Back to Women in politics Parliamentary follow-up to the Beijing Conference
Gender partnership: What the IPU is doing

Beijing ConferenceThe Inter-Parliamentary Union considers that the commitments made at the Fourth World Conference on Women (Beijing, September 1995) are commitments of the State. One of the branches of the State, the Parliament, is an indispensable actor in obtaining the enabling legislation as well as the funds needed to carry out the programmes envisaged by national administrations to give effect to international agreements. Accordingly, the IPU participated in the preparatory process of the Beijing Conference, contributed to it through various initiatives and is actively engaged in the follow-up to the Conference.


Besides taking stands on themes covered by recommendations in the Beijing Platform for Action, the IPU is henceforth more attentive to the need to take account of the "women factor" in all its resolutions. The women MPs, who have succeeded in imposing that any drafting committee set up within IPU is gender balanced (Rule 15 of the Rules of the Study Committees), have agreed to take explicit action in this respect.

For its part, the Meeting of Women MPs has since October 1995 initiated the practice of holding a general debate every six months on national action to follow up the Beijing Platform for Action and a specific debate each time on one of the twelve critical areas featured in that text. This debate gives rise to an exchange of views and experiences on various legislative activities, parliamentary initiatives and measures to inform and educate the population at large.


The IPU understands women's rights to be inseparable from human rights as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other international juridical instruments on this subject. It is in that spirit that, meeting in Beijing in September 1996, the 96th Inter-Parliamentary Conference adopted a resolution on "Promoting greater respect and protection of human rights in general and in particular for women and children". The resolution makes many extensive references to the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action which assert that principle.


At their Meeting in Beijing in September 1996, women MPs considered the following subject: Poverty and extreme poverty - Women as victims of this phenomenon and as key actors in its eradication. That debate was held to mark 1996 which had been declared the International Year for the Eradication of Poverty by the UN General Assembly and the start of the 1996-2007 decade on the same theme.

When studying priority measures to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the World Summit for Social Development, the Inter-Parliamentary Council expressed concern at the growing feminization of poverty. In order to check this trend, it has advocated policies to open up economic activity to women by setting quantifiable objectives and by giving them access to productive resources.


The IPU is giving priority attention to following up the part of the Beijing Platform for Action concerning women's participation in politics and the decision-making process. This action is carried out in parallel with the follow-up to the Plan of Action to correct present imbalances in the participation of men and women in political life and corresponds to the commitments made in the Beijing Parliamentary Declaration by those MPs who took part in the Beijing Conference. The main features of this action are the 1996-1997 surveys and studies and the specialized IPU Conference on the theme "Towards partnership between men and women in politics", following which the IPU initiated an in-depth debate and research on women's specific contribution to the democratic process.


Following on earlier work in this field by the IPU, women MPs in Istanbul in April 1996 debated the question of Organized violence against women. A letter was sent in May 1996 to all national Parliaments to draw their attention to the Framework for Model Legislation on Domestic Violence drafted by Mrs. Radhika Coomaraswamy, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, its Causes and Consequences.


In June 1996 and later in September of the same year, the IPU encouraged Governments to set up mechanisms guaranteeing women's access to training programmes and to encourage the public and private sectors to ensure that they receive life-long training.

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Meeting in Bucharest in October 1995, the women MPs discussed Media impact on the status of women. Later, in February 1997, a round table with the media focused on The image of women politicians in the media on the occasion of the New Delhi specialized Conference.


In April 1997, in Seoul, women MPs discussed the question of Education as a means to prevent the sexual exploitation of children.


At the IInd Inter-Parliamentary Conference on Security and Co-operation in the Mediterranean held in Valletta (Malta) in November 1995, the IPU reaffirmed the principle of the equality of men and women and called on Mediterranean States to take the necessary measures to give effect to the results of the Beijing Conference and the three preparatory conferences for the region, held in Vienna, Amman and Dakar. It also reaffirmed its belief that it is possible, without destabilizing cultures or imposing values foreign to the national culture, to develop or rehabilitate women's dignity at the social level and allow the emergence of a more balanced image of the capacity of men and women to participate in the management of both public and private affairs.

A first Meeting of Mediterranean Women Parliamentarians was held in conjunction with the IIIrd CSCM, which took place in Marseilles in April 2000. The event enabled women to make their views heard on issues relating to the process of peace and security in the area. The Final Document adopted by the Conference reaffirms the need for effective follow-up of the Beijing Declaration and Plan of Action, more particularly as far as violence against women is concerned. It further urges Parliaments to ratify the CEDAW and its Additional Protocol. The Conference also underscored how important it was for equality of opportunity to become an indicator of democracy by itself, calling on Parliaments to facilitate women’s participation in all levels of society – political, economic and social.


In April 1996, the IPU amended its own Statutes and Rules to eliminate terminology which could imply the superiority of one sex over the other. Conceived as a pedagogical exercise designed to change mentalities, this revision was specifically foreseen in the IPU's Plan of Action.

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