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Asia Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing + 15: Forging the Future

arton1691The Asia Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing + 15 was held from 22-24 October, 2009 in Quezon City, Philippines and was preceded by the National Women’s Summit on 20-21 October. Entitled “Weaving Wisdom, Confronting Crises, Forging the Future,” the Forum, organized by the Asia Pacific Women’s Watch (APWW), included six plenary sessions on subjects ranging from gender and climate change and disaster risk reduction to gender and human security in situations of conflict and post-conflict. It also included several parallel workshops, sub-regional workshops and open space.

Opening the Forum, Patricia B Licuanan, the Forum Convenor, noted that over the next three days, participants would share experiences, best practices and innovations as well as expectations and demands as they reviewed women’s lives and how these have changed or remain unchanged over the years. The regional output would then feed into the global NGO Forum which will be held in New York late February 2010, just prior to the Beijing + 15 review at the 54th Session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW). Ms. Licuanan noted that women see the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as both challenge and opportunity and have learned to strategically link the Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) with the MDGs with the goal of engendering all eight goals.

“Since Beijing we have had to confront a wide range of crises. We have faced the conservative backlash from governments that were champions of women’s empowerment in Beijing…. There are major global trends that have important impacts on women’s lives such as religious and ethnic fundamentalisms and the growing armed conflict and rise of terrorism in our region and in the world with women and children accounting for the vast majority of those adversely affected.

“We have had to confront the dark side of globalization which has exacerbated inequalities between women and men. We have had to face the current financial crisis and its impact on women. As the Asia and Pacific region is home to some of the most disaster prone countries and areas most deeply affected by the immediate results of climate change, we have confronted tsunamis, typhoons, floods, dust hurricanes, bush fires, earthquakes. We have survived and helped others survive and rebuild their lives. But most important, through all these crises we have been an important part of the solution,” she stressed.

In her keynote address, Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), noted that she had organized the Asia Pacific NGO Forum just before the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, and that “it was not so much a world conference on women but a women’s conference on the world.”

Ms. Heyzer asserted that in ensuring the States’ gender responsive accountability, women must be included in oversight policy-making bodies and processes and that women’s human rights be part of standards of accountability. “Women must be able to ask for explanations and be participants in public debates. The advancement of women’s human rights must be a standard on which power-holders are measured,” she remarked.

She further noted the multiple challenges women are facing in the Asia Pacific region especially in light of the financial crisis and fundamentalism: 25 million women (primarily in the manufacturing sector) have lost their jobs. Labour migration, where women comprise about 70%, has also been severely affected. Social recovery, she suggested, takes twice as long for women. “We need to change the current development model where goods are manufactured cheaply in Asia to be consumed in the West. The forces that brought us to this crisis must be held accountable,” she stressed.

Noting that women and children are 14 times more likely to be affected by climate change, especially disasters, she highlighted the need for more women’s participation in the climate change talks given the increasingly noticeable effects of global warming and frequency of disasters.

Concluding, she noted, “I realized that you are a demanding movement but we have learned to blend challenge with joy and commitment towards freedom from want, fear and discrimination. There is no turning back.”

Closing on 24 October, the Asia Pacific NGO Forum ended without an outcome document but a pledge to raise an equivalent of US$1 billion, in light of the recognized underinvestment of the UN on women and gender concerns. Pam Rajput, India’s National Alliance of Women’s Organisations (NAWO), said, “If most women in the region will contribute US$1, that will be powerful gesture to the UN. This is a moment where the South contributes to the North.”

The plenary was supposed to finalize the AP NGO Forum on Beijing + 15’s outcome document that Ms. Licuanan will present at the ESCAP High-Level Meeting (see below) in November. However a few more days were needed for the draft to be presented and revised. To access the final declaration of the Asia and Pacific NGO Forum on Beijing +15, click here.

Speeches from the NGO Forum are available online.

ESCAP will host a High-Level Intergovernmental Meeting (HLM) to review Regional Implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action and Its Regional and Global Outcomes, from 16-18 November 2009 at the UN Conference Centre in Bangkok.

In order to obtain information on progress made since Beijing +10 in implementing the Platform for Action, ESCAP sent a questionnaire to its Member States. The completed questionnaires received from Member States, as well as information from ESCAP’s Expert Group Meeting in preparation for the High-Level Intergovernmental Meeting is available online.

The UN Non-Governmental Liaison Service (UN-NGLS) is an inter-agency programme of the United Nations mandated to develop constructive relations between the UN and civil society organizations.

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