GENDER ON THE AGENDA:
A GUIDE TO PARTICIPATING IN BEIJING +5
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Section Five
Global Diplomacy: What You Need to Know

In order to participate effectively in the process of global diplomacy, it is critical to have all the background information about the process. Crucial background information includes: key documents that establish the context for the Special Session, as well as the documents being drafted; an understanding of the process, including the outcomes of national and regional meetings as well as previous PrepCom sessions; and a grasp of the negotiating process and the procedures by which consensus is reached. Most of the documents listed below can be found on official websites (see Annexes).

Key Documents in the Beijing +5 Review Process

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA)
This blueprint for gender equality is the key document being reviewed at the Special Session and was the main outcome of the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) held in Beijing in 1995.

The Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women (NFLS)
The NFLS was the main outcome of the Third World Conference on Women, held in Nairobi, Kenya in 1985. It contained far-reaching recommendations for the advancement of women and formed the basis upon which the PFA rests.

National Plans of Action
One of the main recommendations from the FWCW was that each country should prepare a National Plan of Action for the Advancement of Women. As of early October 1999, 115 Member States and two Observer States had submitted these plans of action to the UN Secretariat.

Government responses to questionnaires
All Member States have been asked to submit responses to a
questionnaire prepared and distributed worldwide by the Division for the Advancement of Women about implementation of the PFA. The questionnaire is often sent to or completed by the Member State's national machinery for the advancement of women. As of December 1999, 131 Member States and two Observer States had responded to the questionnaire.

Regional Reports
Each regional meeting prepares a report outlining regional priorities, concerns and recommendations.

Relevant GA resolutions
There are a number of GA resolutions which contain the mandates for and background to the Special Session which might be helpful to consult. These include:
Resolution 52/100, Resolution 52/231, and Resolution 53/120.

CSW reports/resolutions
The CSW has reviewed each of the PFA's critical areas of concern over the past four years. Review relevant agreed conclusions, recommendations and resolutions, contained in their reports available on the WomenWatch website.

Government speeches
Member States make presentations at each meeting of the CSW or when the GA is discussing gender equality. These statements provide important information about each Member State's main priorities, concerns and values, as well as how they present the work on gender equality in their country. Recent statements are available from the UN Missions of Member States (see <http://www.un.org/members>).

The UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW)
CEDAW is an international treaty, sometimes called the 'Women's Bill of Rights.' It sets out the actions governments should take to ensure equality between women and men and women's freedom from discrimination. Member States that have ratified CEDAW ('States parties') report regularly to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (also referred to as CEDAW).
These reports are available on the UN-DAW website, along with the concluding observations of the Committee to the reports. In 1999, the GA adopted an Optional Protocol to CEDAW. This Optional Protocol allows individuals and groups of individuals to submit complaints to the Committee about violations to their human rights as set out in the Convention, and for the Committee itself to undertake inquiries about reports of systemic violations of the Convention. It is hoped that this Optional Protocol will enter into force by the time of Beijing +5 in June 2000.

ECOSOC outcomes on gender mainstreaming
The Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) has put gender mainstreaming on its agenda for each of its sessions since the FWCW.

World Survey on the Role of Women in Development
The DAW is asked to prepare the World Survey every five years. The current World Survey is now available through UN Publications.

Reaching Consensus: Negotiating the Documents

The documents that will represent the outcome of the Special Session are still under negotiation as of January 2000. Giving form and detail to the outcome documents is a process of negotiation and decision-making within and among Member States. These decisions are made in a variety of sessions including general debates, plenaries, panels, and closed working and informal groups. Often, these entail protracted negotiations and compromises in order to reach decisions and resolutions that will be contained in a report to be adopted at the conclusion of the meeting. The aim of the negotiations is to develop a text that all Member States will adopt by consensus.

Finding a way to influence what is included in these documents is a particular challenge. The following is a rough description of the different phases of a typical negotiating process that applies to PrepComs, Special Sessions, and other UN inter-governmental meetings:

  • Delegates to the meeting select a chairperson, vice chairpersons, and rapporteur, and formally adopt the agenda. The plenary session often begins with a general debate, which contains statements from governments and UN agencies. Government statements articulate their national position and priorities and serve to place official policy on the record. NGOs also have some limited opportunities to make statements.
  • Sometimes a group or coalition of governments makes a joint statement. Draft texts are prepared and sponsored by governments or groupings of governments.
  • The draft text becomes the focus of discussion and reaction, usually in 'informal' sessions (a session closed to the press--and often to NGOs--and for which there is no official record).
  • Working groups of Member States are formed to undertake negotiations that include specific amendments proposed by government delegates. If all the negotiators do not agree to the amendments, the text is placed in brackets, meaning that further discussion is required.
  • Once negotiations have taken place and consensus has been reached among Member States, the brackets are removed and the text can no longer be changed. Future work is concentrated on the bracketed text upon which consensus has not yet been reached.
  • On particularly controversial issues, the chairperson might ask a smaller number of governments that disagree on particular language to caucus, settle their differences, and come back to the meeting with agreed-upon language. At various stages during this process, different techniques and types of papers are used to facilitate negotiations among governments. These include the chairperson's summaries, 'non-papers' (unofficial drafts), conference-room papers and other papers.
  • As the pace of negotiations picks up, new draft paragraphs can be issued on an almost hourly basis. They are identified by date/time only, and are generally available only in English. While negotiations take place in the meeting, delegates frequently and regularly consult with their relevant national ministry in their country's capital city. The ministry will send instructions on how to respond--whether to adjust the policy and write the changes into its plans, whether to accept proposed formulations or offer alternative suggestions--and when and how much to compromise.
  • Generally, as the meeting nears conclusion, the group meetings of delegates become smaller. Chairpersons or convenors of negotiating groups may hold informal discussions in small conference rooms, their offices, in the corridor, or "over coffee." Such meetings are not listed in the UN Journal, which announces daily meetings.
  • Text will be issued with all the newly agreed-upon language incorporated into the text, including any remaining brackets. Negotiations will continue until consensus is reached or a vote is taken on the resolution or decision. In the final stages of a meeting, negotiations frequently continue late into the night. A text is rarely "defeated" by vote, as the sponsors will usually withdraw the text if they are not sure of a majority. Only in the rarest of cases, if ever, will a major program of action be put to a vote. Consensus is the rule.
  • Finally, the text will be adopted.

Government Negotiating Groups

Some government negotiating groups are well established in the UN system, such as the Group of 77 (G-77). Others, such as the European Union, are formal institutions both within and outside the UN system. A number of Member States tend to operate independently of negotiating blocks or in association with them. Below are some of the most common negotiating groups. These are continually evolving.

  • G-77: Caucus of 133 developing countries
  • European Union (EU): Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
  • Caribbean Community (CARICOM): Antigua & Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Saint Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent & the Grenadines, Trinidad & Tobago
  • JUS-CANZ: Japan, United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand

Negotiations within any particular UN meeting may reflect not only the concerns of governments regarding that specific issue, but also echo the wider geopolitical context within which any issue or set of issues is framed.

Gender issues are not developed and negotiated in isolation from national and international political contexts. A recent illustration concerns the negotiations in the United States Congress about paying the U.S. dues to the United Nations. The negotiations centered on domestic political differences regarding reproductive health. The enabling U.S. legislation contained a requirement from some conservative members of Congress that monies authorized not be used to support overseas reproductive health programs. A deal could only be struck at the expense of U.S. financial support to these programs.


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