As Beijing +10 draws to a close, the whole “Beijing” era winds down and, already, attention has turned to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). This is seen as the best hope for achieving the goals that didn’t quite get realized in the past decade through the Beijing Platform for Action (PFA). Never ones to pin all its hopes on one document, the United Nations is also pushing the Millennium Declaration (MD) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) as new means of furthering gender mainstreaming.
In fact, the Left is stating bluntly that the new Millennium Development Goals are “a new vehicle for implementing CEDAW and Beijing.”
It is obvious that the MDGs are the centerpiece for the liberal vision; the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) describes them as a potentially “effective engine for change.” UNIFEM throws down the gauntlet by declaring that the Millennium Declaration is designed to implement “commitments declared in world conferences.” The MD recognizes (according to UNIFEM) that U.N. commitments were “made international law through human rights standards” and that those “laws” must be implemented to “unprecedented levels” through “holistic and integrated approaches.”
In other words, the United Nations is going to use the MDGs to do what all the Beijing conferences couldn’t accomplish, and all the radical agenda will be lumped together as a single entity under the rubric “gender mainstreaming.” Again, according to UNIFEM, gender equality will be the “overarching framework” to bring together such disparate goals as economic empowerment, peace building, and combating both HIV/AIDS and violence against women.
The Left envisions the MDGs, clearly, as the culmination of all U.N. conferences of the 1990s – from Istanbul to Cairo to Rio and on to Beijing. Unlike previous conference documents, the measurable Millennium Goals can be assessed concretely. Ironically, critics are already saying that the MDGs are not ambitious enough and are too simplistic; they are recommending that the MDGs incorporate CEDAW and Beijing goals with measurable outcomes delineated. Proponents argue that the MDGs are more “complex” in their “integration” of the full range of gender issues. In dozens of ways, various descriptions of the MDGs mention the central importance of “gender equality” in determining the success of any nation’s development agenda.
In short, MDGs are not a new agenda; instead they are, admittedly, a new vehicle for CEDAW and Beijing implementation.
I’d say the Left is getting more and more desperate as its precious agenda falls short in U.N. conference after conference. It is more and more obvious that the U.N. is hopelessly out of touch with contemporary trends and mainstream values. The rhetoric is getting increasingly shrill and less grounded in logic or rationality. Those who call the skyscraper of U.N. headquarters the “Tower of Babel” seem quite prescient these days when much of the rhetoric in the assembly halls is mumbo-jumbo.
Over and over in various U.N. documents, statements indicate that the PFA and CEDAW are legally binding. They consistently refer to recommendations as “requirements” or “obligations.” Statements usually contain at least one reference to something that nations “must” do or advise that nations should “take whatever measures are necessary to ensure . . .” Governments are told that obstacles must be overcome. Over and over again, documents discuss the Millennium Goals as a means of ensuring that “national and international commitments” to PFA and CEDAW “do not wane,” and that they are “powerful tools” to “stimulate greater action” so that the programs and policies of the PFA and CEDAW documents will be incorporated into a greater range than previously was possible. Repeatedly, materials advise nations to link the Millennium Development goals to both Beijing and CEDAW.
Obviously, the MDGs’ sole purpose is to achieve – through another door – the broad range of programs and policies that countries rejected in Beijing and CEDAW. Governments are told that “comprehensive” programs and policies are preferable to “piecemeal” approaches. Among the “must” items is “safe abortion,” even though the United States’ delegation forced nations and NGOs to admit during Beijing +10 that abortion was not a “woman’s right” in the Beijing PFA. These militant radicals follow the Roseanne Barr school of thought. The former television comedienne once said, “Nobody gives you power; you just take it!” They are determined to keep producing these documents detailing their agenda, hoping that someday one of them will “just take” their gender agenda and force it into the mainstream through international programs and policies.
Janice Crouse, Ph.D., senior fellow of the Beverly LaHaye Institute, is representing Concerned Women for America at the 49th Convention of the Status of Women in New York this week.
For more information on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), see CWA’s papers: