On the 8th of March 2012 participants at the Commission on the Status of Women session in New York were taken by surprise by the UN Secretary General’s announcement that a fifth World Conference on Women should be held in 2015. No prior consultations were held on this. It is currently up to individual governments to respond whether they wish to go ahead or not. (Read earlier blogposts on the CSW by WO=MEN on womeninnewyork.blogpost.com in Dutch and English.)
Participants at the AWID Forum deliberated about the pro's and con's of such an event.
The majority expressed serious concerns about a conference process that will inevitably require an outcome document in the current context with no agreed conclusions at the 2012 CSW and persistent backtracking on language and documents agreed upon in the past.
If a conference was to be held, the emphasis should be on the need to implement the Beijing Platform for Action and adequate resourcing of this agenda. A comparison was made with the Cairo + 20 process, that focuses on an implementation document and has already agreed that the Cairo Agenda remains valid beyond 2014.
Another concern relates to the issue of resources, in a resource scarce context, that a process of national, regional and continental consultations along the lines of the preparations for Beijing in 1995 would require. It is unlikely that the generous funding that was provided at the time of the Beijing Conference can be raised again, taking the example of UN Women that at present has not yet been able to secure the level of funding aspired when it finally got established.
By and large it was felt that the way the UN tends to organize these processes is an outdated, costly model and not appealing to younger generations of women across the globe.
Participants however did question whether there is a way to turn the process of a fifth World Conference on Women around into an energizing and demand setting process at levels where change and progress towards equality is most urgent and relevant. This will require strategic and creative thinking on modes and models, including possible roles for a 2015 AWID Forum, a 2015 Latin American Feminist Encuentro and other feminist/women’s gatherings elsewhere.
The year 2015 will also mark the likely establishment of a new development framework as the successor to the Millennium Development Goals. Inclusion of the agenda of women’s rights and gender justice has far from been secured into the process for this new framework. At the AWID Forum the younger generations did not turn up for the caucus sessions on 2015, a sign in itself?