‘UN Women’ – newest member of world body

‘UN Women’ – newest member of world body

July 4, 2010   12:34 am

The General Assembly today voted unanimously to create a new body for accelerating gender equality and women’s empowerment, crowning four-years of tough negotiations to streamline and raise the profile of the United Nations activities to promote the rights of women and girls.

Diplomats erupted in rousing applause as the Assembly adopted a consensus resolution on system-wide coherence that would place four existing United Nations bodies dealing with gender issues under a single umbrella; it will be known as “UN Women”.  

The resolution calls for the appointment of an Under-Secretary-General to head up the new body, and the establishment of an executive board to provide intergovernmental support to and supervision of its operational activities.

Praising Member States for creating a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the move “historic”, and declared: “It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls — or to fail to take the necessary action”.

Mr. Ban immediately named Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, to guide the transition process that would entail the dissolution of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and merge their mandates and functions with those of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, to create the new body, which would be operational by 1 January 2011.

The Assembly makes clear in the resolution that the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted by the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women, is the framework for the new body’s work.That landmark action plan calls for Governments to end discrimination against women and close the gender gap in 12 critical areas including education, employment, political participation and human rights. Further to today’s text, the policy-oriented activities of UN Women would be funded by the Organization’s regular budget, and its programmes and field operations would be funded by voluntary contributions.

Acknowledging that the resolution would always be strongly associated with the establishment of UN Women, the Secretary-General stressed that the Assembly had also adopted today many important decisions in other areas of the system-wide coherence process.  In the area of funding, Member States had agreed to introduce a new approach to determining the “critical mass” of core funding for funds and programmes.

Continuing, he said that Member States had also realized that the voice of programme countries was not always heard in governing bodies, by requesting those bodies to identify how to strengthen the participation of national policymakers in meetings of the Executive Boards of funds and programmes and the operational activities segment of the Economic and Social Council.  

“Such measures will enable programme countries, particularly the least developed, to participate in governing bodies on a more equal basis,” he added.

Assembly President Ali Abdussalam Treki said the resolution illustrated the dedication and joint efforts of Member States and the Secretariat to move forward together, with a stronger, more efficient United Nations.  “Our Organization’s shortcomings are well known: fragmented, costly and, at times, duplicative operational activities,” he said, adding that improving the world body’s coherence and effectiveness was vital to ensuring that it remained at the heart of the global multilateral system.

“Today is an important day,” he continued, saying that the resolution “seeks to institutionalize our joint efforts to empower one of the world’s greatest assets: women.”  UN Women would be both a normative body and an operational one, acting as a secretariat and carrying out operational activities, such as guidance and technical support, at the country level.  Importantly, the resolution also charged UN Women with an additional mandate; that of coordinating the United Nations systems activities on gender issues, including gender mainstreaming.

Delegations taking the floor after the adoption of the resolution hailed the creation of UN Women as “historic”, saying the new body would put women at the forefront of the international agenda and provide support for countries to strengthen national capacities towards women’s advancement.  They also praised the Assembly President’s leadership, as well as the hard work of his co-facilitators, Tiina Intelmann (Estonia) and Ghazi Jomaa (Tunisia).

Speaking on behalf of the Joint Coordination Committee of the “Group of 77” developing countries and China and the Non-Aligned Movement, Moushira Khattab, Minister of State for Family and Population of Egypt, underscored that dissolving the two entities — UNIFEM and INSTRAW — and transferring their mandates and functions to the new entity should not forfeit the expertise of current staff.

She said that the Joint Committee looked forward to a smooth transition, without programme interruption or staff suffering from the change.  After all, UNIFEM, the Division for the Advancement of Women, INSTRAW and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women were the building blocks of UN Women and should be seen as assets during the transition period and when the new body became operational in January.

Highlighting other aspects of the resolution, the representative of the Russian Federation praised important measures aimed at avoiding duplication and said he was satisfied with the balanced, agreed wording regarding financing, harmonization and other subjects.  He noted that the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) must preserve its formal status, and he welcomed the “Delivering as One” pilot projects.  Success depended on the reliability of “assessment bodies”, and the Russian Federation was ready to participate actively.  Still, the text was presently no more than just a document; its effective implementation would the responsibility of Member States, he said.

The Minister of State for External Affairs of India also delivered a statement, as did the representatives of Belgium (speaking on behalf of the European Union), Australia (speaking also on behalf of Canada and New Zealand), Estonia, Tunisia, United States, Rwanda, Republic of Korea, Cuba, Colombia, Botswana, United Republic of Tanzania, Dominican Republic, Japan, Chile, Mexico, Norway and South Africa.

The General Assembly will reconvene at a date and time to be announced. - (United Nationa general Assembly)
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