Women’s Rights as Human Rights: Local and Global Perspectives
Strategies and Analyses from the ICCL Working Conference on Women’s Rights as Human Rights (Dublin, March 1997)
Edited by Niamh Reilly

Implementing the Beijing Platform for Action and the Vienna Declaration

Information. Groups can request a copy of the Beijing Platform for Action (PfA) and the Government’s Report on Implementation of the Platform for Action, from the Departments of Justice, Equality and Law Reform. However, we should also request that copies of the PfA be made available to schools and libraries and so on. Copies of the Vienna Declaration are available from the Department of Foreign Affairs.

In addition, a co-ordinated approach to providing information on women’s human rights is needed. There are many "pockets of activity" at present around implementing women’s human rights. There is a need for a single coordinator to gather and disseminate information to help focus and develop activities in this area; the language of international documents can be complex and it is important that information is available in "plain words" so that everyone can understand it and participate in related activities. In addition to "exchanging information among ourselves" therefore, there is a need to undertake co-ordination of information dissemination at the national level and to consider how to resource this type of activity.

Lobbying. The Platform for Action (PfA) or Vienna Declaration are not going to be implemented or taken seriously at the national level unless there is sustained lobbying from a broad range of women’s groups to do so. However, the PfA is a lengthy document and in order to be effective in lobbying for its implementation it needs to be "broken down into achievable tasks." It is important to highlight that the PfA "is there to serve groups and should be used to lobby on each group’s specific issue" in the relevant government departments. Therefore, groups do not have to take on the whole PfA in order to use it in their work. However, coordinated lobbying strategies are also a good idea and NGOs could agree among themselves to tackle specific areas of the PfA in order to ensure that all the areas are covered. Another example given was of women’s groups in Northern Ireland who used "ten key questions" to challenge politicians during the UK election campaign – a similar strategy might be taken with regard to the PfA. The PfA also contains useful data that can be used to support groups’ recommendations.

Involvement of NGOs. One of the commitments explicitly made by the Irish Government while in Beijing was to "provide for the appropriate involvement of Irish NGOs in the implementation of the Platform." Yet, the first report on implementation of the PfA was produced without the participation of women’s groups. This raises questions about the Government’s commitment to NGO participation and underscores the need for NGO vigilance if international agreements are to be implemented nationally in a meaningful way.

A co-ordinated NGO response to the Government’s report on implementation of the PfA is needed. This would include input from all NGO sectors and provide of a list of short term and long term actions that NGOs want to see taken in order to realise the PfA in Ireland.

Using Key Dates to Take Action. Use key dates during the year to link with other groups to organise events and lobby around a particular issue in the PfA. For Example, International Women’s Day (8 March), International Day of Action for Women’s Health (May 28), International Day Against Violence Against Women (November 25), and International Human Rights Day (December 10).

The 50th Anniversary of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights will be celebrated by the UN and member governments throughout 1998 (beginning on December 10, 1997, and concluding December 10, 1998). This will provide opportunities to ask the government what it is doing in this context and to make recommendations and secure national level commitments to implement the PfA and other UN commitments to women’s human rights.

For example, women might call for:

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