2 major events promoting gender equality delayed until 2021

Apr 3, 2020

The United Nations has announced the postponement of two major events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark U.N. women’s conference in Beijing because of the coronavirus pandemic

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Friday announced the postponement of two major events to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the landmark U.N. women’s conference in Beijing because of the coronavirus pandemic, putting off until next year the meetings where thousands of people from across the world will try to make progress toward gender equality.

UN Women said the “Generation Equality" forums in Mexico City in May and Paris in July, where civil society representatives and activists from all nations had been expected, have been delayed until the first half of 2021, with new dates to be announced in the coming months.

The 150-page road map adopted in Beijing in 1995 called for bold action in 12 areas to achieve equality for women, including combating poverty and violence, ensuring all girls get an education and putting women at top levels of business and government, as well as at peace-making tables.

It said for the first time in a U.N. document that women’s human rights include the right to control and decide “on matters relating to their sexuality, including their sexual and reproductive health, free of discrimination, coercion and violence.”

Ahead of the forums, UN Women said, “a series of virtual engagements will be organized in collaboration with partners to foster continued momentum, participation and commitment of all stakeholders” to chart an agenda to achieve gender equality.

UN Women stressed in the announcement that the global health crisis sparked by the COVID-19 pandemic has implications for all people, but especially for women.

“We recognize that women are playing a disproportionate role in responding to this disease — as caregivers, front-line health care workers, community leaders and mobilizers, often at great risk to their health,” it said. “We stand in solidarity with them.”

The International Women’s Health Coalition, which was expecting to participate at the forums, welcomed the postponements as a necessary step to prioritize global health and ensure the participation of activists worldwide.

Shannon Kowalski, the coalition’s policy and advocacy director, said the forums are now more important than ever “in light of the COVID-19 crisis, which has amplified and exacerbated existing gender inequalities.”

“It’s critical that we use this extra time to maintain momentum, mobilize the necessary resources, and build broad coalitions behind a shared vision to deliver generation equality in every corner of the world,” she said in a statement.

Last month, the Commission on the Status of Women, the main U.N. body promoting women’s rights, drastically scaled back its annual meeting, which was to focus on the Beijing anniversary. Up to 12,000 people from the U.N.’s 193 member nations had been expected to come to New York but that major week-long event was postponed to a future date because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Instead, at a short meeting on March 9, the commission adopted a political declaration backing the Beijing platform for action, which was adopted by 189 countries.

The declaration expresses concern that overall, progress toward gender equality “has not been fast or deep enough ... that major gaps remain and that obstacles, including structural barriers, discriminatory practices and the feminization of poverty persist.”

It pledges to take “concrete action to ensure the full, effective and accelerated implementation” of the road map.