Asia Pacific Beijing + 20 Civil Society Forum Statement
16 November 2014
Women’s rights organisations and movements from Asia and the Pacific, comprising 480 women, gathered in Bangkok on 14-16 November 2014 to call on our governments for accountability for the commitments made almost twenty years ago in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action to advance gender equality and the rights of women and girls, and to realise our aspiration for a region that is defined by development, economic, social, gender and environmental justice. We remind ourselves that the BPFA drew its mandate and inspiration from earlier global agreements, such as, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and the Vienna Conference on Human Rights.
Almost twenty years ago, the world’s leaders came together to collectively advance our rights at the Fourth World Conference on Women, making an unprecedented commitment that was enshrined in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. Five years later, the Millennium Declaration was adopted which reinforced the principles of human dignity, equality, and equity at the global level and reconfirmed respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as respect for the equal rights of all.
Today, we find ourselves in a world defined by deep and entrenched inequalities. Gender inequality reinforces and is itself reinforced by the extraordinary levels of inequality in wealth, power, and resources experienced by women in Asia and the Pacific. The architecture of globalization has resulted in wealth being concentrated in the hands of a tiny minority of obscenely rich individuals. Globally, the sixty-five richest people in the world have as much combined wealth as the 3.5 billion poorest, which is half of the world’s population.
In Asia, 0.001% of the population owns 30% of the region’s wealth. These few people own seventeen times more wealth than the least developed countries in Asia combined.
In a region that has two-thirds of the world’s poorest people, women comprise the majority of the poor. Migrant, indigenous, refugee, rural, urban poor, women living with disabilities, women and girls living with HIV, ethnic minorities, caste and women with diverse sexual orientations and gender identities are the most likely to experience marginalisation and a denial of their human rights.
Today we also find ourselves in a moment of reflection, as governments consider their progress under the Beijing Platform for Action and deliberate on a new development agenda that must avert the social, economic, and environmental crises that we face. In this moment, we demand that governments finally deliver on the promises made in Beijing.
The single greatest barrier to the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action is the lack of binding, meaningful accountability mechanisms. Governments derive their mandate from their capacity to be accountable to their constituents. Accountability requires time-bound targets, transparent reporting and monitoring, adequate funding and resources and yet it requires so much more.
Genuine accountability means that governments at national and local levels should have a clear role in ensuring implementation and establish annual parliamentary reporting mechanisms. Genuine accountability means that civil society must be able to access government policies, data and decision- making process at all levels. It is unacceptable that civil society representatives are prevented from attending civil society forums by their own governments. National women’s machinery must have an all-of-government mandate to ensure all critical areas of concern are implemented in their entirety. They must have the mandate to review and amend policy that undermines the Beijing Platform for Action and other obligations.
Genuine accountability means that the least powerful amongst us are able to hold the most powerful to account for their actions. Genuine accountability means that we can hold parliamentarians, officials, corporations and the individuals within them to account for their direct and indirect violations of women’s human rights.
But most significantly accountability requires access to justice, remedies, accountability requires reparations, accountability requires justice.
We reiterate the civil society call from this region for governments to commit to Development Justice. Embedded in a commitment to human rights, Development Justice requires governments to end the gross inequalities of wealth, power, resources and opportunities that exist between countries, between rich and poor and between men and women. Development Justice requires implementation of five ‘transformative shifts’ – Redistributive Justice, Economic Justice, Environmental Justice, Gender, Sexual and Social Justice and Accountability to the Peoples.
The women at the Asia Pacific Beijing+20 Civil Society Forum collectively recognise the following concerns and priorities for women in Asia and the Pacific regarding the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action, the post-2015 development agenda, and beyond.