What is the FWCW - Why did ICA participate?

  This document has been made available in electronic format by
         the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)

  ICA and the Beijing Conference (Fourth Conference on Women)

     What is the Fourth World Conference on Women?
There have been three United Nations world conferences on women. 
The first conference, held during International Women's Year in
Mexico City, 1975 adopted a Plan of Action that led to the
declaration by the United Nations General Assembly, of the United
Nations Decade for Women.  In 1970, the UN General Assembly
adopted the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of
Discrimination Against Women, which to date has 133 States

At the second conference, held in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1980,
a programme of action for the second half of the Decade for Women
was adopted, with emphasis on education, employment and health.

The third world conference took place in Nairobi, Kenya, in 1985,
to review and appraise achievements made and obstacles
encountered during the decade for women.  The Nairobi Forward-
looking Strategies for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000
were adopted by consensus.  The Strategies produced a framework
for action a the national, regional, and international levels to
promote empowerment of women and their enjoyment of human rights.

A 1990 evaluation of the Forward-looking Strategies by the United
Nations Commission on the Status of Women revealed that the world
community had become more conscious of and sensitive to issues
affecting women.  However, there seemed to be some loss of
momentum in implementation.

The Fourth World Conference on Women aims to rekindle this
momentum and focus on new issues, such as violence against women
including the issue of sexual harassment, which have been placed
on the global agenda.

     Goal of the Conference
The objectives of the Conference are:

*    To adopt a "Platform for Action", concentrating on key
issues the "critical areas of concern" identified as obstacles
review and appraisal of the advancement of women since 1985 in
terms of the objective of the Nairobi Forward-looking Strategies
for the Advancement of Women to the Year 2000.  This document
will propose and suggest corresponding strategic objectives and
action to be taken by Governments, the international community,
non-governmental organizations, the private sector and
individuals for the removal of the remaining obstacles to women's
full and equal participation in development in all spheres of
life.  It will include actions to eradicate poverty; eliminate
inequality in education; ensure access to relevant health care,
employment and economic participation; further protection and
preservation of the environment; end inequality in sharing of
power and decision-making; improve images of women in the mass
media; promote women's human rights; and eliminate violence
against women.

*    To determine the priority actions to be taken between 1996
and 2001 for the advancement of women by the international
community, including the United nations system.

*   To mobilize women and men at both the policy-making and
grassroots levels to achieve those objectives.

     Preparatory Process
The Division for the Advancement of Women, which was responsible
for organizing the Conference and preparing its documents, is
located at United Nations Headquarters in New York.  The
Commission on the Status of Women is the Preparatory Committee
for the Conference.  It is responsible for formulating global
policies and recommendations for the advancement of women.

The Beijing Conference is the culmination of the a process that
begins with national preparations.  The Commission on the Status
of Women has underlined the importance of these national level

Five regional preparatory meetings under the auspices of the
United Nations Regional Economic Commissions were held. These
regional meetings are very important for assessing the key issues
for women on a regional basis and providing input to regional
reports for the Conference.

     Why did ICA participate?
The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) participated
actively in the preparations for this UN conference.  Its aim,
in line with one of its priority areas of work - women in co-
operatives: integration and gender issues - was to sensitize
policy-makers on how co-operatives can contribute to improving 
the lives of women by improving their economic, and social
situations and have this reflected in the Platform for Action.

ICA participated in the regional preparatory conferences for
Asia/Pacific, Africa and Latin America.  It also participated in
the meetings of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.  In
each of these meetings, ICA circulated documents demonstrating
how co-operatives were contributing to improving the lives of
women.  A special issue of the ICA News (Issue No. 4, 1995) was
also produced for distribution in Beijing showing concrete
examples of how the co-operative form of organization had
bettered their lives.

     What did ICA accomplish?
Recognition of the contribution of co-operatives to the
advancement of women was achieved as seen by the following:

Of the over 1,300 NGOs accredited to the conference, only 50
organizations were able to present statements.  The ICA statement
was of one of those 50 which was included in the official
documentation and distributed to all conference delegates
including government representatives.  The ICA representative to
the Conference was also granted permission to present an oral
statement to the plenary session, furthering drawing attention
to the role of co-operatives.

The Platform for Action, the final document emanating from the
Beijing Conference, also contains eight references to the role
of co-operatives in promoting the advancement of women and called
for support of co-operatives.

The work of the ICA resulted in a UN document recognizing the
importance of co-operatives.  It constitutes a tool to be used
by co-operatives for facilitating policy dialogue with
governments and development agencies, for finding support
(financial and technical) and for providing international
legitimacy to the work of co-operatives.

October, 1995