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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
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
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. ###
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
2201 C. St. NW
Department of State
Washington, DC 20520
Ms. Gertrude Mongella of Tanzania is the Secretary General of the
UN Secretariat of the Fourth World Conference on Women
Division for the Advancement of Women
Two United Nations Plaza
New York, NY 10017
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
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