Promoting Global Justice When Backlash Strikes

25 Pages Posted: 24 May 2018

See all articles by Cathrine Holst

Cathrine Holst

ARENA Centre for European Studies and Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo

Date Written: May 24, 2018


The UN Beijing World Conference on Women in 1995 was a landmark event resulting in the famous Beijing Declaration and Platform of Action. In 2015, a review of the implementation of the 1995 Beijing agenda — Beijing 20 — was conducted by the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), culminating in a CSW conference in New York. Equipped with a typology of three global justice conceptions—global justice as non-domination, as impartiality, and as mutual recognition — the paper utilises publicly available documents, media reports, and interviews with civil society representatives and gender experts, to identify underlying normative ideas of the Beijing 20 process and the EU’s approach. A comparison is made with the process and the global justice conceptions central to the Beijing Declaration and the EU’s role at the Beijing World Conference. Findings show that the EU’s role as a promoter of impartial global justice was limited in the Beijing 20 process, and that justice as non-domination prevails as a strong organising principle. This represents a shift from the original Beijing path that arguably had a firmer basis in ideas of justice as impartiality. Also the noteworthy commitment to global justice as mutual recognition, which charac-terised both the Beijing 1995 documents and the processes in which they came about, was far less pronounced twenty years later, despite the EU’s declared ambitions to include civil society and ally with women’s rights advocates. These troublesome develop-ments likely reflect a global political climate that is less gender equality friendly, and where established lines between low and high salience are becoming more unclear. This can potentially, and perhaps increasingly, turn gender policy into ‘big politics’. In ad-dition, the EU’s ability and motivation to act as a progressive entrepreneur in the gender equality area may be diminishing as a result of internal developments in the Union.

Keywords: Civil society, democracy, European Union, gender equality, global justice, United Nations, Women’s Movement, World Conference on Women

Suggested Citation

Holst, Cathrine, Promoting Global Justice When Backlash Strikes (May 24, 2018). GLOBUS Research Paper 7/2018. Available at SSRN: or

Cathrine Holst (Contact Author)

ARENA Centre for European Studies and Department of Sociology and Human Geography, University of Oslo ( email )

Sognsveien 68
Oslo, 0855

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