Conference President Chen Muhua opened the Plenary Friday morning, 15 September. Sara Ramamonjisoa, on behalf of the Youth NGOs, presented a statement of Youth Vision, calling on the UN to continue its support for youth participation in its global conferences, and to take measures to ensure access to leadership roles for young women in all spheres.
James Wolfensohn, President of the World Bank, acknowledged the negative perceptions of World Bank activities, citing structural adjustment programmes, and their negative impact on women. He came to the FWCW to demonstrate the World Bank's commitment to the issues of the Conference and called for partnership and trust. The World Bank will spend US$2 billion over five years on education, with US$900 million dollars a year for education of young girls.
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori spoke of the double burden of poverty 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 criticized the Catholic hierarchy in Peru for opposing the country's comprehensive family planning policy, which is addressing a serious lack of information and services.
Norwegian Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland 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 international 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.
Conference President Chen Muhua then 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 G-77/China, presented draft resolution A/CONF.177/L.9, calling for adoption and recommending that the General Assembly 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, Djibouti, Qatar, Syria, Comoros and Jordan. Many of these States interpreted references to reproductive rights in the context of marriage. Iran expressed concern about all but the references to inheritance, which do not contradict its 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): the Philippines, Malaysia, Ecuador, Malta, Peru, Argentina, Venezuela, Mali, Nicaragua, Togo, Honduras and Niger. Malta also noted that it 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 document's 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 its record of the results of the Main Committee.
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 its legislation and religious practices, including paragraphs 97 (right to control sexuality), 232(f) (reproductive rights), and 107(k) (review punitive laws for illegal abortions).
Liberia noted that it could implement 90-95% 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 paragraphs 232(f) and 97. The Maldives noted that certain terms were not in conformity with the Maldives traditional values, specifically in paragraphs 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), then 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 to the Secretariat regarding nuclear testing. The Philippines, on behalf of the G-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 G-77, expressed gratitude for all who 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 Group, noted that the African States recognize that they are the first and foremost entities responsible for implementing the Platform for Action. They are convinced that their partners in development will stand by them.
Papua New Guinea, on behalf of the Asian Group, 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 nurture 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 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 Boutros-Ghali, Ismat Kittani, 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 its 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.
In her closing statement, Conference President Chen Muhua said 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.
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