[Women Conf. Home]
Strasbourg, 19 May 1995
We, Green women from 11 EU countries gathered together at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, welcome the Fourth World Conference on Women in September as an important step in the light of the efforts, networking, prac-tical and political work that many governments and thousands of NGOs have taken up to organize and prepare the WCW. Those efforts aimed at creating a strong impulse, sharing visions and analysing the diverse needs of women worldwide for the advancement of all women, using the WCW as a catalyst for regional and global implementation of equality policies and all measures contributing to the empowerment of women.
Unfortunately, many obstacles to a successful WCW have arisen:
1) Although the decision to hold the WCW in China was originally made after the Chinese government promised to meet UN requirements of free access, accessibility and sufficient facilities, the facts show that the Chinese government has until now taken unacceptable restrictive measures regarding formal accreditation and rules of access as well as distant location and inadequate facilities for the NGO forum. We strongly doubt that the hopes placed by women in this conference can be realized . We demand that this conference should take place in conditions of free speech and respect for human rights, we demand active promotion and facilitation of consultation and negotiation between NGOs and governmental delegations.
If by the 15th of June the Chinese goverment fails to satisfy the specific requirements which, as host-country it agreed with the UN, we demand that participating governments should boycot the Beijing- Conference and require from the UN to relocate both conferences to an alterative venue in an alternative Asian country or to Australia.
2) The language, recommendations and actions called for in the New York draft Platform of Action for the Fourth World Conference on Women actually jeopardize progress already made. They fall far short of what was already agreed at the major UN conferences in Rio (Environment and Development), Vienna (Human Rights), Cairo (Population and Development) and Copenhagen (Social Development). There are reasons to fear a conservative backlash against women's achievements so far in empowerment, autonomy and strong leadership of women. We urge all our governments not only to strongly defend the progress made in these past conferences, but also to move ahead by making implementation proposals and defining budgets.
In our two-day meeting in Strasbourg, we concentrated on the following critical areas: Economics, Women's Human Rights, Reproductive Rights and Sustainable Development.
Alongside successes in recent decades, the situation of most women in the world is deteriorating. The reasons are to be found in the globalization of the economy, dominated by neo-liberal macro-economic policies and, especially in Western Europe, the preoccupation with deregulation. This deregulation is allowing regression to lower, substandard levels of wages, health and safety protection, social security and public services, as well as of employment rights and conditions. These developments are endangering the concepts of equal opportunity, social welfare and solidarity. While State is withdrawing from many economical decisions by privatisation, multilateral corperations are monopolizing uncontrolled power, thus worker's rights and especially women's rights are not safegarded. That is why different strategies are needed starting from obliging TNC 's to adopt codes of conduct to consumers organisation and implementing control-mechanism.
In Western Europe, women's access to the labour market has increased considerably, but the majority of women still earn unequal wages in part-time or flexible jobs with insecure working conditions, leaving them dependant on a breadwinner or the state. The reorganization of the labour market entails the restructuring of working and caring: long overdue are parental and home- care leave, tax and security systems shaped according to individual needs rather than to the breadwinner principle. Overdue is the achievement of adequate child care and welfare facilities, creating jobs instead of cutting public spending in the service area which only increases the burden of women's unpaid work.
Considering that the countries of Eastern and Central Europe, with their new freedom, have opened up to economic liberalism, entailing rising unemployment for women (and men), reduced state services and great risks from a deteriorating environment; that the region is still suffering from serious conflicts and three years of war, in which crimes against humanity are continuing to take place, leaving women and children in a desperate situation; it is of great importance to strengthen aid and cooperation (not by diminishing development-budgets) and to intensify efforts to contribute to peace in the region and give women an important role in the peace-process. (This attention to European neighbours should not be at the expense of development aid budgets.) Transformation of Eastern and Central Europe to democratic, economically and ecologically safe regions is of utmost concern and importance and must be supported by governments, special aid programms, NGOs and political committed to strengthening the role and contribution of women. Adequate healthservices and compensation of damage caused by environmental policies and other areas of the environment such as nuclear testing and production and chemical and biological testing must be provided.
The testing, manufacture and use of conventional and nuclear weapons remain a deadly threat to people and the environment. Nuclear testing must be stopped and the production of nuclear weapons and fissile material banned. The dismantling of all nuclear facilities and weapons must be carefully monitored.
As a step toward drastic reduction of arms trade and military expenditures, we call on all UN member states to set aside a defined yearly percentage of their budget, namely at least 10 %, to be made available for conflict prevention in situations of acute economic and social crisis. Arms trade as well as the use of anti-personnel mines must be combatted effectively. We support the call for the investiture of a UN Conflict Council with the mandate to initiate and promote violence-free processes in order to start dialogues and work out non-military solutions. Half the members of this Council should be women. A UN World Peace conference should be organized for the year 2000 in order to elaborate and promote further strategies for non-military conflict resolution.
After years of "development", the non-industrialized countries of the South are left with a crushing burdened of debt, devalued resources, and mounting social, environmental and economic crises. We urge the governments of the EU and the whole Western world to acknowledge their own accountability for the unindustrialized South and to make sure that development programms and structural adjustment programms be conditioned by clearly defined debt- reduction measures and the creation of employment in health care, social services and environmental protection in order to reduce poverty, especially among women in the South, respecting at least the framework of the "20/20" initiative, with the donor countries increasing their contribution to 1% of GNP.
