Subject: [fem-women2000 483] REFLECTIONS AFTER BEIJING +5 (by CWGP&WEDO)
From: lalamaziwa <>
Date: Thu, 03 Aug 2000 05:26:33 +0900
Seq: 483

interesting reading! anyone up for translation?
  -- lalamaziwa

text taken from


Center for Women's Global Leadership
Women's Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) 

Beijing + 5 Review Process 

These observations and reflections on the processes for the UN
General Assembly Special Session to review implementation of the
Beijing Platform (Beijing + 5) held in New York City in June 2000 are
offered by our organizations with the intent of learning from this
experience that many women found difficult and frustrating at times.
This paper is supplemented both by the Linkage Caucus statement
issued at the end of the proceedings and by further analysis of the
content of the Outcomes Document to be available soon.

* A Special Session of the UN General Assembly, not a UN
World Conference. 

The Beijing + 5 document being discussed was to review and
appraise implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and not to
renegotiate it or rewrite it. Thus the discussions at the national and
regional level as well as in New York were more technical than at the
Fourth World Conference on Women, and less of a referendum on all
issues concerning women. 

As a UN General Assembly Special Session (UNGASS), this
meeting was governed by the rules of the General Assembly (GA) in
New York. These rules are more restrictive regarding NGO
participation than the rules of world conferences - for example, NGOs
are not generally allowed to speak in the GA. Further, government
negotiations, up until the final two weeks, were dominated by New
York-based missions rather than experts on women's issues from
capitals; this meant that on-going GA dynamics and political
tensions between governmental blocs - North-South etc.of - ten
dominated the proceedings. Furthermore, the text was being
negotiated for several months before UNGASS, and while much of
the document remained bracketed, there was very little chance to
introduce new language by the time the Session began. As a
consequence, NGOs who had been involved in following the
negotiations had to stay focused on the document and these final
negotiations to protect gains women had made. Yet, there was little
opportunity for NGOS who were not active before the session, in their
home countries, regional meetings, and/or in New York, to influence
the outcome. Perhaps the best such opportunity was for those NGOs
who were on governmental delegations. 

In addition, few UN or government resources are devoted to special
sessions, which are generally held at UN Headquarters in New York,
Geneva, or Vienna. Unlike at world conferences, no government is
asked to host such special sessions. The U.S. government was
therefore not a host country for this event and did not earmark funds
for it, unlike China, Kenya, Denmark or Mexico who bid for and were
chosen to host the four world conferences on women. 

* No NGO Forum or Overall Coordinator With Responsibility
for NGO Activities. 

In the absence of an NGO Forum or a coordinator with overall
responsibility for NGO activities, several different bodies emerged to
deal with the needs of NGOs. In March l999 at the first Preparatory
Committee for Beijing + 5, a number of sessions were organized by
CONGO (Conference of Non-governmental Organizations) and its NY
based Committee on the Status of Women with available NGOs, to
discuss what should be done. It was emphasized that while there
would be some NGO parallel events, the focus of NGO activity should
be aimed at affecting the inter-governmental session. This decision
was consistent with other "Plus Five" reviews held in New York,
including UNCED+5 and ICPD+5, and reflected the sentiment at the
time that most participants at such a review would be primarily
involved in the official proceedings. 

CONGO agreed to convene an NGO International Coordinating
Committee to facilitate parallel activities and NGO access to the UN,
with representatives of regional groups, global networks and issue
caucuses, as well as its Committees on the Status of Women in
New York, Geneva, and Vienna. A letter describing this process and
inviting participation was sent to NGOS on CONGO'S Beijing mailing
list. The Coordinating Committee was established based on
responses to this invitation. From September 1999 through June
2000, a small volunteer group of New York-based members of this
committee met regularly. At each of the regional meetings to prepare
for Beijing + 5, two regional representatives to the committee were
selected - by differing methods depending on the region - and were
active via E-mail and in New York in March and June. 

The committee was primarily responsible for organizing the NGO
daily briefings at the Preparatory Committee and at the UNGASS,
the NGO Working Session held immediately prior to the UNGASS,
and for daily NGO interface with the UN and governments. Much time
and energy was spent struggling for better NGO access to the
preparatory processes and at the UNGASS itself. Members of the
Coordinating Committee met numerous times with staff from the
Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) to negotiate issues of
concern for NGOs, such as accreditation, space for NGO events
inside the UN, and NGO speakers in the UNGASS Plenary. 

None of us were satisfied with the UN processes adopted for NGO
access and especially with the unconscionable way applications for
accreditation were handled and the long wait many women endured
outside the UN. The Coordinating Committee had warned the UN of
these problems, often to no avail. Many of us spent hours trying to
make these processes clear and working to get women whose
applications were lost by the UN accredited. The NGO Coordinating
Committee has written a letter to the UN objecting to how these
matters were handled. Nevertheless, we are convinced that the
Committee's efforts did prevent even worse proposals, such as the
initial plan to limit the number of NGO representatives who could be
accredited in June to 1000 with no more than one representative per

A communications network for Beijing + 5, Womenaction 2000,
also emerged out of the March'99 preparatory committee with the
goal of compiling information about the process from regional
websites and written materials. With the support of and efforts by
various organizations, including our own, they worked to get the word
out about the Beijing +5 process. Nevertheless, many women arrived
in New York expecting another world conference on women and an
NGO forum and without having seen any of this basic information.
This raises questions about what further needs to be done to ensure
that women are informed of the nature of the events they attend.

