Recommendations from the NGO Forum on Beijing +20 to UNECE Member States “Every woman, every right, every minute. Everyone is responsible. The time is now”

12 November 2014

Photos: ActionPress/P-M Virot

Geneva, 5th November 2014 - The 700 participants to the NGO Forum review of the Beijing Platform for Action, convened by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women (CSW) in Geneva and representing around 350 groups, networks, and institutions from 56 countries of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe region (UNECE, Europe, North America, the Caucasus and central Asia) presented today their Declaration and Recommendations for the future to the UNECE State Members meeting at the United Nations Office in Geneva till tomorrow. The NGO Forum gathered in Geneva from 3-5 November 2014.

“Today, we still aspire for a world – including our ECE region - where women in our diversity and everywhere enjoy our human rights, realise our full potential, and are fully respected members of society; a world in which our lifestyles, economies and relations contribute to the harmony of society, ecology and human well-being. We want a world free of violence; a world of peace, where democracy thrives and women can enjoy and exercise their full rights as citizens. A world of accountability for all and by all”, said Ms Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda, President NGO CSW-Geneva and General Secretary World YWCA, presenting the Declaration and the Recommendations to the UNECE, jointly with Ms Manjit Dosanjh, Chair of the Editorial Committee of the NGO Forum.

Beijing Platform for Action was about redistribution of power, resources, and opportunities between women and men; and fundamentally addressed patriarchy and stereotyping. “We recognise and celebrate the significant achievements made in this region impacting women’s lives as well as at policy and institutional level. The ECE region is economically and socially diverse, and many changes over the last 20 years raise deep concerns for sustainability, women’s and human rights. We are at a tipping point as a region with convergence of multiple crises: financial, energy, climate and food. The austerity measure response to the economic and financial crises has resulted in unprecedented unemployment, drastic cuts to public expenditures, and household level social and economic insecurity, disproportionately impacting women and girls led to a crisis of democracy and progressive values and is pushing women back into traditional roles. We recognize the global demographic shift to an aging population - particularly relevant to our ECE Region. The global gap between rich and poor grows daily”, added Ms Gumbonzvanda.

The Declaration highlighted crucial points. “We face a myriad of threats to the Beijing commitments. Women experience time poverty; overburdened by unrecognised care work deriving from their role in reproduction. In addition to the technocratic discourse and gender mainstreaming approaches we must emphasize addressing the underlying and root causes of inequality. Violations of and threats to girls and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights call for protection and advancement of the Beijing

Platform for Action and prior commitments, ICPD and CEDAW in the post 2015 agenda as well as regional instruments such as the Council of Europe Convention on Any Violence Against Women (Istanbul Convention). The women’s agenda has thus remained at the traditional social and micro levels;
yet transformation requires addressing the structural and macro issues that perpetuate inequalities, discrimination and exclusion”.

Militarization is increasingly used as the answer to conflict, resulting in gross violations of human rights of women and girls not only in this region but globally, and increasing military and arms expenditures at the expense of social and human rights protections. The increase in violent extremism, bio-politics, and wide range of population phobias, has resulted in the restriction of individual freedoms.

The government approach to development cooperation has been shifting, inextricably linking development, aid, trade, investment and foreign policy; thus reducing women’s rights to a sub-text of global capitalism rather than central to achievement of peace and sustainable development. Financing for civil society and women’s organising has been reduced to government subcontracting, jeopardizing fundamental civil society self-organizing and partnership.

“We are especially appalled by the situation of women in particular regions on particular issues: The increasing unemployment in Central Asia and Eastern Europe as well as complacency to women’s issues Western Europe and North America. Violence against women and girls remains pervasive, and further perpetuated through technology and social media. Racial discrimination, especially against migrants who are often undocumented and have no public voice, results in gross violations of women’s rights. Women in vulnerable situations, including indigenous women and women with disabilities, experience disproportionate rights violations; while girls and older women lack social protections. Girls and young women face psychological pressures, including sexualisation of their bodies and destructive body image”, underlined the two prominent representatives of the civil society.

