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“If there is one message that echoes forth from this conference, let it be that human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights once and for all.”—First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton

At the United Nations’ 4th World Conference on Women, which was held from September 4-15, 1995, several countries united in support of women’s equal rights to life, education, and security across the world. The conference crusaded for female empowerment and women’s inclusion in national and international decision-making. Discussions on such controversial issues as contraception, reproductive rights, and equal inheritance allowed advocates to raise women’s rights to the forefront of international diplomacy. Once the conference had ended, however, nations, including the U.S., struggled to incorporate those precepts into foreign policy or to negotiate with those countries that violated conference principles.

In the following interview with Charles Stuart Kennedy beginning May 2007, Peter David Eicher, who was serving in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL), recalls his experience of the Beijing Conference, the unlikely alliances, the ways of finessing compromises, the hard work of implementing those commitments, and the tortuous road on reform in China.

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