Report: WSI, IAPESGW, IWG, and the Global Women's Sport Advocacy
From: Carole A. Oglesby, WSI President and Elizabeth Darlison,
WSI Secretary General
April 8, 1999
RE: United Nations Strategic Bridges
The recent Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) meetings at the
United Nations (March 1 to 19) confirmed completely the importance
of the integration of the global women's sport advocacy movement
into the women's movement spearheaded by the United Nations-oriented
structures. This integration is, of course, much more difficult
to achieve than it may appear. Women involved in sport advocacy
are often isolated, under-resourced, and completely engrossed in
struggles of their own; in a sport, country, or region. Women in
the general women's movement often do not understand the importance
of sport, exercise, physicality in the lives of women, and view
our issues as "frivolous" in the great order of concerns.
If we are to maximize the potential for women to become involved
in, and enjoy, the many benefits of a physically active lifestyle
we need to:
Use recognized and effective structures such as the United
Nations to develop stronger links with the global women's movement.
Develop more effective global, regional, and national networks,
particularly through the NGO movement, to link with our global
women's sport and physical activity movement.
Articulate clearly, and lobby effectively for, the benefits
of sport and physical activity in women's lives.
Using the United Nations networks, especially the 4th World Conference
on Women with its "Beijing Platform for Action" (PFA),
as a springboard, this strategy paper identifies some of the ways
in which we can achieve these objectives.
The first United Nations International Year for Women was in 1975.
This was also the first year of the four global conferences for
women sponsored by the United Nations - Mexico City 1975, Copenhagen
1980 (the mid decade conference), Nairobi 1985, and Beijing 1995.
Beijing was by far the biggest conference with over 40,000 NGO representatives
meeting together to strengthen networks, develop strategy, and lobby
governments to improve the status and rights of women worldwide.
The aim of the United Nations Women's Conferences is to produce
an internationally agreed set of standards and principles, and an
action plan for implementation. The action plan to come out of the
4th World Conference in Beijing is called the "Platform for
Preparation for a United Nation Women's Conference usually requires
a minimum of two years work during which the agenda objectives and
the scope of the conference are determined by the 185 Member States
of the United Nations. This process involves national and regional
level meetings, expert group meetings, data gathering, and drafting
position papers, all of which are fed into the global discussions.
Nongovernment (NGO) networks are a crucial part of the preparation
process. For the Beijing conference, NGO's were extremely well prepared.
Information which was the result of meetings of "grass roots"
women in villages through to national and regional expert meetings
was all fed into an "NGO Draft Platform for Action" which
was then used to influence and change what became the "official"
government PFA. The majority of the government lobbying, the debating,
and the setting of the content and language of the "action"
(e.g., PFA) document occurs before the actual conference itself,
at the last Preparatory Conference (PrepCon).
The final preparatory conference for the Beijing Conference was
held at United Nations headquarters in New York. At the New York
PrepCon, (organized in much the same way as the conference itself)
the basic structure, form, and language of the Platform for Action
was determined, leaving only the more contentious issues to be debated
and voted upon by governments at Beijing.
Sport, Physical Activity, and the Platform
for Action (PFA)
The Beijing Platform for Action was the first declaration from any
United Nations Women's Conference to explicitly include statements
concerning sport and physical activity. At the New York PrepCon
1995, a small contingent worked on behalf of the inclusion of these
statements: Pendukeni Ivula-Ithana, representing both the Namibian
government and the International Working Group; and NGO representatives
Marg McGregor (Executive Director CAAWS - the Canadian Association
for the Advancement of Women in Sport) and Elizabeth Darlison (Secretary
General WSI, WomenSport International). These individuals managed
to secure the support of both government delegates and nongovernment
representatives outside sport, to ensure that sport and physical
activity were included in the PFA.
At the Beijing government conference, the wording of the statements
was confirmed and immediately prior to the government conference
in Beijing, NGO-oriented workshops were given by representatives
from the Women's Sports Foundation, the Muslim Women's Sports Organization,
and the Chinese Women's Sports Federation. The International Olympic
Committee also sent a delegation to the Beijing Conference.
