Beijing Express Declaration
2010 is the 15th Anniversary of the Beijing Express Declaration, created en-route to the UN 4th Global Conference on Women, in Beijing in 1995. Its 11 clauses (see below) are as highly relevant now as in 1995.
In 1995 a multinational group of 200 women from the 29 former Soviet Union and satellite nations travelled 8000 kilometres aboard a half-kilometre-long train from Warsaw via Mongolia to Beijing for the UN 4th Global Conference On Women. The train was sponsored by the UNDP and became known as ‘The Beijing Express’. On board the Conference train, a 12-member Working Group was created from the 200 delegates and chaired by the UK delegate, gender/post-conflict specialist Lesley Abdela. Lesley Abdela was sponsored by the British Council and UK FCO to conduct Democracy skills workshops aboard the Beijing Express. Trainers and experts from many nations, including the UK, USA, Canada, Israel, Japan and Turkey presented workshops on Human Rights, negotiating skills, conflict mediation and conflict resolution, how to change world trade agreements and create economic policies to suit the world’s women - even courses in English, computer skills and networking through e-mail.
Approaching Beijing, the Delegates affirmed the following Declaration developed by the Working Group.
- The New "-ism": neither Communism nor Capitalism has worked well for the majority of women in the world. We believe the new ‘ism’ will come from a new approach to world economics. Many economic policies have been disastrous for women. It is often women who bear the brunt of economic restructuring policies made by organisations who too often overlook the way their polices could impact on millions of women. Under both Communism and Capitalism the quality of people’s lives is all too often sacrificed for the goal of wealth creation. Human development should not be sacrificed in the name of economic growth but rather economic growth should be used as a tool to help people achieve a healthy and creative life.
- White Scarves, Not Blue Helmets:This heading is symbolic - in certain Islamic countries, when a woman throws down her white scarf no person must pass. This has been used on occasion to stop men fighting. The present system of peace-making and negotiations dominated by senior men at governmental levels has patently failed and is now discredited. We want women’s full participation in conflict prevention, resolution and peace-keeping. Therefore we want women’s organisations and Non-Governmental Organisations from all sides in all future peace talks and working with governments on developing and expanding ‘Preventive Diplomacy’.
- 'Hot Spot' Commission:We want the United Nations’ mandate to be expanded to include preventive diplomacy. As part of this we want a ‘Hot Spot’ Commission set up to try to prevent conflict where trouble is brewing. This Commission, consisting of women and men, would be set up to intervene in conflict prevention, resolution and settlement.
- Economic and Political Sanctions: We want economic and political sanctions imposed on parties violating Human Rights - but humanitarian aid should be allowed.
- Rape as a War Crime: We want men who commit rape as a war crime to be brought to justice and prosecuted as war criminals. We believe this will only happen if women are included equally with men on committees responsible for bringing these men to trial.
- Property Rights As Human Rights: We want property rights recognised as Human Rights, and improved mechanisms for getting back property snatched away in conflicts.
- Women's Equal Participation: We want systems of national political and public life reformed to include women’s equal participation with men in political, economic and international decision-making at all levels, from local to national to global. This means also providing training and encouragement for women to participate in politics and public life.
- Favourable Government Policies Towards Women: We want government policies favourable to women. Many policies developed by governments either ignore women’s needs or actually harm women. We want governments in transition economies to show what impact their policies are having on women. This would be a way to get policy-makers to develop policies that are more women-friendly.
- Gender Neutral Language: We want governments and other entities to use gender-neutral language.
- Government Financial Support: We want governments to give financial support to women’s groups. These voices must be heard.
- Recognition of Unpaid Work: We want women’s unpaid work measured and recognised in economic arrangements such as pensions. Nearly 50% of the US$23 Trillion global output is provided by women’s unpaid work. We need fairer sharing of the work and equality in the home. Sakiko Fukuda-Parr of the UNDP says, “When we get world leaders to recognise that 70% of the world’s GDP is unpaid work, they won’t say women working at home can’t qualify for pensions on an equal basis with men.”