Origins of 5WWC

Millionth Circle LogoA contingent of 26 women from the Millionth Circle Initiative went as NGO delegates to the United Nations for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings in 2002. There we learned no plans were being made for a Fifth U.N. International Conference on Women. There were several reasons given (in informal conversations): no country had offered to host it; if another conference were held, the Bush administration would try to weaken the Beijing Platform for Action (which they unsuccessfully attempted in 2005 ); and the UN focus since 9/11 was concentrating on global conflicts and potential conflicts. This was a time when U.N. teams were still searching for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It also seemed to those of us who went to the U.N. CSW that burnout by hardworking women on frontline NGOs might also be contributing to the apparent lack of energy for a 5th UN women's conference.

Beginning in 1975, previous conferences had been held every five and then ten years, in Mexico City (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1985), and Beijing (1995). Each had been larger and more significant than the one before. There was a widely held, mistaken assumption that the next one would be in 2005, ten years after Beijing. As there is a three-year lead time needed to plan and make arrangements, and with no plans on the drawing boards in 2002, this was obviously not going to happen in 2005.

There will not be one at all, ever again,
unless new momentum can revitalize it!

Beijing ButtonAt every previous conference, women came from all over the world, talked and bonded, learned from each other, and formed a network of friendship and political alliances on behalf of women. Most significantly, women's rights were recognized as human rights in the Beijing Platform for Action. Until this conference women were considered passive victims in an unequal world. The conference addressed gender relations rather than women's issues, recognizing that women's roles and status are equal in relation to men. The word gender was challenged in Beijing by countries that do not see women and men as equal human beings, but as necessarily different sexes with fixed social roles. This challenge was overcome. Governments agreed to promote gender equality and women's empowerment in twelve areas of concern, and to report progress in 2000 and 2005. For more information online, go to and search for "Beijing Platform for Action."

The next one could change the world Since Beijing, we have the internet as a means of easy global communication and connection. It gives us power at our fingertips to move ideas and funds, to mobilize and organize and make a difference. E-mails would facilitate meetings at a Fifth World Conference, and make follow-up and continuation easy. List-serves would make distribution of information immediate; websites and links among them would be invaluable. The value is getting things done through personal alliances and connections. Finding out who to reach and how is often only a matter of one to three degress of separation. More would be done for women by women.