New York, March 9, 2020 —Twenty five years after the adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the foundational global document on gender equality, governments at an abbreviated session of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) have reaffirmed a commitment to gender equality but, according to leading feminist groups and activists, fell short of committing to the transformative steps necessary to achieve this vision.
To address the gaps in the political declaration adopted at the CSW by governments, the Women’s Rights Caucus—a global coalition of more than 200 feminist organizations, networks and collectives that advocates for gender equality at the United Nations—has published an alternative, feminist declaration. The Feminist Declaration outlines a bold and urgent agenda for gender equality and the human rights of all women and girls, and centers the critical role of civil society organizations advocating for accountability in policy and programs meant to promote, protect, and fulfill human rights for all.
“The stalled progress on gender equality is profoundly disappointing and threatens the lives and well-being of girls, women, and non-binary people worldwide,” said the Women’s Rights Caucus. “It is not enough for governments to simply reaffirm past commitments. To achieve gender equality, we need to commit to supporting feminist movements and to adopt a bold and forward-looking agenda that addresses the multiple and intersecting challenges faced by all women and girls. The Feminist Declaration launched today reflects the priorities of the feminist movement and provides governments and other stakeholders with a path toward true equality.”
The feminist declaration includes critical issues that governments must tackle to achieve gender equality, including: sexual and reproductive rights and bodily autonomy; women, peace, and security; the intersections between the climate crisis and gender equality; and the role of women’s human rights defenders and feminist movements, who are the key to driving long-term change.
Due to ongoing concerns about the spread of COVID-19, CSW was suspended after the adoption of the political declaration. The Women’s Rights Caucus welcomes the decision to prioritize the health and safety of participants, but will hold the Commission’s leadership accountable for reconvening the full CSW later this year and ensuring robust discussion between feminist organizations and governments.
The political declaration marks the anniversary of the revolutionary agreement made at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. With this declaration, governments had the opportunity to identify and address new challenges, and set the stage for a new international agenda for gender equality. However, 25 years later, the limited scope of the political declaration demonstrates that this opportunity was not seized.
Despite the limitations of CSW’s political declaration, there remains hope that 2020 will deliver significant gains for gender equality. The feminist movement will continue to work alongside those who share our vision as we commemorate the 25th anniversary of Beijing—and other key landmarks including the 5th year of the Sustainable Development Goals and the 20th anniversary of UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security—and seize the opportunity of the Generation Equality Forums. These events provide the opportunity to focus resources and political will into a progressive and just agenda for gender equality that truly leaves no one behind. But to achieve our goal, we in the feminist movement must have our priorities and organizations supported.
The Feminist Declaration launched today provides governments with a roadmap to achieve not only the vision outlined in Beijing, but the transformative change necessary to deliver Generation Equality.
“The criminalisation of our identities and loves, the persecutions that we face for not confirming to gender norms, the control and violations of our bodily autonomy: they all intersect with other aspects of who we are, and leave us behind”, said Cristina Gonzalez Hurtado, Chair of the Women’s Committee at ILGA World. “Feminist movements have come together to say it loud and clear: we are all stronger when we have the freedom to equally participate in society. The world will have to listen”.
The Women’s Rights Caucus is a global coalition of more than 200 organizations working to advance women’s rights and gender equality in their communities, and together at the United Nations.
photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown, (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)