Beijing conference compromise
By Kath Gelber
As the Fourth World Conference on Women, due to be held in Beijing in September draws closer, a compromise has been reached on the controversial issue of a site for the NGO forum.
Initially to have been held at a venue close to the UN delegated conference, the NGO conference was moved to a new venue one hour outside Beijing, in March. This decision has not changed, but a smaller satellite site inside Beijing will now be made available to accredited NGOs to enable them to lobby the UN delegates on the Platform for Action which is to be adopted.
The NGO forum has planned 5000 activities, including workshops, cultural sharing and displays. Tents will be available for women to gather by region and special areas of concern including young women, lesbians and women with disabilities.
Five thousand Chinese women have been selected by the All-China Women's Federation to attend the NGO forum. These women are working on issues such as domestic violence in urban and rural areas, employment problems in special economic zones, working conditions for migrant workers and female infanticide. Some 36,000 international delegates have been approved by the New York-based NGO Forum Secretariat.
The China Organising Committee has stated that materials addressing women's issues may be brought into China but, if illegal under Chinese law, will not be permitted outside conference sites.
Australian delegates have proposed that the conference be a "Conference of Commitments" at which participating countries make commitments to action rather than only considering actions after the conference. The proposal has been opposed by the European Union, which argued that if countries highlight priorities for action, implementation of the whole Platform for Action will be undermined. Others, including eastern European countries, South Pacific nations, China and many developing countries, have supported the proposal.
The draft Platform for Action has to be adopted by consensus of the participating governments. Approximately 40% of the draft remains contested, primarily in the areas of health, human rights and armed conflict.