World Conferences on Women

The United Nations has organized four world conferences on women. These took place in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, Nairobi in 1985 and Beijing in 1995. The last was followed by a series of five-year reviews.

The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. The Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action, adopted unanimously by 189 countries, is an agenda for women’s empowerment and considered the key global policy document on gender equality. It sets strategic objectives and actions for the advancement of women and the achievement of gender equality in 12 critical areas of concern:

The Beijing conference built on political agreements reached at the three previous global conferences on women, and consolidated five decades of legal advances aimed at securing the equality of women with men in law and in practice. More than 17,000 participants attended, including 6,000 government delegates at the negotiations, along with more than 4,000 accredited NGO representatives, a host of international civil servants and around 4,000 media representatives. A parallel NGO Forum held in Huairou near Beijing also drew some 30,000 participants.

Before Beijing

1975: The Commission on the Status of Women called for the organization of the first world conference on women to coincide with International Women’s Year. The World Conference of the International Women's Year was subsequently held in Mexico City; 133 governments participated, while 6,000 NGO representatives attended a parallel forum, the International Women’s Year Tribune. The conference defined a World Plan of Action for the Implementation of the Objectives of the International Women’s Year, which offered a comprehensive set of guidelines for the advancement of women through 1985.

1980: 145 Member States gathered for the mid-decade World Conference of the United Nations Decade for Women in Copenhagen. It aimed to review progress in implementing the goals of the first world conference, focusing on employment, health and education. A Programme of Action called for stronger national measures to ensure women’s ownership and control of property, as well as improvements in protecting women’s rights to inheritance, child custody and nationality.

1985: The World Conference to Review and Appraise the Achievements of the UN Decade for Women took place in Nairobi. The conference’s mandate was to establish concrete measures to overcome obstacles to achieving the Decade’s goals. Participants included 1,900 delegates from 157 Member States; a parallel NGO Forum attracted around 12,000 participants. Governments adopted the Nairobi Forward-Looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women, which outlined measures for achieving gender equality at the national level and for promoting women’s participation in peace and development efforts.

Follow-up to Beijing

2000: The General Assembly decided to hold a 23rd special session to conduct a five-year review and appraisal of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, and to consider future actions and initiatives. “Women 2000: Gender Equality, Development, and Peace for the Twenty-First Century” took place in New York, and resulted in a political declaration and further actions and initiatives to implement the Beijing commitments.

2005: A 10-year review and appraisal of the Beijing Platform for Action was conducted as part of the 49th session of the Commission on the Status of Women. Delegates adopted a declaration emphasizing that the full and effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action is essential to achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including those contained in the Millennium Declaration.

2010: The 15-year review of the Beijing Platform for Action took place during the Commission’s 54th session in 2010. Member States adopted a declaration that welcomed the progress made towards achieving gender equality, and pledged to undertake further action to ensure the full and accelerated implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

2015: In mid-2013, the UN Economic and Social Council requested the Commission on the Status of Women to review and appraise implementation of the Platform for Action in 2015, in a session known as Beijing+20. To inform deliberations, the Council also called on UN Member States to perform comprehensive national reviews, and encouraged regional commissions to undertake regional reviews.

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