Statements on Sport and Physical
Activity in the PFA Critical area of concern - Education
and training of women Strategic Objective B4 - Develop
nondiscriminatory education and training
83(m) Provide accessible recreational and sports facilities and
establish and strengthen gender-sensitive programmes for girls and
women of all ages in education and community institutions and support
the advancement of women in all areas of athletics and physical
activity, including coaching, training, and administration, and
as participants at the national, regional, and international levels.
Critical area of concern - Women
and health Strategic Objective C2 - Strengthen
preventative programs that promote women's health
107(f) Create and support programs in the education system, in the
workplace and in the community to make opportunities to participate
in sport, physical activity, and recreation available to girls and
women of all ages on the same basis as they are made available to
men and boys.
Critical area of concern - The
girl child Objective L4 - Eliminate discrimination
against girls in education and science
280(d) Promote the full and equal participation of girls in extra
curricula activities such as sports, drama, and cultural activities
Other statements in the Platform either mention physical activity
in a certain context or have strong implications for sport and physical
Strategic objective: Women and
health (101) ". . . The long-term health prospects
of women are influenced by changes at menopause, which, in combination
with life-long conditions and other factors such as poor nutrition
and lack of physical activity;
Strategic objective: Women and
health (106) Give particular attention to the needs of
girls, especially the promotion of health behavior, including
Strategic objective G2:
Increase women's capacity to participate in decision-making and
leadership (195a) Provide leadership and self-esteem training
. . . To strengthen (their) self-esteem and encourage (them to
take) decision-making positions.
Strategic objective B4:
Develop nondiscriminatory education and training (83h) Develop
leadership and train opportunities for all women to encourage
them to take leadership roles both as students and as adults in
Beijing + Five
Although another mid decade United Nations Women's Conference has
not been organized for the year 2000, preparations are underway
for a United Nations General Session focused on a comprehensive
5-year review and appraisal of the Platform for Action and other
emerging issues - Beijing + Five. Beijing + Five will be in New
York (June 5-9, 2000). A major NGO gathering will be held at the
same time as the United Nations Government Sessions in order to
review and assess the implementation by governments of the Platform
(see pp. 3-4 for details of government reporting processes, preparatory
meetings, and the like).
To influence the outcome of Beijing + Five with regard to a higher
profile for sport and physical activity, the process of influencing
governments needs to begin as soon as possible. The suggested strategy
for undertaking this task is set out in this paper.
Where to From Here?
To promote greater global involvement of girls and women in all
areas of sport and physical activity we will need to work in a coordinated
and organization-focused way towards the achievement of three key
To build support within both governments and the NGO community
for the current planks (statements) within the Platform;
To make explicit the contribution of sport and physical activity
to other existing planks in the Platform;
To prepare the ground for the addition of future planks.
We suggest that there are two basic strategy steps which, if completed
effectively, will ensure that we achieve these objectives:
The first step can be accomplished by coordination between WSI and
the rest of our community. An "amplified PFA" is now being
prepared. To this end we are collecting data and writing summaries
in order to create a document in which, following PFA planks that
either include sport/exercise or have an implication relating to
sport/exercise, a summary of research and implications will be supplied.
We are optimistic about obtaining funding for the attractive publication
and distribution of this document. This amplified PFA will provide
"talking points" for women's sport advocates to utilize
as they approach governmental representatives and others from the
worlds of sport, business, and sister organizations in the general
Not only will it be important for us all to take this amplified
PFA to the widest possible audience. It will be enormously helpful
if members of our advocacy community contribute to the document
itself. We encourage you to gain access to the PFA (if you have
not already) and scrutinize each plank for possible "sport/exercise"
contributions. If you have ideas along this line, please contact
Carole. We will make certain that you are appropriately credited
for any contributions to the amplified PFA.
