Return to: Index of "World Conference on Women Press Releases and Statements"
Index of "Intl. Organizations and Conferences" || Electronic Research Collections Index || ERC Homepage

U.S. Departmentof State
95/07/31 Focus: Questions and Answers about 4WCW
Bureau of Public Affairs

Focus on 4WCW:  Questions and Answers

The following are some frequently asked questions and answers regarding 
the 4th UN World Conference on Women (4WCW) to be held in Beijing, 
China, September 4-15, 1995.

Q.  What is the purpose of the UN World Conference on Women? Why do we 
need it?

A.  The goals of the UN Decade for Women, 1975-1985--equality,
development, and peace--remain unattained. The U.S., as well as the rest 
of the world, has made a great deal of progress in advancing the status 
of women, but has not fully succeeded in making women equal partners of 

This conference refocuses the efforts of individuals, communities, and 
nations on the practical actions we must take to remove the remaining 
obstacles to equality and develop an agenda for action that will 
accelerate women's empowerment.

Q.  Why is the Fourth World Conference on Women important to all 

A.  Americans have a stake in the future of the world's women. 
Not only do their situation and their actions increasingly affect us and 
our overall commitment to democracy and human rights, but women face 
many of the same challenges and share the same goals the world over. 
They want strong families, economic security, improved education and 
health, personal safety, legal rights, and the ability to participate in 

That American women share these goals became increasingly apparent last 
year during frequent meetings between government officials involved in 
U.S. preparations for the conference and private citizens, many of whom 
are members of women's organizations

U.S. participation in this conference ensures our role in setting the 
policies contained in the principal document of the conference--the 
Platform for Action. The Platform for Action is an agenda that will 
influence international and national policy well into the next century.

Q.  Why is the Fourth World Conference on Women being held in China, a 
country with a record of serious human rights violations?

A.  In 1992, the United Nations accepted China's invitation to host the 
conference. UN tradition follows a system of geographic rotation, and it 
was the Asia region's turn to hold a world conference on women. China 
was the only Asian nation to issue an invitation.

This is a conference about women and girls, not about China. Moreover, 
with some 45,000 people expected to attend the conference or forum, it 
is clear this conference will have--and is already having--a tremendous 
impact on the Chinese.

Q.  What major issues of interest to women will the U.S. pursue at the 

A.  With the advancement and empowerment of women as the primary goal, 
we have a unique opportunity to solidify and build on previous 
commitments made for women's empowerment at other UN conferences.

Besides reaffirming these international agreements, the U.S. will 
provide leadership on the following issues in the Platform for Action, 
which are of importance to Americans and the world:

--  The human rights of women, including action to end violence against 
--  A life-span approach to and improvements in education and health.
--  Efforts and arrangements to balance work and family responsibilities 
for both women and men.
--  Economic security and self-reliance.
--  The importance of the private sector and non-governmental 
organizations (NGOs) as partners in building communities--locally, 
nationally, and internationally.
--  The full participation of women in political and economic decision-

Q.  Why has there been contro-versy over the use of the word "gender" in 
the Platform for Action?

A.  In early April, at the close of  the final preparatory meeting for 
the conference, a handful of countries raised objections to the use of 
the word "gender" throughout the draft Platform for Action. This action 
took most countries by surprise, since the word has been used 
extensively throughout the UN system for the past 20 years, usually as a 
reference to the distinctions between males and females that are more a 
matter of sociology than biology.

Interested countries met in May in order to resolve the issue. Rather 
than attempting to define the word, they agreed to a Chairman's 
statement reflecting their general understanding of the word and 
acknowledging that there are no new meanings attached to the word and 
that "gender" would continue to be understood as before in the UN 
system. Only one country did not join consensus. The statement will 
appear in the conference report.

Q.  What is the NGO Forum and how does it relate to the conference?

A.  Recognizing the importance of the private sector in helping to shape 
public policy and put international agreements into action, 
traditionally there is a forum for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) 
and interested individuals held parallel to the government conference. 
The forum--operated independently from the government event--provides a 
structured meeting place for people interested in the issues of the 
government conference. It is an information exchange involving 
workshops, seminars, debates, and opportunities for networking. It takes 
no official action, although sometimes NGOs develop alternative 
platforms that they offer to government delegations to use for improving 
the UN document in negotiating sessions. While there is no formal 
interchange between the forum and government conference, there is 
frequent and intense communication between the NGOs and government 
delegates. Since the draft platform is a working document able to be 
amended, the NGOs lobby delegates about their issues and do influence 
the outcome. Also, some NGOs are accredited observers to the government 
conference and send members to the proceedings.

Q.  Do all NGOs, regardless of their particular views, have a fair 
opportunity to participate in the NGO Forum? And to be accredited as 
observers to the government conference?

