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Thursday, August 18, 2011




The Fifth World Conference on Women of the United Nations would be the
first to be held in the 21st Century, the first since the widespread
reach of information and communication technology. The target date for
the conference would be 2015, 20 years after the Fourth World
Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995.

The most deeply held beliefs and values of all societies are reflected
in their organization of gender relationships. To date there is no
country in the world that has achieved total equality between women
and men, and these inequalities have an impact in all spheres of
activity, be they political, economic or social. Women in all parts of
the world suffer from gender inequality manifested mostly in strict
division of labour, less access to decision-making positions, fewer
opportunities of participation in political life and less value
accorded to the roles they play and consequently inequitable gender
relations. Barriers confronting the progress of women and obstructing
the realization of gender equality in today's world are partly due to
the inability to promote change of mindset and attitudes as well as to
dismantle the traditional institutional structures that can promote
women's equal rights.


The potential of a Fifth World Conference on Women as a consciousness
raising focus is enormous. Development of the next generation of
global and local women leaders will grow out of such a conference.
Building on and benefiting from the synergy and awareness that grew
out of the Fourth World Conference in Beijing, the Fifth Conference
would bring current and future women leaders together, creating and
mobilizing effective intergenerational leadership. Effectively and
creatively prepared, it could be the most influential women's
conference ever with simultaneous and interactive conference linkages
and access to individuals with opportunity to participate through the
internet. A Fifth World Conference on Women would be the first to make
widespread use of the internet and associated technologies to bring
women's issues and solutions to worldwide attention.

The conference would raise awareness that the planet and humanity need
to have women - fifty percent of global population - involved at every
level for there to be peace and sustainability in the world. It would
provide a platform for voicing the concerns that women and mothers
universally have about their children's future and help create the
political will necessary to create a world where children, and
therefore everyone, would not fear physical or psychological violence,
and where there would be better access to food, clean air and water,
health, education, housing and other basic services as well as the
opportunity to think, speak, create and love in an environment of
global understanding and solidarity. A Fifth Conference would energize
the global women's movement towards this end.

The Beijing Platform for Action has identified the critically
important areas for action at national, regional and global levels.
Since then, it is evidenced that new developments have added new and
often complex dimensions to these areas challenging the prospects of
their full and effective implementation. Conflict, war, civil strife
and post-conflict situation have manifested in a widespread and
interconnected manner seriously undermining prospects for women's
equality and for their due role. Of course, adoption of the UNSCR 1325
in 2000 opens up new opportunities for women in this context.
Commitments made in Beijing and subsequent conferences in respect of
rural women and girls so that they can enjoy a full range of rights -
from property and inheritance, to health, education and freedom from
violence - call for much-needed engagement for their full realization.
The UN Human Development Report of 2009 identified abused and coerced
women as one of the most important vulnerable groups that are
victimized in their own families and societies. Violence, trafficking,
drugs, migration, environmental degradation including climate change,
media bias, low participation in the decision-making process,
commercialization, globalization - all have accentuated increasing
obstacles to women's equality since Beijing. While the enormous
potential of the information and communication technology (ICT) helps
interconnection, networking and mobilization of women and assists in
their empowerment, the negative dimensions of that opportunity has
been a major concern for women. In brief, "strategic interests" such
as political participation, freedom from gender based violence, equal
access to decent work and equal access to decision -making positions
need to be addressed in a holistic manner.

All of the Millennium Development Goals, which were adopted after
Beijing, require the empowerment and equality of women in order to be
implemented. All eight Goals touch essential aspects of women's
well-being and, in turn, women's empowerment is critical for achieving
the goals.

Organizational arrangements:

With the support of its 193 member states, the United Nations General
Assembly need to adopt a resolution at its 66th regular session in
2011 to convene 5WCW in 2015. It would ask the UNSG to report by June
2012 the preparatory arrangements and other details needed for
successful holding of the conference. An open-ended preparatory body
with the active participation of civil society organizations (CSOs)
would be suitable for carrying out the needed preparatory work through
the support of the UN Women secretariat.

Civil Society role:

Advocacy for 5WCW is a grassroots, civil society effort that began in
2002 by women participating in parallel events during the UN
Commission on the Status of Women meetings. A turning point of NGO
support came at the 2011 CSW meetings. The number of civil society
organizations signing an online petition supporting 5WCW continues to
increase. New internet conference platforms are drawing thousands of
participants where 5WCW is the subject. To be worthwhile and
purposeful, consideration of the issues before 5WCW requires active
participation of civil society and giving it the opportunity to reach
out to public policy level. The power of civil society lies mainly in
its connection and reflection of needs and hopes of ordinary women on
the ground. Collaboration and partnership between government and civil
society is, therefore, of great importance.

22 July 2011

* "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that
matter."-- Martin Luther King Jr. *

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