“Unanimous Vote Creates Inclusive UN Womens’ Agency”
Constance M. Baker, RN, EdD, MA Board of Directors, Unitarian Universalist United Nations Office
On July 2, 2010 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution creating the UN Entity for Gender Equality andthe Empowerment of Women. www.unwomen.org The new agency will be led by an Under-Secretary-General (USG), who will work with a 41 member country Executive Committee. Together, they will oversee all UN programs aimed at promoting women’s rights and full participation in global affairs within the limits of an annual budget of about US $500 million. This new entity, known as “UN Women”, combines the four former UN gender agencies: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), International Research and Training Institute(INSTRAW), and the Office of Special Advisor on Gender Issues (OSAGI).UN Women will continue to implement programs and tools developed by these four agencies and other UN groups. For ex-ample, 1) Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) adopted by the General Assembly in 1979. Today, every major country in the world has adopted CEDAW except the United States, Iran, Somalia, Su-dan and a couple others. 2) Beijing Platform for Action (BPfA) and the continuing 5 year reviews in 2000, 2005, and 2010; 3)UN Security Council Resolutions 1325 and 1820 which address women’s role in conflict prevention, specifically in 1325 sexualgender-based violence and 1820 sexual violence in conflict situations; and 4) Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) whichall 191 Member States have pledged to meet by 2015 and UN Women can advocate for gender equality in each of the 8 goals.On September 14, 2010 Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon named former Chilean President, Dr. Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General of the new UN women’s entity. On November 10, 2010 elections were held to specify the 41 countriesserving on the UN Women’s Executive Committee: 10 from Africa, 10 from Asia, 4 from Eastern Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 5 from Western Europe, and 6 from contributing countries. The new UN Women began functioning January 1, 2011. While UN Women will carry forward the agendas of DAW,UNIFEM, INSTRAW, and OSAGI, this new entity must foster systematic ways to engage a diverse NGO constituency. Fur-ther, stable and sustainable financial resources are required to effectively empower women so funding goals must be estab-lished immediately with the 6 representative donor countries: Great Britain, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and the UnitedStates.Recently Under Secretary General Michelle Bachelet outlined the five focus areas of UN Women: 1) Expanding women’s voice, leadership and participation; 2) Ending violence against women; 3) Strengthening women’s full participation in conflictresolution and peace processes; 4) Enhancing women’s economic empowerment; and 5) Ensuring gender priorities are re-flected in national plans and budgets, including capacity to support CEDAW reporting.Efforts to have a visible impact within the UN Women’s first 100 days include creating a process to invite participation of na-tional and grassroots women’s groups, engaging interest groups in creating an agenda, and producing some tangible result.Members of the International Convocation of UU Women can help influence the evolution of UN Women by identifying per-plexing issues held in common with UN Women, specifying activities that could accomplish goals of both organizations, com-municating with members of UN Women’s Executive Committee, and engaging with other UU organizations to enhance UUpresence throughout the world.