UN Women Invokes The �Spirit Of Beijing�

The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) has called for a revival of the “Spirit of Beijing,” to tackle outstanding problems since the adoption of the 1995 landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality and women's empowerment.

    Various country representatives at the on-going CSW59 session at UN Headquarters, New York affirmed the urgent need for intensification of efforts on gender equality to facilitate the achievement of sustainable development.

     The President of Bureau of Ministers of Social Development for ECOWAS, Nana Oye Lithur said: “Gender equality remains a priority for development for as long as women face discrimination and inequality given their gender identity”.

     Nana Oye Lithur who is Ghana’s Minister of Gender, Children and Social Protection speaking at two separate sessions on day two, acknowledged the considerable efforts made over the past decades, for the well-being of women and the promotion of their rights.

    She however noted the continued existence of disparities between women and men in several spheres despite the progress, and called for renewed commitment to work towards gender equality.

    Ms Patricia Licuanan, Chair of the Commission on Higher Education of the Philippines, said the declaration “broke ground” on violence against women, which it helped transform from a private, domestic concern that could be shrouded by culture and tradition.

    She recalled that the most special feature of the negotiation process at Beijing was its highly participatory nature and the broad based engagement.

    Ms Licuanan said the partnership with non-governmental organizations, while not without tension, was “unparalleled” and decision-making had been participatory and non-hierarchical, in a conference attended by more than 50,000 people.

     “Today, however, old areas of concern, like the feminization of poverty, economic participation, health, education, political participation and human rights remained high on the agenda,” she said.

    She therefore called for Beijing+20 to proceed aware of lessons learned from the two decades that have passed.

     Such lessons, she said, include the fact that Beijing+20 takes place in a very different setting to the original conference.

    “When 'women and the environment' was on the agenda in 1995, it provoked questions about the links between the two concepts but today, the links between environment, climate change, disasters and women's connection to them is taken as read.

    “At the same time, much has not changed, she acknowledged, particularly on contentious issues like reproductive health and rights and sexual, both of which remained highly controversial with little prospect of consensus,” she said.

    Ms Song Xiuyan, Vice-Chair of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council of China, said the Declaration represented the international community's “solemn commitment for equality, development and peace”.

    She said since it was adopted in 1995, women's rights and interests had been put under better legal protection, women gained more opportunities to seek education and achieve employment and more attention had been given to vulnerable women groups.

    “The UN and its relevant agencies have made tremendous efforts to this ends,” stressing that the Beijing Declaration represented the “most important policy document for women's progress. We should cherish the legacy of the Beijing conference,” she said.

    She however called on the international community to focus on the remaining difficulties and challenges regarding women's development.

    “Let us work together, hand in hand for further advancement of women's status and for the better future of all. “Let us continue to take actions and never relent until our common goals become a reality,” Ms Song said.

    Lydia Alpízar, the Executive Director of the Association for Women's Rights in Development, said it was important to acknowledge that progress made in the 20 years since Beijing was limited.

    She attributed it to an overwhelming lack of political commitment, lack of resources, the rise of religious fundamentalism and “plain old sexism and misogyny” was among factors that had hampered progress.

     Ms Alpizar said challenges such as inequality, exploitation, fundamentalism in all religions and threats from non-State actors like corporations, which held inordinate power over land and resources, needed tackling.

     The CSW59 is expected to end on March 20