The 39th Session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) met at UN Headquarters in New York from 15 March to 7 April 1995, where it served as the preparatory committee for negotiations on the draft Platform for Action, the document to be adopted by the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) in Beijing, in September 1995. Many delegates came into the negotiations directly from the World Summit for Social Development, which had ended three days earlier in Copenhagen, Denmark. After a full three weeks of negotiations, including weekends and many late night sessions, participants left New York exhausted.
The draft Platform for Action, which served as the basis for negotiations, was prepared by the FWCW Secretariat with input from five regional group meetings, four expert group meetings, consultations with UN agencies, and informal, open-ended consultations in December 1994. Negotiations were originally scheduled to take place during two weeks, on a twenty page text. The sixty-eight page draft, numerous amendments and the difficult issues under discussion resulted in delegates adding three days to the meeting so that all sections of the text could be discussed before sending the draft to Beijing. In addition, a draft Declaration was drawn up by the G-77/China for adoption at the FWCW, and an extra section dedicated to the girl child was added to the Platform.
Ten years after the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, the Beijing process is intended to launch action on and implementation of a comprehensive agenda that seeks to re-define and re-make equality, development and peace. In order to take action, the question of resources is key, but the reallocations and increases recommended in the Beijing Platform are modest. These include a recommendation for an increased share of ODA targeted towards implementation of the Platform in developing countries, and an "invitation" to the international financial institutions to allocate grants and loans. Within the UN system, important decisions on funding for INSTRAW and UNIFEM were deferred because of the continuing debate in other fora on their merger. It has been suggested that the 39th Session itself was under-funded. In view of these factors, attention focused on two initiatives: the Australian call for a "Conference of Commitments," and behind-the-scenes lobbying to install an ombudswoman and support unit in the office of the Secretary-General of the UN. The Australian initiative will possibly add momentum to implementation of the Platform by Governments, where primary responsibility lies, but it remains in brackets going to Beijing.
Two key debates marked the Session. A small but persistent group of delegations repeated their reservations to language that had been agreed to at previous UN conferences, notably ICPD. This led to disagreements over the modalities for references. Secondly, a number of delegations objected to the use of the term "gender" in the Platform and proposed that it be bracketed throughout. An intervention by the Australian Ambassador, Mr. Richard Butler, smoothed the way to a compromise decision to lift the brackets and establish a Contact Group, chaired by Namibia, to discuss the term in light of the Platform.
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