IWTC Women's GlobalNet #303

Activities and Initiatives of Women Worldwide 


June 27, 2006

By Mavic Cabrera Balleza

 

  1. UN High -Level Coherence Panel consultations with civil society
  2. Women’s initiatives on the UN Reform


1. UN High -Level Coherence Panel consultations with civil society

The UN High -Level Coherence Panel consultations with civil society on UN Reform will be held in Geneva on July 2, 2006. About 60 civil society representatives from around the world are expected to participate in the discussion on the cross-cutting themes of gender equality, human rights and the environment.  The Geneva consultations with civil society represent an important opportunity for women’s rights groups to lay out the organizational and systemic problems associated with the gender equality architecture throughout the UN, both at the national and global levels.

 

Prior to the Panel consultations women’s groups will meet to strategize on overall messages for the hearings.  It will be a chance for women’s groups to get together to explore strategies and make more concrete recommendations about the structural changes that ought to happen in order to turn gender equality, women’s rights and women’s empowerment goals into reality.  These discussions will also constitute the basis of women’s longer-term advocacy efforts leading to the 61st session of the UN General Assembly that will begin on September 12, 2006 in New York.  Member states will negotiate the panel’s recommended reforms to the current architecture, or at least recommended processes on UN reform during the General Assembly.

 

Since May 2006, the UN High-Level Coherence Panel has conducted a series of thematic and regional consultations as well as field visits in Kenya, Mozambique, Pakistan and Rome, primarily with UN Staff, but also with others knowledgeable about the UN system.  Other regional meetings were scheduled to be held such as in Tirana and Cairo but were cancelled. 

 

The UN High -Level Coherence Panel will complete its work in August 2006 and its recommendations will be presented to the General Assembly in September 2006.  

 

2. Women’s initiatives on the UN Reform

 

Women’s groups around the world are organizing to put forward their concerns regarding the UN Reform process. Following are some of the initiatives taking place at the national and regional levels:

 

Norway: The Network for Women and the UN, an open network of organizations and individuals that aim to strengthen the efforts of the UN system for women was organized in May, 2006. The Network met with the Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg, Co-Chair of the  High -Level Panel on UN System-Wide Coherence on May 19, 2006 and sent a letter on May 30, 2006. In the letter, the Network stressed women’s contributions in UN conferences by keeping the issues on the international agenda, and adopting normative instruments and action plans to strengthen the status of women and promote gender equality. They also pointed out that governments as well as UN organisations have experienced difficulties translating the good intentions into practice and that political will has failed and knowledge, resources and effective implementation mechanisms have been lacking. The Network also criticised the gender architecture in the UN system as being weak and fragmented. Click here for the full copy of the Network for Women’s letter to the Norwegian Prime Minister.

 

FOKUS, another organization in Norway that serves as a resource centre on international women's issues and a co-ordinating organ for Norwegian women's groups also wrote to Prime Minister Stoltenberg stating that the UN reform process provides an opportunity for lifting the UN so the organisation is able to meet common challenges related to development, peace and poverty reduction. However, it also expressed concern about the possibility that gender equality will not be sufficiently focused in the reform process. Fokus stressed that gender equality and the strengthening of the status of women are prerequisites for the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It called for “a new UN where issues related to women and equality are placed at the very centre of the organisation.” It asked Prime Minister Stoltenberg about the specific measures he will propose to promote gender equality and women’s rights in a reformed UN. The full copy of the Fokus letter is available here.

 

The National Congress of the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights, held in Oslo on May 6, 2006, adopted a resolution addressed to the Prime Minister Stoltenberg. The resolution emphasized that to be able to achieve the MDGs, UN’s work on women and gender equality must be strengthened. They pointed out that the a number of countries, especially in the Global South are behind their MDG targets. Participants in the Congress called on all UN organizations to intensify their efforts to strengthen the status of women and promote gender equality within their fields of competence, employ more effective strategies and allocate more resources. The special units for women – such as UNIFEM and INSTRAW – must be further developed and strengthened, possibly by creating an autonomous, more dynamic women’s organisation which can provide women with an independent voice, function as a watchdog assisting and exerting pressure on other organisations with regards to women and gender equality, they added. Click here for a full copy of the resolution.

 

Philippines: NGOs are gathering signatures in a letter that will be sent to the Philippine Permanent Mission to the UN in New York and the members of the High Level Panel on UN System-Wide Coherence.  The Philippine campaign noted the increasing recognition by the UN of civil society as a key stakeholder in development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. It applauded the World Summit’s recognition of gender equality as essential for sustained economic growth, poverty reduction and employment creation. The Philippine NGOs urged the Philippine mission and members of the High Level Panel to support the strengthening of the capacity of each of the UN funds, programmes and agencies to mainstream gender equality objectives in their respective programmes and activities, through appropriate policies, mechanisms and resources. It also urged the UN to raise the authority, status and financial resources of UNIFEM.  A full copy of the Philippine NGOs’ letter is available here.

 

South Asia:  Women’s organizations including SEWA (India),  Saathi (Nepal) and  Struggle for Change (Pakistan) wrote to the members of the High Level Panel urging for a stronger UNIFEM as a UN nodal agency for women with proven track record and expertise.  The South Asian women also conducted a signature campaign expressing their appeal for a strengthened UNIFEM under a reformed gender architecture in the UN. Representatives of women’s groups in South Asia met Pakistani Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz, Co-Chair of the Panel, in Islamabad on 22nd April 2006. The women apprised the Prime Minister Aziz of South Asian women’s concerns and requested him to put forward their concerns before the rest of the Coherence Panel members of the UN Reform Process.

 

Women from Bangladesh and Sri Lanka also came up with a letter and statement reinforcing the concerns of women in other parts of South Asia. Click here for the Bangladeshi women’s letter to the Pakistani Prime Minister and the Sri Lankan statement.

 

The Global Peace Conference that was organized in  Birgunj, Nepal on April 7-8, 2006 formulated a declaration that recognized the support UNIFEM has provided to different states. The delaration read:  "Therefore, we recommend UNIFEM to be a high powered nodal agency in the UN as the "Gender Architecture" to operationalize the women's peace agenda according to the Security Council Resolution 1325." A group of NGOs and civil society representatives in Nepal which calls itself “Friends of UNIFEM” is also active in collecting signatures from diverse groups and networks. 

 

Japan: The Japan Women's Watch, a coalition of women’s organizations lobbying for the full implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action will meet with Mr. Keizo Takemi, a member of the UN High -Level Coherence Panel on June 28 to solicit Mr. Takemi’s support in ensuring gender equality and women’s human rights principles in the UN Reform process.

 

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