The Declaration calls for:

1. Fulfilment of the Beijing commitments to all interconnected and universal human rights and systematic implementation of a women’s rights approach; buttressed by an accountability and resourcing framework.

2. Women are at the heart of sustainable development and the post-2015 SDG agenda must include a clear and stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s rights with clearly articulated means of implementation for women’s rights and empowerment. In addition girls and women’s rights must be recognized throughout the other SDG goals and specific strategies.

3. CEDAW must remain the framework for monitoring and accountability of government commitments.

4. We call for women’s equal access to resources including land, credit and funding towards an intergenerational social, cultural, development, environmental, economic, civil and political rights and justice;

5. Invest in women and girls’ rights including Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights; end violence against all women and girls, particularly ending child, early and forced marriage as well as FGM;

6. Urgent and systematic focus on women of all ages as users, shapers and leaders of new technologies.


1. Women’s Rights are Human Rights : Accountability and Resources (Human Rights of Women)

a. Reaffirm CEDAW, the Beijing Platform for Action, UN Resolution 1325, and all human rights instruments as the global policy framework for women’s rights, empowerment, and gender equality.

b. Implement existing laws and policies that protect human rights for all women, every minute and everywhere, especially for girls, women and older women, ethnic minorities, indigenous women,

women with disabilities; rural women; and the LGBTI people.

c. Promote and protect women’s human rights through full resourcing and implementation of all

existing human rights instruments, in particular CEDAW.

d. Include women’s rights and gender equality both as a framework mainstreamed across the post-2015

sustainable development agenda and as a stand-alone goal with robustly resourced indicators.

e. Partner and adequately fund women’s organizations and civil society for advancing and implementing

the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action and the post-2015 agenda.

f. Ensure robust financial and human resources for national machineries and entities for gender equality, including bilateral and multilateral institutions such as the United Nations.

g. Strengthen oversight mechanisms such as parliament and ombudspersons.

h. Ensure comprehensive monitoring frameworks for gender equality through well-resourced national machineries, independent human rights institutions and comprehensive disaggregated data.

i. Ensure access to justice redress and remedial actions in cases of violations of women’s human rights.

j. Ensure full civil and birth registration for all

k. The promotion and protection of women’s human rights is the responsibility of all especially governments, society including men and boys.

2. Violence Against Women and Conflict : Building a Culture of Peace (Women and Armed Conflict)

Violence Against Women

a. Eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls

b. All programmes to prevent and eradicate VAW must include women of all ages, including indigenous women, women with disabilities, widows, single mothers, child witnesses of domestic violence, women in armed conflict and post-conflict settings, women murdered under discourses of honour, lesbian and trans women, and rural women.

c. Eradicate child marriage, FGM and other harmful practises

d. Prevent and end impunity for violence against women and girls in conflict, cyber violence, sexualization, prostitution, occupation, and violations of sexual and reproductive rights.

e. Implement, with due diligence and accountability, existing laws and policies through protection, service provision, prevention, prosecution, and partnership with women’s organizations.

f. All ECE States must sign and ratify the Istanbul Convention on Violence Against Women and ensure effective implementation.

g. Transform gender stereotypes that normalize and trivialise violence against women and girls.

h. All States must ensure national laws criminalize non-State torture perpetrated by non-State actors and that laws prohibit and hold perpetrators accountable for gender-based non-State torture crimes.

i. Redefine masculinities, resocialize and educate boys to respect women and girls, and increase participation and accountability of men and boys in violence prevention and gender equality.

j. End impunity of through effective gender justice systems, and solidarity of voice and action with women and girls in situations of crisis including in Ukraine and Palestine.

k. Partner with religious leaders to prevent violence against women and girls, and hold religious leaders who justify human rights violations and perpetuate violence accountable. Violence against women and girls must never be justified using religion, tradition or culture.

l. Establish non-discriminatory reporting systems and support victims during legal processes as well as gender sensitive training of police and legal professionals.

l. Provide One-Stop Centers with medical/legal/social supports for victims, and fully resource short term shelters and permanent affordable housing for women and children as well as vocational training for survivors to become self-supporting.

m. Implement Resolution 1325 through applying affirmative action/quota systems for decision-making

in conflict prevention, peace negotiations, peace-making and peace building.

n. Address new and emerging forms of violence against women and girls, including violence as a consequence of new technologies technologies, and ensure cyber safety for girls.

