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The NGO Beijing Declaration

A coalition of women NGOs, unhappy at the watered down position of the official documents, issued their own NGO Beijing Declaration on 15 September 1995, the final day of the UN Women's Conference. The alternative declaration challenges governments to radically transform social, economic and political structures that oppress women and girls worldwide. The text of the NGO Beijing Declaration is produced below.


A DECADE after the Nairobi Conference, the Forward Looking Strategies have not been fully implemented by any government. We live in a world marked by growing poverty, inequality, injustice, unemployment, environmentally destructive economic growth, war, sexism, racism, xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and violence against women. Moreover, the intersection of gender, race and poverty create multiple burdens of discrimination for many women of colour.

We, NGO women of the world, rich in our diversity, have gathered along with governments in the largest global conference ever to address women's issues and the existing barriers to our achieving equality, development and peace. We believe that these goals can be realised by ending the oppression of women and girls, by women's full participation in national and international decision-making, and transforming the social, economic and political structures which underlie and perpetuate poverty, racism, inequality, injustice, unemployment, violence and war.

On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations, despite the many obligations undertaken by its member states, women's human rights are not yet respected, protected and promoted as inalienable, indivisible and universal.

Resources are being persistently squandered on the military with no gain in peace and common security. The dominant development model and global market economy generate great material wealth for a few, while impoverishing many; create homelessness and environmental racism and degradation; encourage overconsump-tion and arms proliferation; deplete our natural resources; pollute our air, water and soil; and contribute to violations of women's civil, economic, cultural and political rights. The current growth model fails to meet the fundamental material and spiritual needs of the peoples of the world.

'Market economies'

Women are major contributors to every economy but much of our labour is unrecognised and undervalued. We do two-thirds of the world's work, yet earn only 5% of its income, our labour serving as an invisible subsidy to the world's wealth.

The globalisation of the world's so-called 'market economies' is a root cause of the increasing feminisation of poverty everywhere. This violates human rights and dignity, the integrity of our eco-systems and the environment, and poses serious threats to our health. The global economy, governed by international financial institutions, the World Trade Organisation and transnational corporations, imposes Structural Adjustment Programmes on countries in the South and economic restructuring in countries in the North in the name of fiscal health. The result is increasing poverty, debt and unemployment. The resulting reductions in social programmes and services in the areas of health, education and housing harm the very people they purport to assist. The media, controlled by transnational corporations acts as an instrument of social control, denying women's rights to free communication.

Supported by the wisdom of our elders, inspired by indigenous peoples, energised by youth, and sustained by our sisterhood, we call for an end to these conditions and refuse to accept them as inevitable for the future of humanity. WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS.

WE CALL ON ALL GOVERNMENTS:

  • To recognise and ensure women's equal rights to a decent standard of living, health, clean water and air, adequate food, clothing, and sanitation, safe and accessible housing, adequate social security and social insurance, education and legal aid as agreed in the International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

  • To take prompt action on the cancellation of multilateral debt; to enforce the accountability of international financial institutions and to ensure that all trade agreements are subject to human rights legislation, internationally, recognised labour standards and environmental protection. Economic rights are human rights.

  • To end the transboundary movement, dumping and stockpiling of hazardous, toxic and radioactive wastes.

  • To promote and use science and technology for peaceful purposes and people-centred, sustainable and ecologically sound development.

  • To encourage, not hinder, the free expression, full participation and full access for women with disabilities in non-governmental and governmental organisations locally, nationally and internationally. To recognise and implement initiatives taken by poor and grassroots women, including them as full participants in the planning and distribution of resources.

  • Not to misinterpret or impose religious beliefs or traditional practices on women in ways that deny their inalienable human rights. We also call for an end to all laws and customary practices which deny girls and women their equal rights, and deny their equal access to succession and inheritance.

  • To amend their intellectual property laws so as to make indigenous women the primary beneficiaries of the commercial use of their knowledge.