A.  Yes. Participation in the forum is a simpler matter than obtaining 
accreditation to the conference, where guidelines about a group's 
relevance to the issues, competence, and status come into consideration. 
To foster citizen involvement, the United States actively promotes 
participation of NGOs without regard to their substantive positions. The 
U.S., at senior levels, has urged the UN Secretariat to follow open and 
fair credentialing procedures for NGOs. Additionally, the U.S. has also 
asked the Chinese Government to meet its obligations as host country by 
applying fair and transparent visa procedures to all who have registered 
to attend.

Q.  Why was the NGO Forum site changed and why is it now so far away?

A.  Last March, the Chinese announced that the scheduled site--a sports 
stadium in Beijing--had "structural problems" and that the site was 
being relocated to Huariou, a small town and scenic tourist area near 
the Great Wall of China. There was widespread concern and protest on the 
part of the forum organizers, NGOs, and governments that the site was 
too far from the government conference and grossly inadequate for 
scheduled activities and hotel accommodations. However, as a result of 
many negotiations and discussions with the Chinese, the NGO Forum 
organizers agreed to the site. Most forum activities will be held in 
Huariou, and extensive construction is underway to provide adequate 
facilities and accommodations. Buses will shuttle participants back and 
forth to Beijing, and in Beijing, NGOs will have two satellite 
facilities available where they can meet with delegates.

Q.  Who will be on the U.S. delegation and how are they chosen?

A.  The U.S. will send a strong delegation to Beijing--one that is 
skilled and representative of the broad range of people and interests in 
our country. It will consist of both government and private sector 
members. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton is Honorary Chair. Although 
no decision has been made about her attendance at the conference, her 
willingness to accept this position reflects her strong interest in and 
commitment to effective U.S. participation.

Ambassador Madeleine K. Albright, U.S Permanent Representative to the 
United Nations, will chair the delegation. Donna Shalala, Secretary of 
Health and Human Services, will serve as co-chair; Timothy E. Wirth, 
Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs, is alternate chair. The 
Honorable Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky, former member of Congress, is 
deputy head of delegation and director, and Veronica Biggins, former 
assistant to the President, is vice-chair.

Other members of the delegation include Maria Antonietta Berriozabal of 
San Antonio, Texas, Lynn Cutler of Washington, DC, Arthenia Joyner of 
Tampa, Florida, Dorothy Lamm of Denver Colorado, and Linda Tarr-Whelan 
of Washington, DC.

The delegation is appointed by the White House in close coordination 
with the State Department. Government delegates are chosen for their 
expertise in U.S. policy and experience in international negotiating. 
Non-governmental delegates are chosen for their expertise in subject 
areas of the platform, for their achievements and contributions to 
public life, and for their representation of the various groups that 
constitute the American social fabric.

Q.  Since the United States is committed to advancing the status of 
women around the world why haven't we ratified the Convention on the 
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women?

A.  President Carter signed the Convention in 1980 and submitted it to 
the Senate for its advice and consent to ratification, though no further 
action was taken. However, the Convention came into force worldwide in 
1981 after having acquired the requisite ratification ofpages for the 
press kit as they are to go to print.  We have dropped the biographical 
section as there will not be time to format and clear bios (and there is 
at least a title description in the delegation list).  

I noticed that the delegation list has Majorie Margolies Mezvinsky 
without a hyphen--but the cover sheet to the op-ed piece has it 
hyphenated.  Which should we use?  I can easily change the name as it 
appears on the op-ed "essay." 

We need to have clearance on this by COB today in order to y was 
returned to committee. Ratification remains an urgent priority for the 
Administration, which so notified the Senate Foreign Relations Committee 
in June 1995. It is not known when the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee will report out the convention and send it to the full Senate 
for a vote.  ###


Contact Information

State Department
Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Timothy Wirth established 
the Global Conference Secretarial to coordinate all U.S. Government 
preparations and follow-up for the conference.  Ms. Theresa Loar is the 
Director of the Global Conference Secretarial.  Contact:

Global Conference Secretarial
Room 1318
2201 C. St. NW
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Phone:  202-647-3129
Fax:  202-647-4787

United Nations
Ms. Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania is the Secretary General of the 
Conference.  Contact:

UN Secretariat of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Division for the Advancement of Women
Two United Nations Plaza
New York, NY  10017
Phone:  212-963-8385
Fax:  212-963-3463

NGO Forum
Ms. Supatra Masdit is the Convenor of the NGO Forum.  Contact:

NGO Forum on Women, Beijing '95
211 E. 43rd St., Suite 1500
New York, NY  10017
Phone:  212-922-9267 or 922-9268
Fax:  212-922-9269
To the top of this page