Women and Conflict

a. Military expenditure has grown globally by 2% each year since 1995. A minimum reduction of 2% per annum is needed to redress this and bring compliance with the outcome document.

b. Ensure Prevention of conflict by addressing the power structures which facilitate and encourage conflict. The political economy of power is the cause of violence from the home to the international and is highly gendered.

c. The Progressive realisation of social and economic rights from a gender perspective with budgetary allocations away from military to development.

d. The UN must reform. The culture of hegemonic masculinity which prevails in almost all its component parts, from the Security Council through the S.G’s appointments to its country programme work, is preventing women from realising their rights, particularly rights to participate in peace processes and transition.

e. Ensure the participation of women in peace processes providing financial support to them to organise during conflict and engage in meaningful consultations.

f. Ensure continued support for women, social, economic, pyschological, after agreements have been reached to maintain participation.

g. Prioritise support for women in situations of displacement to end their invisibility, address issues such as sexual violence, honour killings, civil status and statelessness, address trafficking and sexual exploitation including early marriage.

h. consult with women in the military as to how to change the military cultures which condone and encourage violence against women.

3. Poverty, Economics and Social Development : Money Matters (Women and the Economy, Women and

a. Develop an alternative macro-economic framework based on women’s human rights approaches that institutionalizes feminist economics at all levels and in all policy domains.

b. Institutionalise and implement gender responsive budgeting at all levels and in all policy domains.

c. Eliminate the gender pay-gap and take necessary steps to ensure equal pay for work of equal value.

d. Ensure labour market policies and practices recognise and value motherhood and care work, and ensure opportunities and support to balance these responsibilities with flexible work and careers.

e. Recognise unpaid care work, and reduce the negative gendered impacts on women through redistribution of care services within and between households and adequate government services.

f. Adopt, implement and enforce laws against gender-based discrimination in the labour market and within the economy.


g. Promote women’s entrepreneurship and economic autonomy/empowerment through education, training, resources and innovation; with special focus on women in vulnerable situations.

h. Ensure and extend the provision of social protection in times of economic crisis, especially part-time workers, unpaid care workers, and women working in informal or other sectors in precarious jobs.

i. Ensure women’s access to safe, secure and adequately paid work, free of intimidation, harassment and violence.

j. Ensure and monitor that investment and trade policies and practices respect local ownership and management of natural resources, including water, minerals, energy resources and forests, in the region and globally.

k. Hold companies based in ECE countries accountable for women’s rights and abuses, especially in extractive industries in countries around the world.

l. Introduce disability-responsive budgeting, invest in programmes to address lack of education and unemployment among women and girls with disabilities, ensure lifelong protection of human rights.

m. Address women’s time poverty by resourcing and ensuring access to high-quality public services and

infrastructure including clean water, energy, transportation, ICTs, health care and childcare.

4. Participation and Decision-Making, Shifting Power (Women in Power and Decision-Making,

a. Implement measures to achieve an equal distribution of decision-making power between women and

men, including parity/quotas in political leadership, economic governance and all other sectors.

b. Ensure governance and electoral systems are women friendly, replacing plurality with proportional

representation or mixed systems, and adopt other critical measure to ensure women’s access to political and economic decision-making.

c. Develop effective communication strategies that support women’s access to decision making and ensure leadership that advances women’s rights, including gender equality in micro and macro-economic policy-making processes.

d. Ensure adequate financial, moral, social support and opportunities for all women’s effective participation; including to women’s organisations and networks.

e. Develop and strengthen mechanisms for young women’s participation in political leadership.

f. Abide by the duties to develop democratic societies and civic dialogue; support women’s organisations and protect human rights activists/defenders.

Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women

5. Environment and Climate Justice : People and Planet (Women and the Environment)

a. Recognise women’s rights and gender equality as central to the achievement of the post-2015 sustainable development agenda.

b. Ensure legal and policy protection of indigenous and women’s rights in land and natural resources, extraction and pollution prevention, especially by private interests and corporations.

c. Invest in innovative alternative technologies and recognise and value indigenous-owned knowledge for environmental and climate justice.

d. Ensure effective participation of women for climate governance at all levels.

e. Ensure women’s access to, control over and ownership of land and natural resources, including in post-conflict, post-disaster and post-displacement situations.

f. Prevent and monitor the trafficking of women and girls following environmental and climate-related disasters.

g. Systematically include a women’s rights and gender equality perspective in all aspects of domestic and development environmental, climate, water, forest, biodiversity, transport and energy policy, research and data collection at all levels.

h. Incorporate intergenerational and gender equality in climate and environmental policy and programmes through increased participation of young women in decision-making at all levels, including the UNFCCC.

i. Hold ECE-based corporations accountable for women’s rights violations, including gender-based and sexual violence, in all communities where industries are located.

j. Eliminate reliance on energy sources with high risk to people and the environment, including fossil fuels and nuclear energy.

k. Reduce the burden of climate change on women vis à vis commitments made by governments and the impacts of development and environmental policies.

l. Ensure adequate resourcing for environmental and climate justice, especially for communities at risk and for women’s networks and organisations as partners for change.

6. Human Rights and Migrant Women : Together in Solidarity (Women and Poverty)

a. Uphold and promote equality and non-discrimination for all migrant women, recognizing first and foremost their humanity and innate dignity.

b. Reframe our discourse and framework on migrant women to recognize that human rights are women’s rights, which are inherently migrant women’s rights.

c. Extend the Beijing Platform for Action with specific reference to the condition of all migrant women and girls, regardless of status.

d. Ratification of Implementation of international conventions on migration as well as international

labour standards to strengthen the protection of migrant women.

e. Empower migrant women to self-organize, support migrant women’s organizations, and facilitate

networking and advocacy by migrant organizations and women organizations.

f. Regularize migrant women and children in irregular situations.

g. Support migrant family unity and integrity by family reunification policies and an immediate end to

deportation practices that separate families.

h. Extend social protection, social security coverage and full health care including covering sexual and reproductive rights to migrant women.

i. Demand equal treatment for refugees, asylum seekers and displaced women.

j. Provide quality secondary, vocational, and tertiary education and lifelong learning for migrant girls and women particularly to support integration and access to employment.

7. Women and Health: Wellbeing for all (Women and Health)

a. No-one should die of preventable causes

b. Ensure will, commitment to and investment in making sexual and reproductive health and rights a reality for all, including ensuring access to comprehensive sexuality education, modern contraception and that no woman should die in pregnancy or childbirth.

c. Ensure accessible, affordable and quality health care services to all, to ensure health for women and reduce women’s unpaid care burden.

d. Ensure gender specific health research and medical practices.

e. Provide comprehensive mental health care services and support for all women of all ages.

f. Leverage opportunities of technology for women’s access to health information and services.

g. Protect women’s rights and choice to control our bodies, fertility and sexuality.

h. Support and promote nutrition for holistic health and well-being.

i. Immediate address the emerging incidence of sex selection and foetal abortion in some ECE countries

j. Protect and fulfill women’s and girls’ sexual and reproductive health and rights.

k. Ensure access to legal, safe, modern and free contraception and abortion services and family planning to reduce preventable maternal mortality and morbidity.

l. Protect the right of women to decide freely whom to marry and when to marry and have children.

m. Ensure every woman has access to a clean and healthy environment, especially water and sanitation.

n. Ensure women’s equal access to health care services throughout her life course, including women’s shelters, without discrimination based on legal or migration status, disability, sexual exploitation/prostitution, sexual orientation, gender identity, ethnicity, age or religion.

o. Raise and implement the legal minimum age of marriage to 18, as part of full implementation of CRC and CEDAW, in all countries where this has not yet been done.

