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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
The UN Convention on the
Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
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
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
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.
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
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.