There is need for revival of the “spirit of Beijing” to tackle problems that have persisted since the 1995 landmark Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
The remarks were made on Monday as the Commission on the Status of Women opened its 59th session at United Nations headquarters in New York.
Patricia Licuanan, Chair of the Commission on Higher Education of the Philippines, said the Declaration helped bring violence against women from a private, domestic affair to a public concern that could nolonger be shrouded by culture and tradition.
The Commission on the Status of Women is meeting in New York until March 17. Global leaders and activists are expected to discuss the progress as well as challenges to the Beijing Declaration.
Licuanan commended the negotiation process at Beijing for being highly participatory and broad based. The Beijing conference of 1995 attracted more than 50,000 people.
This year’s session, according to Licuanan, will focus on women economic participation, health, education, political participation and human rights.
Song Xiuyan, Vice-Chair of the National Working Committee on Children and Women under the State Council of China, told delegates that the Beijing Declaration represented the international community’s “solemn commitment to equality, development and peace” and that since it was adopted in 1995, women’s rights and interests had been prioritised.
“The UN and its relevant agencies have made tremendous efforts to this end,” she said, noting that the Beijing Declaration represented the most important policy document for women’s progress.
Nevertheless, she continued, as the 20th anniversary fast approaches, the international community must work toward eliminating the remaining obstacles to women emancipation.
“Let us work together for further advancement of women. Let us continue to take actions and never relent until our common goals become a reality,” Xiuyan said.
Lydia Alpízar, the Executive Director of the Association for Women’s Rights in Development, said it was important to acknowledge the progress made in the 20 years since Beijing. She called for increased financing of women’s movements worldwide and the implementation of agreements on gender equality.
“Human rights, such as sexual and reproductive rights, should not be traded,” Alpízar said.
Alaa Murabit, who represented Libyan women and a member of UN Women’s Global Civil Society Advisory Committee urged women to be vigilant and always champion their rights.