Monitor (SUNS) #6773, Wednesday, 16 September 2009
Approves long-awaited new women's agency
14 Sep (IPS/Thalif Deen) -- After more than three years of political
foot-dragging, the 192-member General Assembly adopted a historic resolution
Monday aimed at creating a new UN agency for women.
The decision to create a separate powerful body to deal exclusively
with gender-related activities comes years - or decades - after the
United Nations created specialised agencies to deal with specific issues,
including children, population, refugees, food, environment, education,
health and tourism, among many others.
Currently, there are four existing women's UN entities in the world
body: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the Office of the
Special Adviser on Gender Issues; the UN Division for the Advancement
of Women; and the International Research and Training Institute for
the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
But none of them is as politically powerful and financially stable as
full-fledged UN agencies.
When the new women's agency is created, perhaps by the middle of next
year, it will be headed by an under-secretary-general (USG), the third
highest ranking position in the UN system, after the secretary-general
and the deputy secretary-general.
The four existing women's entities are not headed by USGs, while all
agencies such as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population
Fund (UNFPA) and the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees
The resolution adopted Monday "strongly supports the consolidation"
of the four bodies currently dealing with women "into a composite
entity, taking into account the existing mandates".
The Assembly also requested Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to produce
a comprehensive proposal specifying details of the proposed composite
entity; an organsational chart; funding for the new body; and the composition
of the executive board to oversee its operational activities.
Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Centre for Women's Global
Leadership at Rutgers University,
told IPS: "We are very relieved that the General Assembly has finally
taken decisive action to create the new gender equality entity on the
eve of the 15th anniversary of the Beijing
"We consider this a great victory for women's rights as well as
for the coalition of women's and other civil society organisations that
have worked hard for over three years to bring this entity into being,"
Daniela Rosche, head of Oxfam's gender campaign, said that while it
welcomes the principle on this much-needed women's agency, "The
attitude of some member states to weaken its mandate at the last minute
This decision to have a new women's rights entity in place will mean
absolutely nothing if member states fail to give it a clear mission,
The good news is that the new agency has the potential to streamline
decision-making and programming related to women's rights under one
overarching agency, Rosche said in a statement released Monday.
"This body doesn't add another layer to the already heavy UN bureaucracy.
The potential to have an impact on women's lives through education,
organising and empowerment is very real and exciting," Rosche said.
In the resolution adopted Monday, she pointed out, any reference to
the agency's future mandate has been deleted. But it's not too late
to turn things around.
The leadership of Secretary-General Ban is urgently needed to ensure
that the momentum is not lost and women's rights get the political backing
The swift appointment of an under-secretary-general will help ensure
an effective conclusion of this process by next year, she added.
A coalition of over 300 international non-governmental organisations,
which has been pursuing a global campaign for Gender Equality Architecture
Reform (GEAR) in the UN system, said it was pleased that the General
Assembly expressed strong and unanimous support in adopting a resolution
that will enable the creation of the new gender equality entity to be
headed by a new USG.
In a statement released Monday, GEAR said: "We urge Secretary-General
Ban Ki-moon to immediately begin the recruitment process for appointing
a strong leader grounded in women's rights and gender equality as the
USG who will lead this process of consolidating the four existing entities".
"We expect a broad, open search process to start promptly so that
the USG is in place and the entity can be operational by the time of
the Beijing + 15 Review at the Commission on the Status of Women in
March of 2010."
The coalition also said that member states must address in a timely
fashion all the outstanding issues required for the entity to begin
operations, including the mechanisms for governance and oversight.
Donor countries need to pledge the substantial funding (about $1 billion)
to support the proposed strong field operation that the entity must
have to be successful in fulfilling the promises made by governments
and the UN to the world's women.
"As civil society has always played a vital role in the UN's work
on women's rights, we urge member states and the Secretary General to
commit to systematic and on-going participation of civil society, particularly
women's organisations, in every state of the process at global, regional,
national, and local levels including in the governing board," the
Women around the world have waited a long time for the United Nations
and member states to fulfill the promises made since the first International
Women's Year in 1975, the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination
of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) 30 years ago, as well as the
UN World Conferences in Nairobi (1985)
and Beijing (1995).
"This is an important and crucial step forward, now it must be
made operational without further delay," the coalition declared.
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