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Here is our summary of the Fourth World Conference on Women, available in either ASCII or Portable Document Format (in order to read the PDF version you will need to download the free reader software from Adobe Systems)
The advance unedited draft final versions of the Platform for Action and the Beijing Declaration have been posted by the United Nations.
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The Fourth World Conference on Women concluded Friday 15 September in Beijing with two meetings of the Plenary. Delegates adopted the Platform for Action and Beijing Declaration. More than 60 delegations commented, more than half submitting formal reservations to sections including those on sexual and reproductive rights, abortion laws and women's equal right to inheritance. About 10 countries said they would accept the entire Platform of Action and Declaration.
The morning Plenary included an address from Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland. She said that after her 15 years in office, Norwegian children have begun to ask their parents if it is possible for a man to be prime minister.
James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, acknowledged the negative perceptions of World Bank activities, citing SAPs, and their negative impact on women. He had come to the FWCW to demonstrate the World Bank's commitment to the issues of the Conference and called for a partnership and trust. The World Bank will spend $2 billion over five years on education, with $900 million dollars a year to education of young girls. President Alberto Fujimori (Peru) spoke of the double burden of povery on women in Peru and all developing countries. Peru is one of the few countries that has enacted laws against all forms of violence against women. He criticised the Catholic hierarchy in Peru for opposing the country's comprehensive policy of family planning, which is addressing a serious lack of information and services.
Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway) said women would no longer accept second class citizenship. Views from the FWCW would irrevocably shape the world. In Norway, where Brundtland has been prime minister for fifteen years, four year olds sometimes ask their mothers: "But can a man be prime minister?" She said there are limits to the practices that countries can expect the internaitonal community to accept or condone even when such practices do have deep cultural roots. Violence against women can be said to be part of a cultural pattern in most countries including Norway, but States must not become accomplices. Secretary-General Gertrude Mongella, in a call for peace, said it is important to combine the struggle for equality with the struggle for peace. She invited delegates to observe a few minutes of peace and, holding flashlights that had been distributed, participants stood in silence with her.
Chen Muhua (China) called the final Plenary to order on 15 September. She invited delegates to consider Agenda Item 10, Adoption of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action (A/CONF.177/L.5). Patricia Licuanan (Philippines) presented the report of the Main Committee, and noted that the texts capture the gains achieved since Nairobi and the critical concerns that should be addressed. The Philippines, on behalf of the G77/China, presented draft resolution A/CONF.177/L.9, calling for adoption and recommending that the GA endorse the documents. Delegates adopted the resolution, after which the floor was opened for reservations.
Over 60 delegates took the floor to comment on the Declaration and Platform for Action. The following states noted reservations to text that was not in conformity with Islamic law, including paragraphs 232(f) (reproductive rights), 107(k) (review punitive laws for illegal abortions), 96 (reproductive health), 97 (right to control sexuality) and 274(d) (inheritance): Kuwait, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Brunei, Yemen, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Lebanon, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Djbouti, Qatar, Syria, Comoros and Jordan. Many of these States interpreted references to reproduction in the context of marriage. Iran expressed concern about all but the inheritance references, which they noted did not contradict their economic system.
The following States noted they did not condone abortion, and expressed reservations to paragraphs such as 97 (right to control sexuality) and 107(k) (review punitive laws for illegal abortions): Philippines, Malyasia, Ecuador, Malta, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Mali, Nicaragua, Togo, Honduras and Niger. Malta also noted that they reserved on references to the use of international human rights instruments. The Holy See indicated that it would submit formal reservations in writing, but expressed regret about the documents' exaggerated individualism. Several States, including Malaysia, Peru, Argentina and Nicaragua, noted that they would interpret "family" in a traditional sense of union between man and woman. Indonesia noted that certain paragraphs were not consistent with the national interests of the individual. France stated that paragraph 247 (sustainable development, with a reference to testing nuclear weaponry) did not correspond to their record of the results.
Several states, including the Dominican Republic, Iraq, Vanuatu and Nigeria, promised to implement the document in conformity with their constitutional and cultural principles. Benin noted that certain paragraphs were not in accordance with his State's legislation and religious practices, including 97 (right to control sexuality), 232(f) (reproductive rights), and 107(k) (review punitive laws for illegal abortions).
Liberia noted that they could implement 90-95 percent of the Platform for Action. Pakistan objected to the lack of a clear definition of the term "sexuality," and entered a reservation on the term and on 232(f) and 97. The Maldives noted that certain terms were not in conformity with the Maldives traditional values, specifically in 97 and 107(k).
A number of countries, including India, Bolivia, Colombia, Cambodia, South Africa, Tanzania, Panama, El Salvador, Madagascar, and Cameroon, stated that they had no reservations on the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.