* NGO activities abounded in an ad-hoc but somewhat
coordinated fashion. 

Since there was no NGO Forum office set up, many of the NGO
functions for the Special Session were handled as they are during
annual Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings. The
CONGO office secured all available rooms in the Church Center for
the UN and allocated this space based on requests received. DAW
retained the right to allocate space within the UN, although they did
coordinate this somewhat with the CONGO office. One NGO victory
was securing one large UN hall (Conference Room 4) for NGOs for
the entire week. Priority allocation of that room went to daily events
for NGOS seeking to influence the UN document, the morning
briefings, regional caucuses, and the Linkage Caucus at the end of
the day. Other events scheduled there were determined by DAW, but
priority went to those events sponsored by groupings of NGOS or
networks especially from the Global South. 

While the UN and Church Center space for NGO activities was more
than is usually available at CSW meetings, it became clear that this
would not be enough for Beijing +5. The US Host Committee was
formed in the fall of 1999 to address the need to provide more
activities and facilities for the thousands of women who were
expected - especially those who were not accredited to the UN.
Initially space was sought at area universities, but with June being
graduation month, little was available. The US government offered the
Custom House, one of the few buildings in New York under its
supervision - not an ideal solution, but the only available option at the
time. The Custom House was made available for activities sponsored
by both US-based and non-US groups. Recognizing that the Custom
House could not accommodate all events, a number of groups opted
to find and/or pay for individual spaces for their events. Some groups
like the National Council for Research on Women/CUNY Graduate
Center and the Japanese Global Forum secured separate space and
ran parallel activities that primarily focused on non-accredited NGOs. 

Over the period from March to June, a number of individuals and
organizations in New York worked hard to ensure that there would be
space and events for everyone and responded to numerous requests
>from outside for assistance. This effort was severely hampered
however by lack of solid information about how many women would
be coming when and from where and with what needs. In retrospect,
it probably would have been easier to deal with these issues if there
had been one central body responsible for organizing and fundraising
for a NGO Forum. But hindsight is often better than foresight, and
this was not the decision made by the NGOs from around the world
present at the CSW in March 99 and was not the tradition of UN Plus
5 events. Without that decision, all of the groups were acting on only
part of the picture. 

* Negative impact of large Right Wing presence and of prolonged

While not all problems can be reduced to these factors, they did
considerably affect the atmosphere and use made of the public space that
NGOs had acquired. For example, since the right wing had been disruptive
at a number of NGO events in March, the Coordinating Committee chose not
to discuss document strategies during the NGO Working Session because of
the expected presence of a large number of NGOs working against parts of
the Beijing Platform. In retrospect, many of us agree that the working
session could have been more useful for NGOS if it had included more
basic and strategic information and training about the document process ュ
 even if opposition NGOs were present. 

Further, the endlessly drawn out process of the negotiations over the
Outcomes Document and the threat of a backlash meant that many
NGOs had to spend almost all their time following the document and
could not participate in other NGO activities. This served to further
separate those groups who were accredited and concentrating on the
document and those involved in other parallel activities, especially if
they were not accredited. While this is also a problem at world
conferences, in New York the NGO events and the document
negotiations were entirely overlapping in time - unlike Beijing and
Nairobi where the NGO Forum started a week earlier and the
government conference went on beyond the end of the Forum. Thus,
many groups were drained of personnel and resources in trying to
cover all of this at once in an atmosphere where backlash threatened
even the gains made in Beijing. 

* Women NGOs continue to struggle for implementation of the
Beijing Platform. 

Regardless of mistakes made and frustrations endured, the global
women's movement still prevailed in the Beijing + 5 process and
negotiations. Women (and some men) came in record numbers as
they did for the World Conference on Women in Beijing - proving
once more that this is an issue central to people's lives and
passions. The Beijing Platform for Action was reaffirmed and
governments again pledged that it is their responsibility to work for its
implementation. While there were not as many specific targets set
and resources allocated as many of us sought, there were concrete
advances that women can build upon as we work to implement the
platform and to hold governments accountable to all their
commitments to women. It is important to remember that Beijing is
only one landmark and that women must also utilize and address
other UN conference documents, human rights treaties - such as the
Women's Convention - that are binding obligations, as well as other
aspects of the UN and international system. 

The Beijing + 5 Review had its ups and downs, but it provided one
more opportunity for public discussion of many issues that affect and
concern women. Because of this event, the media has aired issues
locally and globally - showing also the importance of women as a
constituency for the UN. Most governments made reports on what
they are doing to implement the platform, and many women engaged
them in debates about what needs to be done through alternative
reports and other vehicles. Women used the space to network and
share strategies across cultural, racial, sexual, national, and other
boundaries. It is women who have placed women's empowerment and
human rights on the world's agenda utilizing events like the UN World
Conferences as well as many other strategies. This has been one
more such moment where women have again demonstrated their
determination and leadership in working to realize justice and all
human rights for all women in all our diversity. 

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