To summarize, Step 1 involves the creation of this "amplified
PFA" and lobbying and advocacy by all of us to the widest possible
outside communities. The intended effect, of course, is to make
clear (where it is not now) that sport and physical activity make
a significant contribution to the general advancement and empowerment
The governments of the 185 United Nations member states have been
sent a questionnaire this year which is intended to examine the
progress and implementation of PFA. This questionnaire is extensive,
some 10 pages in length, and can be viewed at the following website:
These government reports are to be submitted to the United Nations
Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) by April 30, 1999 and,
ostensibly, will be made public thereafter. These submissions, and
other documents and reports, will be utilized over the next 12 months
to prepare for the two important United Nations events in New York
City next year: PrepCon for Women 2000/Beijing + Five (women's groups
own preparations for the June United Nations meeting) and Special
Session of the United Nations General Assembly-Women 2000/Beijing
+ Five (June 5 to 9).
The United Nations Division for the Advancement for Women has indicated
very clearly that they would like to encourage nongovernmental organizations,
including women's groups and other organizations of civil society,
to contribute to all aspects of the preparatory process leading
up to Beijing + Five. Despite this, at recent United Nation meetings
Carole attended all the NGO's were very concerned that their own
governments would either not cover what should be reported, report
erroneously, or fail to report at all. Plans are already underway
to both study the working papers' governments have prepared and
to correct and expand them for next year's meetings. The term "shadow
report" is used to denote the NGO version of the official reports.
The "shadow reports" will be developed by geographic national
and regional bodies as well as "content area" groups (e.g.,
women and violence, women in business, health . . . and sport?).
We, in the sport advocacy community, need to become integrally involved
in the networking around these "shadow reports."
Subtask 2.1 Encourage our membership
in every country to gain access and study their own country submission;
add, modify, and correct sport/exercise information.
Subtask 2.2 Encourage efforts
to network with United Nations regional bodies involved in the material
and strategy development leading to the March and June meetings.
Regional bodies identified in the New York City meetings follow.
There are others and we will pass information along as soon as we
can obtain it. These United Nations regional meetings are open only
to accredited delegates. We will have to be in contact with delegates
to these meetings in advance of the meetings themselves.
African Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) Addis Ababa November
23-26. Mid decade review of progress in Beijing and DaKar PFA
public/private, cross-sectional dialogue. NGO may attend. Contact
Economic Commission for Latin American and Caribbean (ECLAC)
8th Regional Conference in 2000
Economic and Social Commission for Asia and Pacific (ESCAP) meets
October 26-29, 1999 in Bangkok. Contact United Nations Building,
Rajadamnern Nok Ave., Bangkok 10200. Email: Kruavanichkit.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Economic and Social Commission Western Asia ESCWS plans meeting
Eastern Europe meeting under sponsorship of Ford Foundation
Subtask 2.3 The United Nations,
and other international bodies', women's groups to be approached
by WSI, IAPESGW, and IWG to intercede on behalf of women's sport
advocacy. Personally, we believe if this is the "first level"
of our involvement (i.e., Steps 1 and 2.1 and 2.2 do not materialize)
this must be regarded as "last ditch" at best. We will
be strikingly more successful if we can, for once, make our presence
felt at local, national, and regional meetings.
A general timeline was established by the NGO's in New York City:
May - September: NGO shadow reports developed;
September - December: Regional United Nations meetings and reviews;
December - February: Central NGO coordination through International
Women's Tribune Center and other bodies;
March 2000, PrepCon: Final strategy developed;
June: NGO "Gathering" simultaneous to United Nations
General Session - same time and place as United Nations session
but much smaller in scope.
If we are to be effective as we carry out steps 1 and 2, we must
let one another know about each success and failure. Perhaps we
can agree informally, that all individual and national/regional
level reports will be directed to one's "mother organization"
(WSI, IAPESGW, IWG). Carole will be the point person for WSI. The
point person in each of these organizations will need to supply
periodic and relatively frequent (say once a month or every other)
compiled reports to the other two organizations.
WSI is prepared to coordinate the process described herein and,
on the basis of the information received, to draft a final document
to be presented, under the auspices of the global NGO network for
women's sport and physical activity, at PrepCon 2000 in New York
in March 2000.
We hope this paper has been reasonably clear. Please contact Carole
to clarify any points, to offer ideas and support, or suggest modifications
and of course with reports of progress (or lack of it).
If would be very powerful if we could work together towards Beijing
+ Five. We may then be really ready to build the bridges we have
spoken about so often, and to travel upon them.