The Rapporteur-General, Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah (Namibia), introduced the draft Report of the Conference (A/CONF.177/L.7 and addendum 1, parts 1 and 2), which was adopted. France exercised a right of reply, and informed delegates that his delegation had given a response the Secretariat regarding the nuclear test. The Philippines, on behalf of the Group of 77, introduced A/CONF.177/L.8, expressing gratitude to the PRC, which was adopted.
The floor was then opened for statements. The Philippines, on behalf of the G77, expressed gratitude for all that had made the meeting a success. Spain, on behalf of the EU, noted a number of significant areas in the agreements, including human rights, health and sexuality and unremunerated work. Senegal, on behalf of the African States, noted that Africa is the first and formost entity responsible for its own implementation. They are convinced that their partners in devleopment will stand by them.
Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Asian Group of States, recalled Mongella's comment earlier in the Conference that she felt like an expectant mother, and noted that, once the baby is born, the pain of labor is forgotten but the responsibility to nuture and care for the child begins. The Ukraine, on behalf of the Eastern European countries, noted the lack of Russian interpretation and documents, and stressed the need to participate on an equal basis, but noted their pleasure with the work that had been achieved in Beijing. Barbados, on behalf of the Latin American and Caribbean States, noted that, although the group was diverse, a spirit of goodwill and compromised prevailed and they will leave Beijing with resolve and determination to implement the Platform for Action. Malta, on behalf of the Western European and Others Group, noted satisfaction with the success achieved through dialogue with governments and NGOs.
Secretary-General Mongella then spoke and noted the work of delegates, the Secretariat, the Chinese hosts, and the drive and dedication of NGOs. She stated that there is no going back, and that the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
Special Representative of UN Secretary-General Boutros-Ghali, Ismat Kittani, on behalf of Boutros-Ghali, noted that China has hosted one of the largest global conferences ever, and thanked them for being hosts to the world. He stressed that the commitments made in Beijing are not just the result of the FWCW negotiations, but are shaped by the growing influence of the women's movement. He stated that the women's movement has a staunch ally in the UN and asked that the Platform for Action receive wide dissemination.
The US stressed their commitment to women's empowerment, and noted that Nairobi should be thought of as a compass and Beijing as a detailed map for achieving equality, development and peace. Canada stated that, here in Beijing, the world's women moved the agenda for global equality forward. President Chen Muhua gave the closing statement. She stated that the success of the conference demonstrates that governments have a shared political will and determination. She called for effective follow-up measures to turn the commitments into reality.
(This issue of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (c) firstname.lastname@example.org is written and edited by Peter Doran email@example.com, Virginia Hulme, Yang Wanhua firstname.lastname@example.org, Lynn Wagner email@example.com and Steve Wise firstname.lastname@example.org. French translation by Mongi Gadhoum gad@Tunisia.EU.net. Internet Coodination by Barbara Ann O'Leary (Virtual Sisterhood) email@example.com. The Managing Editor of the Bulletin is Langston James Goree VI "Kimo" firstname.lastname@example.org. )
Track the "Conference of Commitments" with the Commitment Scoreboard organized by women NGOs active with the Women's Linkage Caucus. Members of the Women's Linkage Caucus are using their Recommendations on Bracketed Text in the WCW Draft Platform for Action and Advocacy Chart (avail able here in PDF format), both updated 30 August, in their lobbying efforts.
Late Show with David Letterman's Top Ten Things Overheard at the World Conference on Women", 5 September.
One of the highlights of the first few days was the speech that Hillary Clinton gave during a special session of Plenary.The US Delegation has put the speech up on the US Delegation WWW site.
You might want to check out Baroness Chalker's speech on the Foreign & Commonwealth Office of the UK's WWW site. (If you tried this link before, it should be fixed now!)
The negotiations on this document began on Tuesday in the Main Committee and its subsidiary bodies. The Plenary will be series of un-ending speeches for two weeks... the issues will be discussed in the Main Committee.
The NGO Forum opened on 30 August and the Fourth World Conference on Women began on Monday, 4 September. Take a look at APC's Beijing '95 page on the NGO Forum for information on that event, since we will be focusing on the Conference. This page has updates from the Forum, the daily schedule, and news on the APC networking project in Beijing.
Another WWW page that will have real-time information from the Conference is the FWCW Secretariat's page ...although they failed to mention Linkages in their interview on NPR :-(Editor's note: The Fourth World Conference on Women in not about visa problems, China or NGO deportations. These, however, are the easy stories that mass media will report. This Conference is about thousands of women and men who have engaged in an international dialogue over the past two years on a series of complex issues related to women. The product of their work wil l be the basis of negotiations during these two weeks of work in Beijing: The Draft Platform for Action and Beijing Declaration. If your local or national press is not reporting on the issues, the substance and the thousands of women and men who are in Beijing to address the problems confronted by women, tell them to get off their butts and look for the real story. If t he picture of the Fourth World Conference on Women that you get from Linkages does not look like the international news coverage you are receiving on the Conference..... good.