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The Beĳing Declaration and Platform for Action of 1995 is a visionary agenda for the empowerment of women. It still remains today the most comprehensive global policy framework and blueprint for action, and is a current source of guidance and inspiration to realize gender equality and the human rights of women and girls, everywhere.
This landmark text was the outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beĳing, China, in September 1995. After two weeks of political debate, exchange of information on good practice and lessons learned, and sharing of experiences, representatives of 189 Governments agreed to commitments that were unprecedented in scope. More than 30,000 people also participated in the Forum of non-governmental organizations in Huairou, a unique space of advocacy, networking, training and knowledge sharing.
The Platform for Action covers 12 critical areas of concern that are as relevant today as 20 years ago: poverty; education and training; health; violence; armed conflict; economy; power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms; human rights; media; environment; and the girl child. For each critical area of concern, strategic objectives are identified, as well as a detailed catalogue of related actions to be taken by Governments and other stakeholders, at national, regional and international level. At the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly in June 2000, held to review the implementation of the Beĳing Declaration and Platform for Action, Governments agreed on further actions to accelerate implementation of the Platform for Action and to ensure that commitments for gender equality, development and peace were fully realized.
Since 1995, Governments, civil society and other stakeholders have worked to eliminate discrimination against women and girls and achieve equality in all areas of life, in public and in private spaces. Discriminatory legislation is being removed, and violence against women and girls and harmful practices addressed. There have been significant gains in girls’ school enrolment, and women’s participation in the labour force and the economy is growing in some regions. Women’s representation in national parliaments now exceeds 20 per cent globally. Significant normative advances have been made in the global agenda on women, peace and security. Much has been achieved, but progress has been unacceptably slow and uneven, particularly for the most marginalized women and girls who experience multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination.
Nearly 20 years after the adoption of the Platform for Action, no country has achieved equality for women and girls and significant levels of inequality between women and men persist. Critical areas of insuﬃcient progress include
access to decent work and closing the gender pay gap; rebalancing of the care workload; ending violence against women; reducing maternal mortality and realizing sexual and reproductive health and rights; and participation in power and decision-making at all levels.
As we approach the twentieth anniversary of the adoption of the Beĳing Declaration and Platform for Action, there is a new sense of real urgency, a recognition that we are at a turning point for women’s rights, a recognition that realizing gender equality, the empowerment of women and the human rights of women and girls must be a pressing and central task.
As the international community is in the final stages of crafting a post-2015 development agenda, this anniversary edition of the Beĳing Declaration and Platform for Action, together with the outcomes of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, is a timely reminder that gender equality is not only a goal in itself, but a means for achieving all other goals on the global agenda.
Today, more than ever, urgent and sustained action is needed to transform the structures, institutions and norms – economic, political and social – that are holding back progress on gender equality. These systemic changes must be deep and irreversible.
• Governments to demonstrate strong, determined leadership and commitment to advance women’s rights;
• Reaching the most marginalized women and girls by tackling stark and rising inequalities and multiple forms of discrimination;
• Strengthening accountability for gender equality and supporting national gender equality mechanisms and women’s movements to exert greater influence in policy decisions;
• Greater contributions of men as gender equality advocates; and
• Exponentially increasing investments in gender equality and women’s rights.
Gender equality is a shared vision of social justice and human rights. Everyone has a responsibility to act, particularly governments as the primary duty bearers. We must seize all opportunities at national, regional and global levels and give new impetus to the achievement of gender equality, the empowerment of women and women’s and girls’ enjoyment of their human rights.