Amnesty International * Center for Health and Gender Equity * Center for Women's Global Leadership

Feminist Majority * U.S. Committee for UNFPA * Women’s Edge Coalition

Women’s Environment and Development Organization


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                             FOR MORE INFORMATION:

February 25, 2005                                                                   Nancy Bennett, 800/834-1110

                                                                                                Ketayoun Darvich-Kodjouri, 202/326-8720


Another U.S. Withdrawal at the United Nations?


Leaders to Bush Administration: U.S. Must

Reaffirm Historic Women’s Human Rights Agreement


WASHINGTON, Feb. 25—Leaders from human rights and women’s development organizations are sounding the alarm about the possible U.S. withdrawal from a historic women’s human rights agreement currently under review at the United Nations.


Governments are gathering in New York City over the next two weeks to revisit women’s progress since the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women met in Beijing in 1995. The U.S. was a leading architect of the Beijing Platform for Action, where 189 countries committed to advancing universal education for girls, ending violence against women, and ensuring access to lifesaving reproductive health care, among other critical issues.


Late yesterday, in quiet negotiations out of the public eye, the Bush administration signaled to other nations that it would not unequivocally reaffirm the commitments made by the United States to the world’s women a decade ago.


“I am extremely concerned that the U.S. will withdraw its support for women’s human rights on the world’s stage,” said June Zeitlin, executive director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization. “This is in stark contrast to our government’s rhetoric supporting women’s rights in Afghanistan and Iraq, and would be a terrible step backward.”


“The U.S. should reaffirm, not retreat from, women’s rights and equality. Globally, this is about saving women’s lives,” said Eleanor Smeal, president of Feminist Majority.


It was at the 1995 Beijing Women’s Conference that women around the world took up the rallying cry: “women’s rights are human rights.” An estimated 6,000 women from non-governmental organizations are expected to join the government delegations at the upcoming review of women’s status since the Beijing meeting. The ten-year review takes place February 28-March 11 at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.


With concern for the U.S. position, more than 30 U.S. organizations sent a letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice late last week to urge the Bush administration not to withdraw from the U.S. pledge made at the Beijing Women’s Conference. Leaders noted that the Beijing review was Secretary Rice’s first official opportunity to speak about women’s rights. They asked Secretary Rice for help in shoring up the U.S. commitment to global women’s rights.


“With world governments gathering to discuss women’s rights, the United States has an important opportunity to renew its leadership,” said Alex Arriaga, Amnesty International’s director of government relations. “We urge the Bush administration to keep the U.S. pledge to advance human rights for women.”


More information on the ten-year review of the UN Beijing Women’s Conference, and a copy of the letter to Secretary Rice, is online at


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