From young gender equality advocates to high-ranking government officials, key stakeholders from North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia called for the urgent realization of women’s and girl’s human rights and for turning the commitments to gender equality into reality.
In the lead up to the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (Beijing+25), the most visionary agenda for gender equality and women’s rights, more than 850 participants, including high-level government officials, and representatives of the civil society and international organisations from North America, Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia, gathered in Geneva on 29-30 October to take stock of progress on Beijing commitments.
Despite progress, many of the challenges addressed in Beijing remain a reality in the 56 countries members of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE). “2020 is an important year in terms of gender equality and women's rights. It's not enough to have hope, we need decisive actions. We need to change mindsets and backward traditions,” stressed Altynai Omurbekova, Deputy Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, co-chair of the meeting.
The Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting, jointly hosted by UNECE and UN Women, reviewed progress and persisting challenges, showcasing practical policy approaches that can help remove the structural barriers that hold women back from equal participation in all areas of life. “Women`s rights are a development issue. If we don’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 5 on gender equality, no other Sustainable Development Goal will be achieved by 2030. Change is in our hands,” emphasized Pascale Baeriswyl, State Secretary of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, co-chair of the meeting.
Participants stressed the need for faster and stronger progress for women and girls and urgent realization of the commitments to uphold their human rights. Over the last five years, countries in the region have put a particular focus on three main areas: combating violence against women, women's economic empowerment and political participation. “For the first time, the strategic objectives of the Beijing Platform for Action can be linked to a time-bound framework – that of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Let’s work together to turn the goal of gender equality into a reality by 2030,” stated UNECE Executive Secretary Olga Algayerova.
Beijing+25 and the global drive to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals provide us a unique opportunity to accelerate efforts, strengthen our partnerships and mobilize all of society, including all generations, to fulfill the longstanding commitments to women and girls,” said Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. In 2020, UN Women will convene The Generation Equality Forum, a global gathering for gender equality, which will be co-chaired by France and Mexico, with the leadership and partnership of civil society. The Forum will kick-off in Mexico City, Mexico, on 7-8 May 2020 and culminate in Paris, France, on 7-10 July 2020. “We can, together, build the first generation of equality – this is the battle that France is fighting under the auspices of its feminist diplomacy. Let’s make gender equality a global cause!,” stressed Marlène Schiappa, Minister of State for Gender Equality and the Fight against Discrimination of France, at the opening of UN Women’s side event about the Generation Equality Forum.
Key conclusions of the Beijing+25 Regional Review Meeting
Participants identified the below key conclusions after two days of intense discussions:
- Despite legislative advances, implementation of the Conventions across the region, including the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, also known as the Istanbul Convention, remains weak, and States are not guaranteeing their due diligence obligations. The emerging challenge of online forms of violence like cyber-stalking, trolling, and the distribution of intimate images continues to require adequate policy responses.
- Significant efforts were made to support women's inclusion into the workforce but gaps in policies and their effective implementation continue to impede progress. Women continue to experience lower employment rates and lower pay compared to men.
- Progress in women's political participation across the region remains uneven, and particularly low at the local level.
- Structural inequalities persist; policy responses need to be equally persistent and far-reaching. Gender equality policies are an investment for a better future.
- The lack of financing for gender equality and women’s empowerment is one of the greatest barriers to achieving gender equality. In several countries, gender equality machineries remain weak and underfunded.
- There is a need to adopt comprehensive and equitable policies to prevent gender discrimination and to dismantle barriers to education and lifelong learning. More action is needed to tackle gender stereotypes that perpetuate segregation in both education and employment in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) fields.
- Insufficient gender disaggregated data collection constitutes a significant barrier to evidence-based policy-making.
- The need to ensure gender equality that is inclusive of all women was underscored in order to address multiple and intersecting forms of violence and discrimination and to leave no one behind.
- Changing social norms and unequal expectations remains critical. And for that, men need also to be involved.
- Environmental protection and climate change constitute the areas with the least advances across the region. Only a few countries within the EU have begun to adopt meaningful laws and policies in these fields and mainstreaming a gender perspective into these fields has yet to occur.
“We are calling on you to put considerable time, effort, and funding on the implementation of the commitments that you have made as states. Let’s walk the talk,” said İlayda Eskitaşçıoğlu, a young women’s rights advocate, channeling the key messages of the civil society forum that took place on 28 October. The assessment of the regional review will feed into the global Beijing+25 review in 2020 which will take place at the 64th session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March. In September 2020, the General Assembly is expected to convene a one-day high-level meeting to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary and accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls.