1975 World Conference on Women
Mexico City, June 19-July 2, 1975

Resolution adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations
Concerning the World Conference on International Women's Year

The first world conference on the status of women was convened in Mexico City to coincide with the 1975 International Women's Year, observed to remind the international community that discrimination against women continued to be a persistent problem in much of the world. The Conference, along with the United Nations Decade for Women (1976-1985) proclaimed by the General Assembly five months later at the urging of the Conference, launched a new era in global efforts to promote the advancement of women by opening a worldwide dialogue on gender equality. A process was set in motion —a process of learning— that would involve deliberation, negotiation, setting objectives, identifying obstacles and reviewing the progress made.

The Mexico City Conference was called for by the United Nations General Assembly to focus international attention on the need to develop future oriented goals, effective strategies and plans of action for the advancement of women. To this end, the General Assembly identified three key objectives that would become the basis for the work of the United Nations on behalf of women:

• Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;
• The integration and full participation of women in development;
• An increased contribution by women in the strengthening of world peace

The Conference responded by adopting a World Plan of Action, a document that offered guidelines for governments and the international community to follow for the next ten years in pursuit of the three key objectives set by the General Assembly. The Plan of Action set minimum targets, to be met by 1980, that focused on securing equal access for women to resources such as education, employment opportunities, political participation, health services, housing, nutrition and family planning.

This approach marked a change, which had started to take shape in the early 1970s, in the way that women were perceived. Whereas previously women had been seen as passive recipients of support and assistance, they were now viewed as full and equal partners with men, with equal rights to resources and opportunities. A similar transformation was taking place in the approach to development, with a shift from an earlier belief that development served to advance women, to a new consensus that development was not possible without the full participation of women.

The Conference called upon governments to formulate national strategies and identify targets and priorities in their effort to promote the equal participation of women. By the end of the United Nations Decade for Women, 127 Member States had responded by establishing some form of national machinery, institutions dealing with the promotion of policy, research and programmes aimed at women's advancement and participation in development.

Within the United Nations system, in addition to the already existing Branch (now Division) for the Advancement of Women, the Mexico City Conference led to the establishment of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) to provide the institutional framework for research, training and operational activities in the area of women and development.

An important facet of the meeting in Mexico City was that women themselves played an instrumental role in shaping the discussion. Of the 133 Member State delegations gathered there, 113 were headed by women. Women also organised a parallel NGO Forum, the International Women's Year Tribune, which attracted approximately 4,000 participants.

Sharp differences emerged among the women gathered at the Forum, reflecting the political and economic realities of the times. Women from the countries of the Eastern Block, for instance, were most interested in issues of peace, while women from the West emphasized equality and those from the developing world placed priority on development. Nevertheless, the Forum played an important role in bringing together women and men from different cultures and backgrounds to share information and opinions and to set in motion a process that would help unite the women's movement, which by the end of the Decade for Women would become truly international. The Forum was also instrumental in opening up the United Nations to NGOs, who provided access for the voices of women to the Organization's policy-making process.


Declaration of Mexico on the
Equality of Women and Their Contribution
to Development and Peace, 1975

The World Conference of the International Women's Year, Recognizing that women of the entire world, whatever differences exist between them, share the painful experience of receiving or having received unequal treatment, and that as their awareness of this phenomenon increases they will become natural allies in the struggle against any form of oppression, such as is practiced under colonialism, neo-colonialism, zionism, racial discrimination and apartheid, thereby constituting an enormous revolutionary potential for economic and social change in the world today,

Recognizing also the urgency of improving the status of women and finding more effective methods and strategies which will enable them to have the same opportunities as men to participate actively in the development of their countries and to contribute to the attainment of world peace,

Convinced that women must play an important role in the promotion, achievement and maintenance of international peace, and that it is necessary to encourage their efforts towards peace, through their full participation in the national and international organizations that exist for this purpose,

Women have a vital role to play in the promotion of peace in all spheres of life: in the family, the community, the nations and the world. As such, women must participate equally with men in the decision-making processes which help to promote peace at all levels.

Women as well as men should promote real, general and complete disarmament under effective international control, starting with nuclear disarmament. Until genuine disarmament is achieved, women and men throughout the world must maintain their vigilance and do their utmost to achieve and maintain international peace.

Plans of Action

The primary objective of development being to bring about sustained improvement in the well-being of the individual and of society and to bestow benefits on all, development should be seen not only as a desirable goal in itself but also as the most important means for furthering equality of the sexes and the maintenance of peace.

An essential condition for the maintenance and strengthening of international co-operation and peace is the promotion and protection of human rights for all in conditions of equity among and within nations. In order to involve more women in the promotion of international co-operation, the development of friendly relations among nations, the strengthening of international peace and disarmamentæthe peace efforts of women as individuals and in groups, and in national and international organizations should be recognized and encouraged.

Women should have equal opportunity with men to represent their countries in all international forums where the above questions are discussed, and in particular at meetings of the organization of the United Nations system, including the Security Council and all conferences on disarmament and international peace, and other regional bodies.

Key Outcomes:

At this meeting, the process was launched and three objectives were identified in relation to equality, peace and development for the Decade:

• Full gender equality and the elimination of gender discrimination;

• The integration and full participation of women in development;

• An increased contribution by women towards strengthening world peace.

The Conference urged Governments to formulate national strategies, targets and priorities. It led to the establishment of the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), which serve as an institutional framework for research, training and operational activities in the area of women and development. At this Conference, held in Mexico City, women played a highly visible role. Of the 133 delegations from Member States, 113 were headed by women. Women also organized the International Women's Year Tribune, which attracted some 4,000 participants, and a parallel forum of non-governmental organizations that signalled the opening up of the United Nations to non-governmental organizations, which enable women's voices to be heard in the organization's policy-making process.