Vol. 35, No. 4
UN: Gender equality entity created
On July 2, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution to create a new gender equality entity, “UN Women.” Maryknoll and other civil society groups have worked for this since the establishment of a System-Wide Coherence Panel for UN Reform in 2006. The following is an announcement from the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign.
Charlotte Bunch of the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University, a founding member of the GEAR Campaign, stated, “We have high expectations for this new agency to be a solid foundation for advancing the human rights of women as central to global policy efforts to reduce poverty and move toward greater realization of peace and democracy in the world. The coalition of women’s groups and other social justice, human rights and development organizations that played a pivotal role in this effort will now turn its efforts toward ensuring that the new body has the human and financial resources necessary to succeed.”
Particularly notable in the resolution are the paragraphs regarding the importance of civil society participation in the new entity. The body must have increased operational presence at the country level including engagement with women’s groups and other civil society organizations invested in gender equality and the empowerment of women.
The GEAR Campaign’s global, regional, and national networks will be contacting UN representatives at all levels to work with the transition process and the new Under Secretary-General, once appointed, to ensure they are connected with organizations on the ground ready to provide their expertise and support.
As Patricia Licuanan of the Philippines, GEAR focal point in Asia and previous chair of the Commission on the Status of Women at the time of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing says: “The new gender equality entity will assist countries in their efforts to carry out commitments made in Beijing. Working through the One UN system, we hope to see UN Women taking the lead in engendering the programs of the UN at the country level.”
As the new entity is developed, GEAR supporters will continue to advocate for four major elements critical to its implementation:
• Meaningful, systematic and diverse civil society participation at all levels;
• Strong, country-level operational capacity and universal coverage;
• Ambitious funding with stable and predictable resources aimed at reaching $1 billion within a few years;
• Strong leadership at the top with an Under Secretary-General who combines a global vision with gender equality expertise on the ground.
The GEAR Campaign is a network of over 300 women’s, human rights and social justice groups around the world that have been working for four years to gain UN Member State and UN Secretariat approval for creation of a larger more coherent coordinated UN agency that can advance further the UN’s mandate of working for gender equality as a crucial component of development, human rights, humanitarian concerns, peace and security.
The new Gender Equality Entity, to be headed by an Under-Secretary General, will consolidate the four existing UN bodies on women, increase operational capacity at the country level and have gain increased funding for work on women’s empowerment and advancement. The UN currently has four separate entities dedicated to women’s issues which will be combined in the new entity: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). Bringing these together and coordinating their work more with gender mainstreaming throughout the UN system should enable the UN and governments to deliver more effectively on their obligations and many commitments to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.