Index of "World Conference on Women Press Releases and Statements"
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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
June 1995: Overview of Draft Platform for Action for 4WCW
GLOBAL CONFERENCE SECRETARIAT
OVERVIEW OF THE DRAFT PLATFORM FOR ACTION
AS NEGOTIATED AT THE FINAL PREPARATORY CONFERENCE
FOURTH WORLD CONFERENCE ON WOMEN
UNITED STATES ACTIONS AND PRIORITIES
The UN Fourth World Conference on Women will be held in Beijing from
September 4 - 15, 1995. The final preparatory meeting for the
conference was held at the United Nations in New York from March 15 -
April 7, 1995. At this meeting, held during the annual session of the
UN Commission on the Status of Women, the preparatory body for the
conference, delegations negotiated a draft Platform for Action to be
considered for adoption in Beijing. This is an overview of the Platform
as it was negotiated at the New York meeting, describing U.S. actions
The final draft of the Platform for Action to be adopted at the Fourth
World Conference on Women in Beijing, contains distinct elements that
reflect a developing consensus around the world -- a consensus that did
not really exist ten years ago.
The U.N. decade for women, 1975 to 1985, and the document adopted at its
culmination, of the Nairobi Forward Looking Strategies, (a plan for the
years 1986-2000), sought to advance the status of women working under
the broad themes of equality, development and peace.
The experience of the past ten years, a combination of research,
analysis, legal reform, development work and the networking and
organizing efforts of women themselves have brought the world to a
realization that the only way to bring about equality, development and
peace is to empower women by integrating them into the mainstream where
they can work in partnership with men in all levels and structures of
This directly mirrors the overarching goal for the conference set by the
United States. From the first paragraph of the Mission Statement
through to the final chapters on Institutional and Financial
Arrangements for Implementation and Follow-Up, the draft Platform is a
call for the empowerment of women; integration of women into the
mainstream of all institutions of society and of a gender perspective
into all systems; and an equal partnership between men and women for the
good of society.
The overall priority of the U.S. is to build on the commitments made at
the past world conferences on women, and on the recent world conferences
on the Environment and Development, in Rio; on Human Rights, in Vienna;
on Population and Development, in Cairo; and on Social Development, in
PLATFORM AREAS REQUIRING FURTHER AND EXTENSIVE NEGOTIATION
Three sections involve human rights -- violence against women, the
impact of armed conflict on women, and the human rights of women.
Support for strong language in these sections, and leadership to retain
such language, came from all regions of the world. The U.S. underscored
governments' responsibility to ensure the human rights of women, and to
advance women's legal equality and civil and political rights. African
delegations in particular led the effort to call on governments to
address harmful practices that led to violence against women, and to
review civil and customary law so as to reduce legal discrimination
against women, in such areas, for example, as inheritance and property
The Violence against Women section provides a comprehensive definition
of what constitutes such violence, and calls on governments to take
responsibility for preventing and punishing acts of violence. The
platform also addresses the importance of preventive action, including
through counseling and rehabilitative programs for offenders.
The sections on Human Rights and on Promoting Peace seek to draw
attention to the fact that the human rights of women are, as stated in
the Vienna Declaration adopted by the World Conference on Human Rights
in 1993, an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal
human rights, and that action must be taken by governments and
international organizations to ensure the protection of these rights.
While there is already agreement on a number of important issues, there
was a strong effort by some countries to prevent any language that
might broaden UN efforts in the area of human rights, and efforts by
some countries to inject political issues into the debate. Thus, large
portions of these sections remain bracketed.
Nonetheless, consensus was reached on a number of important issues. The
Platform calls on the UN to integrate concern for the human rights of
women into all its human rights activities. The U.S. took the lead on
committing governments to train officials, including security and
military personnel, in human rights and humanitarian law, and to punish
violations against women.
The Platform recognizes that if women are to fully exercise their rights
they must be informed about those rights. The U.S. was part of a broad
consensus recognizing that innovative programs must be developed to help
women to achieve legal literacy so that they understand and exercise
INEQUALITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN IN THE SHARING OF POWER
AND DECISION-MAKING AT ALL LEVELS
Drawing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which provides
that everyone has a right to take part in the government of his or her
country, the Platform includes a section on the importance of increasing
the participation of women in politics. While there was disagreement
over the types of mechanisms for facilitating this participation (with
some countries favoring more affirmative measures), there was little
disagreement expressed about the importance of this.
The U.S. goal was to take a lifespan approach to health, broadening the
attention given to health for women of all ages and from a diversity of
situations and backgrounds. In addition to these issues, progress was
made in negotiating language on preventive programs, research,
increased resources and follow-up on women's health.
Issues related to breast and cervical cancer, as well as other cancers
of the reproductive system, menopause and other conditions associated
with aging, nutrition, substance abuse and environmental and
occupational health hazards are all addressed.
Much of the text remaining in brackets is language that was previously
agreed to in September, 1994 at the International Conference on
Population and Development in Cairo. Bracketed text primarily addresses
reproductive and sexual health including in the sections addressing
HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, reproductive rights,
unsafe abortion, unwanted pregnancies, condoms and contraceptives and
the number of times language addressing parental involvement in
adolescent services is included in the document.
