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Fourth United Nations Conference on Women

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Fourth United Nations Conference on Women

The European Union has instituted a new partnership between women and men, involving equal sharing of paid and unpaid work, and equal participation of women and men in civil, political, economic, social and cultural life.


Communication from the Commission to the Council of 1 June 1995: a new partnership between women and men, equal sharing and participation; the European Community's priorities for the Fourth UN World Conference on Women (Beijing, September 1995) [COM(1995)221 final- not published in the Official Journal]


The Community regards equality between women and men as a fundamental principle. The rights of women and girls are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of universal human rights.

Policies and programmes must focus on measures leading to recognition of the fundamental role played by women in social, economic and political processes, the participation of women in the administration of power and their access to economic independence.

Besides, specific measures must be adopted to ensure that the question of equal opportunities for women and men is incorporated into all Union policies.

An urgent priority is to eliminate differentials in areas such as nutrition, literacy, education and training, employment and access to primary health care, etc.

The Community has identified the following strategic objectives:

  • to actively promote participation in society for all individuals without discrimination, particularly by supporting the ratification and enforcement of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women;
  • to strengthen legislation on violence, sexual harassment and the sexual exploitation of women;
  • to support measures strengthening the role of non-governmental organisations which give more responsibilities to women;
  • to provide support measures to encourage and accelerate women's participation in decision-making in all public and political bodies;
  • to ensure that women throughout the world have the right to decide freely and responsibly on the number, spacing and timing of their children and have the information and means to do so;
  • to adopt measures to redress the horizontal and vertical segregation of the labour market;
  • to encourage changes in the organisation of work to ensure an equitable distribution of work responsibilities and household duties, and to take measures that enable people to reconcile personal, social and professional responsibilities.
  • to incorporate the question of equal opportunities into all policies and activities (mainstreaming).

The Community will need to consider its approach to the question of resourcing and follow-up at different levels: within the Community's own institutions, at Member State level, in relation to action by international institutions, and in relation to encouraging and supporting action in the field of development cooperation by partner governments and governments of countries whose economies are in transition.


The United Nations Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995, and the European Community's participation in this event are part of a follow-up to action already taken by the international community to promote gender equality.

Three priority objectives had been identified at the First World Conference on Women, held in Mexico in 1975: equality, development and peace. In order to attain these objectives, the Copenhagen conference in 1980 focused on three areas which required particular attention: equal access to education, employment opportunities and adequate health care services. At the Nairobi Conference in 1985 it was declared for the first time that all problems faced by humanity were also problems for women. Women thus have a legitimate right to participate in the decision-making process and in managing human affairs.


Fourth World Conference on Women, Beijing 1995

The Declaration and Platform for Action which were adopted at the close of the conference set out the strategic objectives and actions which must be pursued in order to overcome the obstacles to the advancement of women.

Twelve areas have been identified which constitute obstacles to the advancement of women and therefore require specific action: women and poverty; education and training of women; women and health; violence against women; women and armed conflict; women and the economy; women in power and decision-making; institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women; the human rights of women; women and the media; women and the environment; the girl child.

The Beijing Conference also highlighted the concept of gender and the need to incorporate gender equality in all institutions, policies and actions of the United Nations' Member States.

A special session of the United Nations in 2000, entitled "Women 2000:Gender Equality, Development and Peace for the 21st Century" (Beijing + 5), was a follow-up to the Fourth World Conference on Women.

Regulation (EC) No 806/2004 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 April 2004 on promoting gender equality in development cooperation.

Communication of 21 June 2001 from the Commission to the Council and the European Parliament - Action Programme for the mainstreaming of gender equality in Community Development Cooperation [COM(2001) 295 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

Communication from the Commission of 21 February 1996: Incorporating equal opportunities for women and men into all Community policies and activities [COM(96) 67 final - Not published in the Official Journal].

See also

For further information please consult the SCADPlus pages on human rights and combating violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking in women, and the website of the United Nations' Commission on the Status of Women.

Last updated: 27.08.2004