During 2019–2020, several international commitments on gender equality celebrate their anniversaries. The United Nations and its Member States are celebrating these commitments in various ways in what is a ‘super year for gender equality’. While commitments are an important starting point for change, their implementation is crucial. The spotlight during these celebrations is therefore on the progress made and the challenges that remain.
At the UN World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing, the Beijing Declaration and the Beijing Platform for Action were adopted. Next year, 2020, will mark their 25th anniversary. The Beijing Platform for Action is still one of the most progressive documents on women’s and girls’ rights to date. In it, governments committed to taking bold action in 12 critical areas of concern: poverty, education and training, health, violence against women, armed conflict, the economy, power and decision-making, institutional mechanisms, human rights, media, the environment and the girl child.
In Europe, the Beijing celebrations kicked off at a regional meeting arranged by UN Women and the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) on 29–30 October. More than 850 participants – from young gender equality advocates to high-ranking government officials – gathered in Geneva to take stock of progress on the Beijing commitments. Present at the meeting were also key stakeholders from North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia.
In the Swedish national speech, Sweden highlighted work to combat men’s violence against women, including honour-related violence and oppression, prostitution and trafficking in human beings. The new Swedish sexual offence legislation, the Consent Act, that entered into force on 1 July 2018, was presented as an example of the Swedish Government’s intention to establish a culture of consent.
At the meeting in Geneva, progress and persisting challenges in the 56 countries of the UNECE region were reviewed. One central obstacle to women’s and girls’ rights is still men’s violence against women and domestic violence. The ratification and implementation of the Istanbul Convention is key to progress. Another obstacle is the lack of financing for gender equality. In several countries, gender equality mechanisms remain weak and underfunded. Insufficient sex-disaggregated data hinders evidence-based policy-making. According to the regional Beijing report, gender mainstreaming in the area of environmental protection and climate change has made the fewest advances across the region, including in the EU.
At the regional meeting, participants stressed the need for faster and stronger progress for gender equality and the full enjoyment of human rights by all women and girls.
“A quarter of a century after Beijing, not a single country has achieved gender equality.”
“Beijing+25 and the global drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals provide us with a unique opportunity to accelerate efforts, strengthen our partnerships and mobilise all of society, including all generations, to fulfil the longstanding commitments to women and girls,” said Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director for Normative Support at UN Women.
The regional review that was carried out in Geneva will feed into the global Beijing report that the UN Secretary-General will present to the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) in March 2020. In September 2020, the General Assembly will convene a one-day high-level meeting to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Beijing and continue to follow up on the commitments made.