  • To reject militarism in all its forms and create a culture of peace and human rights. They must redirect the $800 billion annual global military spending to peaceful purposes and convert military production to socially useful purposes.

Governments must abolish weapons of mass destruction by banning testing, sales and stockpiling of nuclear, chemical, biological, and all other weapons. The production, trade and use of all landmines must be banned. We demand that our governments work together to solve conflicts without using violence, and that they fully include women in peacemaking and conflict resolution initiatives.

  • To implement their commitments to measure and value women's unwaged work and to include it in the accounting of each nation's Gross National Product.

  • Dominant development models have been based upon the appropriation of resources from the South by the North and the transfer of ideas, technologies and methodologies from the North to the South.

We must build upon alternative models that currently exist in both South and North, which are based on equality, mutual respect, true participation and accountability to all women. These models must be economically and socially equitable and environmentally sound.

All development projects must take into account their effects on women, including the additional workload imposed on women by unsustainable and inappropriate technology.

  • NGO women of the world call upon all peoples and all governments to radically reconsider and transform concepts, assumptions and structures governing social and economic life, and to take action on our recommendations. This process will require the full and equal participation of women of all races, ethnic backgrounds, religions, classes, languages, girls, young women, older women, indigenous women, grassroots women, rural women, urban women with disabilities, immigrant women, migrant women, refugee women, internally and other displaced women, women of different sexual orientation, and all other marginalised women.

WE CALL FOR:

  • Access for women to political structures at all levels, and equal political empowerment at all decision-making levels. Accountable, transparent and participatory national and international institutions must become. Women must have free access to diversified and pluralistic information sources and media which are culturally and liguistically appropriate for receiving and communicating information. Governments must support NGOs and ensure their full participation in planning and implementing all programmes and policies.

  • Recognition, protection, compensation, financial and other assistance and full legal status for the millions of women and children, and the victims of nuclear and other environmental catastrophes, many of them widows or orphans who have been forced to become immigrants, migrants, refugees, internally and other displaced persons or forced into sexual slavery as a result of war, foreign occupation and political and socio-economic injustices. Every effort should be made to protect civilian populations from the adverse effects of economic sanctions, which impair their economic human rights.

  • Universally accessible, high quality, non-discriminatory health care, which uses the great diversity of possibilities available in health systems world-wide rather than the present overdependence on medicine that overmedicates and pathologises women's bodies. We require all governments to sponsor and support woman-controlled research for the prevention and cure of HIV/AIDS, to prohibit any form of discrimination of women with HIV/AIDS, and to ensure women's access to information, care, support and treatment of HIV/AIDS.

  • Development and sustained use of affirmative action by both the private and public sectors of society to ensure the equality of women.

  • All the media to change the present negative, exploitative and sexualised images of women and children to positive ones respecting us in all our dignity and diversity.

  • A reshaping of education for all children, beginning at the primary levels, to sensitise them about human rights, gender issues, and non-violent conflict resolution, stressing the need for world peace.

  • Full implementation of the UN Decade for Human Rights Education and the prevention of human rights violations against women.

  • New and additional financial, technical and other resources to successfully implement the plans and commitments from the Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, Vienna, Cairo, Copenhagen and Beijing Conferences, and that member states fulfil their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

WE DEMAND AN END TO RAPE, AND TO ALL FORMS OF VIOLENCE, SEXUAL EXPLOITATION AND HARASSMENT OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN. WE FURTHER DEMAND AN END TO THE TRAFFICKING OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN AS WELL AS SEX TOURISM.

We seek these transformations in the spirit of service to humanity, partners with youth as agents of change, keeping our children, grandchildren and future generations in our hearts. We are convinced that as women achieve full and equal participation in all the affairs of the planet, peace will be realised, and the well-being of every individual secured. WE REAFFIRM THAT WOMEN'S RIGHTS ARE HUMAN RIGHTS. (Third World Resurgence No. 61/62, Sept/Oct 1995)

 


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