;
  • the office in New York produced a video about the lobbying activities of NGOs within the United Nations system during the preparation of world conferences.

The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung regards a large number of the strategies which were incorporated in the Platform for Action as confirmation of its work and consequently wishes to contribute to the follow-up process of the 4th World Conference on Women as well: within the framework of its development cooperation, networks of women´s organizations and women from among the partner organizations of the Foundation were supported in organizing regional conferences in Latin America, West Africa and Asia with the aim of critically evaluating the results of Beijing and the progress made in their implementation and in drawing up plans of action for the years to come. Moreover, it is proposed to take into account and to incorporate the results of the 4th World Conference on Women in the project activities of FES in connection with the advancement of women.
The Platform for Action has taken up all relevant analytical conclusions, essential proposals for action and instruments of previous conferences and has given a more concrete meaning to the corresponding commitments and strategies. In her concluding speech in Beijing the Secretary General of the 4th World Conference on Women, Gertrude Mongella, stated that the tasks emerging from the 4th World Conference on Women may trigger a social revolution and become a turning-point in the history of humanity.
One essential condition for the follow-up process is the wide dissemination of information about the objectives and contents of the Beijing Platform for Action. As has been emphasized in the document at several points, it is above all the task of the NGOs at the national level to review, control and promote implementation of conclusions agreed upon.
This basic introduction puts into context the close links between the Platform for Action and the resolutions of the other major preparatory conferences in order to make them easier to understand. (The various German translations of conference documents from Rio to Beijing so far rather concealed these cross-references. For example, one of the central terms in all conference documents, ie "sustainable development", does not occur in the German version of the Platform for Action).
Moreover, this basic introduction intends to condense the comprehensive catalogue of analyses and objectives of the Platform for Action and thus make them accessible for political practice.

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© Friedrich Ebert Stiftung | technical support | Net Edition mv&ola | Oktober 1997