The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (BPfA) is 20 years old. This introduction looks at the promises of the Beijing conference and reflects on how these have materialised amidst broader changes in the political economy of development. Most significant is the shift in the role of the state, with the entry of new development actors into the development policy and practice arena and growing private sector engagement. One consequence of this is that in the enthusiasm of corporate campaigns promoting women and girls as self-actualising individuals who can lift their communities out of poverty, effective implementation of progressive policies is getting lost. An important legacy of Beijing is the buzz it created within women’s organising and the opportunities offered for the creation of transnational and local alliances. In conclusion we underline the hugely important part the energy of women’s organisations continues to play in achieving positive and sustainable change.