Women’s Rights and the Post-2015 agenda: the time is NOW!

In 2015 a new development framework that succeeds the Millennium Development Goals will be adopted. WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform calls for the women’s rights movement to revitalise the energy surrounding the 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing (1995) to get gender equality and women’s rights in this new framework. Joni van de Sand, Policy officer at WO=MEN, a WIDE Plus platform member, outlines what strategies are discussed in the Netherlands for the women’s movement.

In 2015 it will be 20 years after the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) was adopted. Reading through it today, I am touched by its contemporary relevance. It reads almost as a sacred text: full of inspiring philosophy, with 12 “commandments”[1], and breathing the strong, organized power of the women’s movement behind the commitments that were made.

That was 1995. Today it is 2012. The last Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) at the UN ended without Agreed Conclusions. Rio+20 on Sustainable Development is considered a failure. The deadline of the MDG’s is nearing. No wonder that the women’s movement is left to wonder: what’s next?! Reading about the world conferences in the 90s, I feel that what we need is a new momentum. Well lucky us: there is one! 2015 is an important year for various reasons, and it is approaching fast. The women’s movement can, and has to, do it again. This is a call for action – The Time Is NOW!

The “stand-alone” track: Beijing+20

WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform has organized strategizing discussions in The Netherlands. On 21 June over 40 representatives of development NGOs, women’s organizations and individual activists came together. We reflected on the opportunities and risks of a Fifth UN World Conference on Women in 2015, which was proposed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon during the last CSW. We agreed that there is a need for new élan for women’s rights and gender equality, in The Netherlands but also internationally. There is also a need for clearer insights in the level of implementation of Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA), and attention for “emerging issues” (a.o. changing North-South relations; consequences of the economic and financial crises; HIV/AIDS; UN Security Council Resolution 1325). We formulated recommendations to the Dutch government: a new conference may be an opportunity, but should only take place under the condition that the BPfA is non-negotiable.

We shared our recommendations with the Dutch government. They sympathize with the momentum of Beijing+20, but they are wary about a 5WCW. There is a realistic risk of conservative countries hijacking the agenda, financial costs will be high, and civil society is likely to be excluded. Thus, WO=MEN worked out an alternative model to generate attention for women’s rights: a combination of stock-taking through (shadow)reporting; a worldwide mobilizing campaign; regional conferences in the five UN-regions; and a High Level Thematic Debate in 2015 during the 70th General Assembly.At all levels, organizations, local groups, women from marginalized groups, younger women, and boys and men working towards gender equality must be involved.

“Mainstreaming” the women’s rights agenda

On 31 July July Ban Ki-moon announced the members of a High-level Panel to advise on the global development agenda beyond 2015. The Panel held its first meeting at the end of September, in the margins of the annual high-level debate of the UN General Assembly. It is expected to submit its findings in the first half of 2013, which will inform the UN Secretary-General’s report to Member States. This means that by the end of next summer, a new framework for global cooperation will be well on its way. And it is by no means guaranteed that gender equality and women’s rights will be part of that agenda.

In November WO=MEN together with other networks in The Netherlands aims to organize another strategic session. As civil society we want to make our own agenda for the future of gender quality and women’s rights concrete, and set-out a strategy for how to get that message across to decision makers. Influencing the High-level Panel will be an important goal. BPfA, CEDAW, UNSCR 1325, and other international agreements will be important input for the agenda. But probably most of all, it is central that we strategize and work out the agenda together, as a global movement.

This is a strategic call for action to cooperate between civil society from all. You can organize national-level consultations in your own country, share outcomes, and link with regional and worldwide partners, to influence those decision makers that you can have contact with and revitalize the women’s rights agenda!

Joni van de Sand, Policy officer WO=MEN

WO=MEN Dutch Gender Platform is committed to international gender justice: a world in which all men and women have equal rights and opportunities, and everyone is free to make his or her own choices. WO=MEN is a network consisting of 130 organizations, entrepreneurs, knowledge institutes and individuals. Together we lobby, exchange and develop knowledge, and raise awareness.

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