Beijing+20: Past, present and future. The representation of women and the United Nations system

The Beijing Platform for Action remains the most overarching blueprint for advancing women’s rights. Significantly, it mandates the full participation of women “in all spheres of society, including participation in the decision-making process and access to power, [as] fundamental for the achievement of equality, development and peace”. This includes women’s participation in decision-making processes within the UN system.

The 20th anniversary of this landmark document represents an occasion to reaffirm the principles of  equal representation of women in all institutions, and assess progress and challenges. Twenty years after the Beijing Conference, the United Nations system continues to face significant challenges in achieving the equal representation of women, particularly at senior decision-making levels.

Past statistical trends and future projections on representation within the UN system are analysed, and action points to overcome obstacles and accelerate progress are presented. Past trends show that progress has been slow and uneven, and that it will take another 14 years to achieve overall parity at the current average rate of annual growth. To close the gap, strong temporary special measures and a multi-pronged approach articulated in a comprehensive policy are necessary, backed by the active, consistent and sustained support of executive heads and senior officials.

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