Feminization of poverty is a fact in both Southern, Eastern and Western European countries, and urgent actions are needed to counter this trend: all actions to reduce poverty must involve the women themselves and include gender impact assessment. Those actions and measures must be accompanied by concrete financial commitments to enable implementation. Overcoming gender-based segregation on the labour market and redistributing working and caring (paid and unpaid work) must be aims running through all programmes and legislation. With the globalization of the economy the whole world is hijacked by the neo- liberal economic logic. No solutions can be found by proposing correction only, however fargoing they might be. Instead care for people and environment should be on the top of the political agenda and translated in societal rules and legislation. Women worldwide should cooperate to formulate their own values and work on strategies to implement them.
Universal Women's Human Rights include political, civil, economic, social and cultural rights. While traditionally, the human rights focus was mainly on violations perpetrated by the State, women have succesfully fought for recognition of gender-based violence as a political issue, thus including it within the human rights framework: States cam be held responsible for tolerating or even committing gender-based violence, including violence perpetrated by individuals or within the family. Women's human rights have to be enforced and promoted actively. Although violence against women was only recognized as a violation of human rights in June 1993 in Vienna in the UN World Conference on Human Rights, the international legal instrument to protect women's human rights is the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women CEDAW, adopted in 1979. We urge all UN member states who have not signed the convention to do so in 1995 and call for an optional protocol in order to strengthen the monitoring system. By strengthening the Committee in charge of receiving complaints from individuals and States, we can make governments accountable for their own violations of women's human rights and for the protection of those rights. A strengthened position and increased funding for the Special Rapporteur on violence against women are needed. The role of women's NGOs in combatting violence must be recognized and promoted by goverments.
We also urge removing all existing reservations to the CEDAW: the human rights of women and children are an inalienable, integral and indivisable part of universal human rights. Reservations based on cultural, traditional practices should be removed. We strongly object to the selective defense of cultural and religious traditions in order to justify discrimination or violence against women, such as female circumcision, or, in the Western world, excuses for the abuse of migrant women on the pretext of respect for culture, or any such justification of prostitution-tourism and child prostitution. We condemn Christian, Islamic and other fundamentalisms that deny women's autonomy and justify violence against women. We welcome the actions of Amnesty International, notably in defense of the rights of women during war and conflicts, of women activists, disappearances, mass-rape and torture of women. It is urgent to bring women's human rights into the mainstream of the whole range of UN activities. Violence based on gender is aggravated in conflict situations; for women refugees, it is often a reason for seeking political asylum. This motive should be given clear recognition in asylum procedures. For women migrants in an increasingly racist climate in the EU, independant residence permits are needed for their protection, along with support and permits for the growing number of victims of trafficking in women in order to combat the criminal practice and to help them rebuild their lives. We welcome the EU efforts to advance the rights of lesbian women and call for strong defense, including the right of asylum in case of State violations of their human rights.
Women's sexual and reproductive rights were an important issue in Cairo 1994, but need to be defended against conservative religious forces as well as against narrowing the issue to population control. We need policies that enable women to regulate their own fertility. All women in South and North need affordable, comprehensive health care and education, free and voluntary access to safe contraception methods and to legal abortion, treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases including HIV/ AIDS. Women in different parts of the world have different needs, which must be recognized. Each women should be the one to decide whether, how many and with whom she bears and raises children. Dumping of contraceptives, as well as forced sterilization, abortion and involuntary prenatal diagnostics are serious violations of women's human rights; such methods must be outlawed as forms of population control. The population issue has to be dealt with in terms of inequalities in the dividing up and sharing of economic and ecological ressources as well as an issue of social development, instead of applying the label "overpopulation" unilaterally to the fertility of poor women in the South. Sustainable development In the Rio Conference, the Agenda 21 was adopted and the EU as a whole and its Member State governments made financial commitments which they have yet to fulfill. Unsustainable pattern of production and consumption driven by the rich industrialized North are degrading the environment and the depleting natural resources on a global scale. This toxic and degraded environment is severely damaging human health and the natural ecosystems on which we all depend. The greatest detriment is suffered by those communities with the least economic power. Women as food providers and managers, as farmers and heads of households, with fundamental responsibilty for the health and welfare of their children, must be at the forefront of developing sustainable economies. Gender-assessment should be a condition for development programmes. Women's role is too often reduced to managing waste and the dealing with the calamities caused by intolerable environmental risks. Women must be participants and leaders in planning and decision-making in matters of waste management, infrastructure, mobility and transport as well as in choice and development of technology, production structures and consumption patterns. Genetic engineering of food must be controlled and risks assessed. For genetic manipulation of life-forms, strict laws must be enacted and enforced, especially with respect to the integraty of women's bodies and their (unborn) children. The law on Eugenics as adopted in China in October 1994, with regard to the 'regulation' of the rate of possibly handicapped children, is an example of a law that violates (women's) human rights and has to be denounced as such.
The role of NGOs has been reinforced in the last decade, and their tasks broadened. We support this development, but insist that women's organizations and the social movement for equal rights must be given political and financial support.