This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, in Beijing. In 1995, six thousand government delegates attended UN-led negotiations, building on previous political agreements to create an action plan for furthering gender equality and the empowerment of women. Four thousand activists also attended to influence the outcome; and thus the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PfA) were born.
Now considered the key global policy document on gender equality, the Beijing PfA is reviewed every five years at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW), to check on progress. Issues addressed by the PfA include poverty, education and training, health, gender-based violence, armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, human rights, the media and the environment.
During a 'review year' at UNCSW, governments don't negotiate a set of agreements as this could open up the Beijing declaration for reinterpretation - a notion that many fear would lead to attempts to weaken the substance and language of the text. Instead, governments agree a political declaration, and this year the declaration was adopted shortly after the opening ceremony. The four page document reaffirms then international community’s commitment to the Beijing Declaration, expresses concern about persistent inequalities between women and men in relation to the Beijing PfA's areas of concern, and pledges further action.
Whilst Mothers’ Union took a break from sending an official delegation to UNCSW this year, a number of Mothers’ Union members attended with the Anglican Communion delegation.
The 60th Session on the UNCSW in 2016 will be the first following the adoption of the new global development goals succeeding the Millennium Development Goals. There is every hope that the new development agenda will provide a further impetus to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.
To read this year’s UNCSW political declaration go to http://www.unwomen.org/en/csw/csw59-2015/official-documents