8. Girls, Ageing and Intergenerational Justice : Building a Common Future (The Girl Child)

a. Adopt an intergenerational justice approach to women’s human rights and empowerment, recognising

the specific priorities, needs and circumstances of women at different of stages of their life course, especially for girls and older women.

b. Ensure education of communities to address the age-based stereotypes which undermine the full potential and effective participation of women all ages.

c. Develop an international convention on the rights of older persons incorporating rights articulated in CEDAW.

d. End harmful practices including discrimination against widows, female genital mutilation, sexualization, and child, early and forced marriage.

e. Recognize young women as a critical population group in achieving development and ensure young women’s effective participation in decision-making at all levels.

f. Ensure older women adequate income to live in dignity, reduce the pension gap between men and women, and implement social protection laws and policies that enable older women to be autonomous as long as possible as full participants in the development of society.

g. Recognize and address the intergenerational dimensions of all forms of violence, abuse and neglect.

h. Collect, analyze, report and utilize data disaggregated by sex, age and marital status.

i. Enable age-friendly rural and urban physical and social environments, structures and services accessible to, and inclusive of, older women with varying capacities, especially women with disabilities.

j. Recognise and support intergenerational mentorship and solidarity through specific activities including in care work.

k. Ensure that every girls enjoys full human rights, including mutual respect and equal partnership between girls and boys and among women and girls of all ages.

l. Allocate robust financial, political, diplomatic and legislative resources and efforts to prevent trafficking of girls and women, recognizing the lifelong impacts of displacement, lack of legal protection, and associated trauma.

9. Education, Science, Technology and Innovation : Transformation for All (Education and Training of

a. Fulfill every woman and girl’s right to safe, quality free education including primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and non-formal education.

b. Ensure that every girl has access to age-appropriate evidence-based comprehensive sexuality and HIV education.

c. Promote the importance of girls’ education, providing incentives to encourage communities in vulnerable situations to send their daughters to school, and eliminate the discrimination that children from minority ethnic and social groups face at school.

d. Ensure leadership development, social and life skills for girls; enhance confidence, integrity, and critical thinking skills.

e. Include human rights education in school curricula at all levels to promote of culture of peace, inclusion, respect for diversity and women’s rights.

f. Bridge the gendered digital divide through increase the use of technology, for access to quality education, especially in conflict and insecure situations.

g. Resource community-based safe spaces for inclusive, continuing and lifelong education.

h. Actively promote initiatives to improve girls’ awareness about and involvement in STEM and encourage private companies in the ICT field to offer gender-balanced internship opportunities.

i. Support and encourage educational programmes to increase the digital and scientific literacy of women and girls. Even in the face of a global youth unemployment crisis, jobs requiring STEM skills, and more specifically, jobs in the ICT sector, are going unfilled because employers claim they cannot find candidates with the right set of skills. 

j. Ensure the natural use of ICTs in schools and include STEM subjects in school curricula.

k. Encourage the private sector to collect, analyze and share data on gender perspectives in STI to document the gaps in access for women and girls and develop strategies to address these gaps, including practical support to young female scientists.

l. Use STEM to build a new platform for cooperation and networking among all actors to facilitate advancement of women.


10. Media and Communications : Breaking Stereotypes (Women and the Media)

a. Develop effective legislation and gender-responsive policy that prohibits sex/gender discrimination in all forms of media and communications, and establish regulatory mechanisms to monitor gender discrimination and stereotyping.

b. Ensure media regulation to stop the proliferation of negative and violent images, videos and stereotypes that degrade, undermine the dignity of women, and violate their rights and privacy.

c. Develop and regularize training on women’s rights and gender stereotypes for all media professionals.

d. Support, develop and finance alternative media, created and owned by women, that portrays women as leaders and positive role models working for development and peace.

e. Ensure protection for women journalists and human rights defenders, especially in politically sensitive environments including conflict situations.

f. Harness the potential of social media to advance women’s human rights and empowerment while ensuring adequate protection, privacy and safety of women.

b. Ensure women’s equal participation at all levels of e Ms Simone Ovart –