Establishment of UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment

On 2 July, in a historic moment, the UN General Assembly voted unanimously to the establishment of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment, to be known as “UN Women.” The resolution that establishes the new entity is part of a larger resolution on System-wide Coherence (A/64/L.56, paragraphs 49-90 relate to the establishment of UN Women) and is the result of years of negotiations between UN Member States and active advocacy of women’s groups and civil society.

The Economic and Social Council, concluding its High-level Segment on 2 July, adopted a Ministerial Declaration that welcomed the establishment of UN Women. In it, leaders pledged their full support to get the new agency up and running, which would strengthen the ability of the United Nations to support the attainment of women’s rights and empowerment worldwide.

The new entity, which will be operational by January 2011, will consolidate the four existing gender entities – the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW); the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW); the Office of the Special Adviser for Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI); and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) – into one in order to ensure stronger coherence and coordination at all levels and to bring together resources and mandates for greater impact. A transition period started upon adoption of the resolution and will continue until 31 December 2010.

In his statement welcoming the decision, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said, “I am grateful to Member States for having taken this major step forward for the world’s women and girls. UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe.”

UN Women’s mandate will include supporting inter-governmental bodies in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms, and helping Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it. It will also help the UN system to be accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

UN Women will enhance, not replace, efforts by other parts of the UN system – such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) or the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) – that continue to have responsibility to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment in their areas of expertise.

The Secretary-General will appoint an Under-Secretary-General to head the new body and is currently inviting suggestions from Member States and civil society partners. The Under-Secretary-General will be a member of all senior UN decision-making bodies and will report to the Secretary-General.

The operations of UN Women will be funded from voluntary contributions, while the regular UN budget will support its normative work. At least US$500 million – double the current combined budget of DAW, OSAGI, INSTRAW and UNIFEM – has been recognized by Member States as the minimum investment needed for UN Women.

The General Assembly resolution creating UN Women also covers broader issues related to UN system-wide coherence, laying out a new approach to the funding of UN development operations, streamlining the work of UN bodies, and improving methods of evaluating reform efforts.

“UN Women is a recognition of a simple truth: Equality for women and girls is not only a basic human right, it is a social and economic imperative. Where women are educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable,” Mr. Ban stressed.

Yet gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society. Women in all parts of the world suffer violence and discrimination, and are under-represented in decision-making processes. High rates of maternal mortality continue to be a cause for global shame. For many years, the UN has faced serious challenges in its efforts to promote gender equality globally, including inadequate funding and no single recognized driver to direct UN activities on gender equality issues.

“UN Women will give women and girls the strong, unified voice they deserve on the world stage. I look forward to seeing this new entity up and running so that we – women and men – can move forward together in our endeavour to achieve the goals of equality, development and peace for all women and girls, everywhere,” said UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro.

The joint statement released by DAW, INSTRAW, OSAGI and UNIFEM declares that “UN Women will be a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls around the world, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local levels. Its establishment will boost the United Nations’ ability to support and work with Member States in accelerating progress towards achieving the goals of gender equality and the empowerment of women, expanding opportunity and tackling discrimination against women and girls. UN Women will work with the entire UN system, and will forge effective partnerships with all stakeholders, including with civil society and women’s organizations.

"We are committed to jointly implementing our mandate and functions as UN Women, with renewed vigour to meet oncoming challenges and help fulfil the rights and expectations of the world’s women and girls that this opportunity affords. We are confident that Member States will provide UN Women with the robust resource base necessary for the effective fulfilment of its mandate. We look forward to the appointment of the Under-Secretary-General to head UN Women and lead this work," the statement said.

In her statement, Inés Alberdi, UNIFEM Executive Director, said, “Today marks a great new beginning, not an end. The kind of work that UNIFEM has supported will continue as we merge into an institution that will be more robust and coherent, better positioned and resourced than the sum of its constituent parts…. Over the past decades, there have been many achievements in advancing the women’s rights and gender equality agenda, yet much still needs to be done. We now know that we will be stronger in pursuing our joint efforts for women and girls globally. Let’s seize this moment, and the momentum, and work with renewed energy and enthusiasm.”

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