Forum Information – Concept Note

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Background & Purpose

There are dates which mark history – the 4th World Conference on Women (4WCW), convened in Beijing in 1995, is one of them. On this historical occasion, UN Member States adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA), and through this milestone text for the advancement of women in the twenty-first century, committed to a decisive agenda for advancing women’s rights and empowerment.

Subsequently, reviews and appraisal of progress made by Member States in the implementation of these commitments have been conducted every 5 years, each time identifying setbacks and new challenges, while providing recommendations on the way forward. In 2013, Member States adopted a resolution calling for a 20-year review of the BPfA to take place in 2015 during the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women, under the leadership of UN Women. As part of the process, the five UN Regional Commissions are to conduct regional reviews in 2014 to feed into the global review.

In collaboration with the UN ECE*, the non-governmental organizations (NGO) representatives to the United Nations, based in Geneva and assembled under the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva (NGO CSW Geneva), will contribute to this important review process by organizing an NGO FORUM that will bring together the voices of civil society representatives from the 56 countries of the diverse ECE region, and provide critical input to the ECE review.

The NGO Forum will take place on 3-5 November 2014, prior to the UN ECE regional review meeting of 6-7 November, at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Objectives

1 – To contribute to the Beijing+20 review process, both at the ECE regional level and globally, by providing vital perspectives, information and recommendations from a large base of NGOs and women’s rights advocates who are active in Europe, North America and Central Asia. To this effect, the NGO Forum will examine selected issues from the 12 critical areas of concern** of the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action to

  • review progress made, remaining gaps and existing challenges
  • seek government accountability for their commitments and obligations to women’s human rights and gender equality

2 – To identify emerging women’s issues brought on by globalization, the fast development of the Internet and other new technologies, climate change and all of its consequences, migration and demographic changes, rising trafficking and violence against women, and more generally, the multiple crises affecting our increasingly interconnected world. 

3 – To provide input for the current discussions on the Post-2015 Agenda, on how a stand-alone goal on gender equality could be crafted and how women’s issues could be best streamlined in all of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which are expected to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015.

Additionally, the NGO Forum aims to create a space for open dialogue among NGOs, civil society and other stakeholders from the 56 ECE member countries on the realities impacting women in this diverse region. The Forum will facilitate a candid exchange of views and information, the open voicing of concerns, establishment of common positions, sharing of best practices, and more.

Expected Outcome

The NGO Forum’s expected outcome is a comprehensive report with a set of action-oriented recommendations that

  • will be presented through oral interventions at the governmental Beijing+20 UN ECE Regional Review meeting, taking place immediately after the NGO Forum, and
  • will be included in the final ECE report.

The report will outline the issues, discussions and conclusions of the Forum; recommendations will focus on shortcomings of the implementation of the BPfA, current challenges and emerging issues facing women in the ECE region, as well as government accountability for commitments made to women’s rights, equality and empowerment initiatives.

Program & Participants

The NGO Forum will convene over three days, from 3 – 5 November 2014 (Mon. – Wed.) at the Palais des Nations, Geneva.

  • Day 1 afternoon: Opening ceremony and plenary review of major achievements and challenges for gender equality in the ECE region
  • Day 2 all day: Interactive roundtables on selected substantive issues among the BPfA 12 critical areas of concern and identified emerging issues, with a sub-regional perspective
  • Day 3 morning: Continued interactive roundtables with conclusions and recommendations, and a closing ceremony.

An advocacy / lobby training for participants attending the official ECE review meeting is planned in the afternoon.

The envisioned Forum format will include the presentation of issues via relevant short films or videos, followed by panel discussions and interaction from the floor, leading to conclusions and recommendations.

Participants will include national & international women’s rights advocates, women’s groups and networks, UN agencies, academic institutions, media and private sector actors from the 56 countries of the UN ECE region and other countries. Geographical coverage and thematic expertise will be ensured.

Organizing Committee & Partners

Established at the dawn of the first United Nations World Conference on Women of 1975, the NGO Committee on the Status of Women, Geneva brings together UN representatives of more than 40 international NGOs in consultative relationship with the United Nations, working together to advocate for women’s rights, women’s empowerment and gender equality. Several of its current members attended the Beijing World Conference on Women 20 years ago.

The NGO CSW Geneva has a long history working on women’s rights: it was an active participant in all 4 UN World Conferences on Women, and a key contributor to the 1995 Beijing Conference and its landmark outcome document, the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. The NGO CSW Geneva has also subsequently organized, in close collaboration with the UN ECE, NGO Forums for the UN ECE regional reviews of Beijing+5, Beijing+10 and Beijing+15.

Under the leadership of its Bureau, the NGO CSW Geneva has set up a “Beijing+20 Task Force” with 4 sub-committees on substantive issues, logistics, communications, outreach & PR, as well as finance & sponsoring. The Task Force, working in close collaboration with the UN ECE in the planning of the NGO Forum, will invite UN Women to play a key role, and welcomes the participation of its sister NGO CSW in New York and Vienna, as well as other regional NGOs and women’s networks.

Budget & Sponsors

A budget has been estimated that covers the costs of the venue, secretariat, program, speakers, publicity, communications, interpretation, translations, media work, sponsorship of selected participants, publication of the outcome document and other reports.

The NGO CSW Geneva will invite sponsors and select partners from UN entities, governments, Women’s Empowerment Principles (WEPs) signatories, ‘gender certified’ corporations, and other institutions to take part in this milestone event.

Geneva International

“It is here in Geneva that the International community comes together to seek concrete solutions to the major problems of the world today.”  Betty E. King, former Ambassador and US Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva

The NGO Forum will take place in Geneva, a city that has a long history of hosting international organizations, including approximately 80 UN entities and specialized agencies, 173 permanent country missions, more than 300 international NGOs, foundations, academic and research institutions, plus many private sector actors and generous citizens of good will. Geneva has become a hub of global players, fostering international dialogue and collaboration, and is emerging as a key center for the promotionof human rights, development and peace, the establishment of international norms and resolution of global issues. Geneva is at the heart of global governance.

The Geneva NGO Forum will both build on this long tradition of international cooperation, and aim at bringing women’s rights, a key element for peace and development, into the Geneva International agenda.


* UN ECE – The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe, is comprised of 56 countries: Albania, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, The former Yugoslav
Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Uzbekistan (www.unece.org)

** 1) Women and Poverty; 2) Education and Training of Women; 3) Women and Health; 4) Violence against Women; 5) Women and Armed Conflict; 6) Women and the Economy; 7) Women in Power and Decision-making; 8)Institutional Mechanisms for the Advancement of Women; 9) Human Rights of Women; 10) Women and the Media; 11) Women and the Environment; 12) The Girl-child.