Background on Key International Agreements and Declarations
UNFPA’s work in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment is firmly grounded in international law. The following major international agreements and declarations guide UNFPA’s work in this arena.
The work of UNFPA is guided by the Programme of Action (POA) that was endorsed by about 179 governments in Cairo at the 1994 International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD, also referred to as the Cairo Conference). The Conference shifted the emphasis of population planning from reaching demographic targets to promoting human rights and sustainable development, changing the focus from numbers to people. It placed women’s rights, empowerment and health at the centre of this effort.
A 1999 review of progress since the Cairo Conference (ICPD + 5) included reports on national implementation efforts, global expert meetings and an international forum at The Hague, organized by UNFPA. It culminated in a special session of the United Nations General Assembly that identified Key Actions for the Further Implementation of the Programme of Action of ICPD and set new benchmarks for measuring progress towards ICPD goals, including several aimed at promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) is an international bill of rights for women. The General Assembly adopted the Convention in December 1979, and as of 2004, 179 countries had ratified it.
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