Through the leadership of African states, the G77 introduced a new
section for the Platform focusing on eliminating discrimination and
ensuring the rights of girls. The U.S. worked at the prepcom to
strengthen the proposed section, by making it applicable globally rather
than regionally. Bracketed language remains concerning discouragement
of early marriage, addressing son preference that leads to prenatal sex
selection, disparities in access to food, health services and education,
and on reproduction, and the prevention of sexually transmitted
The Platform calls attention to the increasing burden of poverty on
women, (the feminization of poverty) and places women's situation in the
context of the global economy and the effects of global economic
policies. For this reason, there is a considerable amount of bracketed
language, much of it involving "cause and effect" relationships, calling
for foreign debt cancellation and the allocation of resources. The US
supported, and consensus was reached, on strong language calling for
economic opportunities for women and inclusion of women in economic
policy making, for access for women to credit and to savings mechanisms,
and support services. Although much of the text related to
macroeconomic policies and structural adjustment programs is bracketed,
consensus language calls for structural adjustment programs to be
designed to minimize their negative effects on vulnerable groups and to
review the impact of structural adjustment programs by means of gender-
sensitive social impact assessments.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING
The U.S. supported the Platform's emphasis on full participation of
women and girls in life-long learning and in educational policy- and
decision-making. The Platform calls for equal access to education for
women and girls; education, training and re-training policies for women,
particularly those re-entering the labor market; curricula free of
gender stereotypes; the reduction of female illiteracy and the promotion
of family engagement in learning. Bracketed areas involve barriers to
schooling for pregnant girls and young mothers, teacher training
programs and materials to promote mutual respect and shared
responsiblities between girls and boys, and religious expression in
The U.S. actively supported recognition of and action to address the
data gap concerning women's susceptibilities and exposures to
environmental hazards and toxic substances, the particular situation of
women with low incomes, indigenous women, and women belonging to
minorities, the participation of women and girls at all levels of
decisionmaking in both formal and informal arenas that influence
environmental quality, and equal access to education, information and
resources in furtherance of environmental protection and natural
resource management objectives. U.S. langauge relating to risks to
women's health in low income areas with high concentrations of polluting
industrial facilities remains bracketed.
In the section on Economic Structures, the U.S. supported and introduced
new language that focused on the need for wider acceptance of basic
worker rights as minimum labor standards for women; facilitating women's
access to credit and capital markets, training, and development of new
financial intermediaries to serve their needs, including reaching hard
to serve women such as those in rural areas.
There is much in this chapter that was supported by the U.S., including
improved gender-sensitive analysis of statistics, information and policy
analysis; anti-discrimination; promotion of family-friendly policies for
both women and men; and the acceptance and use of life-long learning for
women and men in and out of school environments.
The Platform urges governments to make efforts to measure and better
understand unremunerated work, and to seek to develop methods to asssess
its value in quantative terms, for possible reflection in accounts that
are separate from but consistant with core national accounts.
To the surprise of most delegations, a handful of countries moved to
delete or bracket the word "gender" throughout the text. In order to
resolve this issue, a special working group met in New York in May. The
U.S. joined consensus on the adoption of a Chairman's statement that
will appear in the report of the Conference. The statement reaffirms
that "gender" as used in the Platform is intended to be interpreted and
understood as it is in ordinary, generally accepted usage.
As promised, the U.S. made inclusiveness a priority, working to ensure
that the diversity of women was recognized as well as the fact that some
women face additional barriers to their advancement because of factors
other than gender. This concept is recognized throughout the document.
For example, the U.S. and other supporters, working with women
themselves, were successful in including women with disabilities and
women from ethnic and racial minorities. One paragraph early in the
Platform describes the diverse situations of women which should be
incorporated into action plans. Because it is bracketed, it remains to
be negotiated in Beijing.
NON-GOVERNMENTAL ORGANIZATIONS (NGOs)
The U.S. strongly supported recognition of the role NGOs play in policy
planning, development, implementation and monitoring of programs for the
advancement of women, and urged in several places in the document that
governments work in partnership with NGOs, grant NGOs legal status and
protection, and permit the independence of NGOs, including financial
independence. Some delegations within the G-77 strongly oppose a
monitoring role for NGOs. The U.S. has consistently supported inclusion
Working with the youth caucus, the U.S. introduced language in the
Global Framework calling attention to the importance of young people in
shaping the next century, and the commitment that the international
community must make to them to prepare them for their future role.
Young women need to be part of the process - working to ensure that
their needs are addressed and helping to form their future. The U.S.
also supported specific references to young women or youth throughout
IMPLEMENTATION AND FOLLOW-UP
The U. S. supported language in the document introduced by Australia
that invites governments to come to Beijing ready to state specific
national commitments for priority action within the context of the
Platform. These commitments are seen as first steps toward
implementation, not as a substitutes for action on the entire document.
Currently, the U.S. is giving serious thought to the nature of
commitments and types of initiatives it may bring to Beijing that will
result in practical outcomes for women and girls in the U.S.
The U.S. also supported and contributed to language that calls upon
governments to consult with relevant institutions and non-governmental
organizations, preferably before the end of 1995, on how to best develop
implementation strategies for the Platform. Further, governments are
called upon to have such plans developed and in place within a year.
The U.S. is committed both ideologically and because it is effective to
an ongoing process between government and non-governmental organizations
on achieving full equality and partnership between women and men in the
political, economic and social structures of the U.S.
In this time of tight resources, the U.S., as was true of donor nations
in general, took a conservative approach toward finances and resources
for implementation, urging refocusing and reallocation of existing where
possible. Also, because the U.S. is interested in overall reform of the
UN and better coordination and linkage between its agencies and the
whole series of international conferences that have been held in the
past ten years, the U.S. concentrated on ensuring that implementation of
the Beijing Platform be in concert with this overall process.
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