United Nations

We support the UK in delivering its commitments on gender equality at the United Nations.

The UK has signed up to a number of United Nations (UN) Conventions including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and its Optional Protocol.

We take the lead coordinating the production of the UK Periodic Report to the CEDAW every four years and support the UK in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action for Women. Head of United Nations Women Michelle Bachelet with Home Office ministers

We are also responsible for the development of strategies which include commitments to promote the advancement and empowerment of women, to address women and poverty and to combat violence against women.


Head of United Nations Women Michelle Bachelet with Home Office ministers

Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women

CEDAW is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly. It consists of a preamble and 30 articles, defining what constitutes discrimination against women and setting up an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. So far it has been ratified by 186 countries. It is also known as the international bill of rights for women.

More information about the Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women.

UN Commission on the Status of Women

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), established through the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), is one of the main international policy-making bodies dedicated exclusively to gender equality and the advancement of women.

CSW meets annually in March at the UN headquarters in New York  to discuss and negotiate the text of a number of ‘agreed conclusions’ around a priority theme. This theme changes annually and is set out in the multi-year programme of work. The fifty-fifth session of CSW took place on from Tuesday 22 February to Friday 4 March 2011.

The principal output of the CSW is the agreed conclusions on priority themes set for each year. The Commission also adopts a number of resolutions on a range of issues. A final report of the session – which this year will include resolutions and a Declaration - is prepared by the Commission and submitted to ECOSOC for adoption. See the report of the final agreed conclusions of CSW's 55th session.

The UK has a longstanding commitment to the CSW and participates actively in the annual meeting. Find out more on the Commission on the Status of Women website.

Information on the UK's participation in this year's CSW 

More about Women's engagement.

Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action

The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) is an international declaration of women’s rights set up at the UN’s landmark Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995.

The BPfA covers 12 key critical areas of concern or areas for action including:

  • women and poverty
  • violence against women
  • access to power and decision-making

It was supported by 189 countries - including the UK, at the 1995 World Conference.

What happened before?

In June 2000, the UN General Assembly adopted a political declaration reaffirming Member States’ commitment to the objectives set forth in the BPfA and a Special Session was held by the General Assembly in 2005 to review Member States’ progress in implementing the BPfA.

The UK took an active role in the process. Find out more about Beijing +10 (10th anniversary of BPfA) and view the the UK’s report, on their website.

2010 is the 15th anniversary of the BPfA (Beijing +15). In 2009, the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) circulated a questionnaire to assess progress on Beijing +15 to all UNECE members and the UK has responded with a full report.

The UNECE hosted a Regional Review Meeting on progress on Beijing +15 in Geneva in November 2009, which informed the Global Review of progress on Beijing +15 at CSW.

The 54th session of CSW undertook a global review of progress of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action on 1-12 March 2010 in New York. The meeting adopted a Declaration which recognised the progress that had been made and identified the challenges ahead.

What happens next?

The next session of CSW will focus on 'Access and participation of women and girls to education, training, science and technology, including for the promotion of women’s equal access to full employment and decent work'.

Find out more on the Commission on the Status of Women website.

United Nations Women

On 02 July 2009 the United Nations General Assembly voted to create an establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – to be known as UN Women.


The UN resolution started the process to bring together four existing UN women’s agencies into one body headed by an Under-Secretary General who will report directly to the Secretary-General: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).

On 14 September 2010, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon named the former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head United Nations Women (UN Women).

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