United Nations

Convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women (CEDAW)

The UK has signed and ratified the United Nations (UN) Human Rights 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 implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action for Women.

CEDAW is an international convention adopted in 1979 by the United Nations General Assembly.  It defines what constitutes discrimination against women and an agenda for national action to end such discrimination. To date it has been ratified by 186 countries.  It is also known as the international bill of Rights for Women.

More information about CEDAW

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 February/March at the UN headquarters in New York to discuss and negotiate the text of a number of 'agreed conclusions' around a priority theme and related Resolutions proposed by States.  This theme changes annually and is set out in the multi-year programme of work.  The 56th session of CSW took place between 27 February and 09 March 2012 and focussed 'the empowerment of rural women and their role in poverty and hunger eradication, development and current challenges'.

The principal output of the CSW is the 'agreed conclusions'.  A final report of the 55th session - which last year included Resolutions and a Declaration - was prepared by the Commission and submitted to ECOSOC for adoption.

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.

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.

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.  2010 was 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 responded with a full report.

More information on Beijing +10 and view the UK's report.

UK's response to the UNCE Beijing +15 questionnaire

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 creation brought together four existing UN women's agencies into one body headed by an Under-Secretary General who 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 lead United Nations Women (UN Women).

The UK's commitment to UN WomenHead of United Nations Women Michelle Bachelet with Home Office ministers

The UK has pledged to provide £10 million each year to UN Women over the next two years.  This will place the UK as the second largest donor to the agency.

More information on the work that DfiD undertakes with the support of GEO in the UN

Head of United Nations Women Michelle Bachelet with Home Office ministers.

Human Rights Council

GEO works with colleagues in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office who negotiate on human rights at the Human Rights Council (HRC), the main forum for substantive discussion of human rights in the UN.  The HRC meets three times a year for regular sessions in, March, June and September.  In the Council, the UK team works with other countries to defend, protect and promote human rights across the world in line with the Council’s mandate.  This includes encouraging the Council to take action on specific country situations, but also some cross cutting themes, including LGB&T and women's rights.

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