IWTC WOMEN'S GLOBALNET #305
ACTIVITIES AND INITIATIVES OF WOMEN WORLDWIDE
July 28, 2006
by Alana Cherlin
WOMEN FROM ACROSS THE WORLD PRESENT THEIR VIEWS TO THE HIGH LEVEL COHERENCE PANEL ON UN REFORM
1. OUTCOME OF THE 2 JULY UN HIGH LEVEL PANEL’S CIVIL SOCIETY CONSULTATION
The UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on System-wide Coherence, formed in February of this year, has been charged with the task of exploring how the United Nations can work more coherently and effectively across the world in the areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment. The findings are expected to be presented to the UN General Assembly in September, and are to be used in laying the groundwork for a fundamental restructuring of the United Nations operational work. (UN Department of Public Information, News & Media Division, NY, http://www.un.org/News/Press/docs/2006/sgsm10349. doc.htm.)
The High Level Panel held a one-day consultation with over 50 civil society representatives in Geneva on July 2, 2006. The consultation covered the cross-cutting themes of gender equality, human rights and sustainable development/ environment. Of particular interest was the discussion on gender equality.
2. THE GENDER ARCHITECTURE OF THE UN
There is a growing consensus that the four agencies currently focused on women’s issues - the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), UN Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), UN Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) - lack the stature, resources, operational capacity, and mandate to
adequately handle women’s rights and gender equality concerns. As a result, the following proposals for the strengthening of the UN’s gender architecture are being discussed:
- Merge UNIFEM into UNDP (Netherlands proposal)
- Merge UNIFEM/INSTRAW/DAW/OSAGI into one or possibly two agencies, one operational and the other policymaking.
- Create a new independent women’s agency with a broad mandate,
led by a director with Under-Secretary-General (USG) status, and with greatly enhanced resources. This agency could be built by initially combining UNIFEM and UNFPA field and headquarters staff, by significantly scaling up UNIFEM, or by creating a new independent agency entirely.
Panelists in the segment on gender equality which included the Women’s Environment and Development Organization (WEDO) and the Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL), emphasized the inadequacies of the current gender equality architecture and the need for a well-resourced independent women’s agency with normative, operational and oversight
capacity, a universal country presence and led by an Under-Secretary General.
These comments were drawn from a paper prepared by Aruna Rao of Gender at Work and edited by WEDO and CWGL, which was submitted to the High Level Panel. (For full text of this paper visit the CWGL website: http://www.cwgl.rutgers.edu/.)
3. REGIONAL, NATIONAL, AND SECTORAL POSITIONS ON WOMEN-SPECIFIC INITIATIVE AND GENDER MAINSTREAMING IN THE UN
The following regional, national, and sectoral positions on
women-specific initiatives and gender mainstreaming in the UN were asserted at the consultation:
Asia and the Pacific: Pawadee Tonguthai, of the Asia-Pacific Women’s Watch, expressed her concern that gender mainstreaming efforts in the UN system have frequently been “fractured and piecemeal at all levels.” She explains that this is due to a poor understanding of the concept behind gender mainstreaming at the decision-making level; gender focal points often lack authority and gender expertise; and the system of accountability is deficient. She stressed that the vital first step is to ensure accountability on gender equality within the UN system.
Representative from Southeast Asia Women Watch, Patricia Licuanan, indicated that gender mainstreaming, as agreed upon and promoted at the Fourth World Conference on Women, is “an important strategy to achieve the goals of gender equality.” However, she noted “strong institutional mechanisms for the advancement of women are a requirement of gender mainstreaming,” and necessitate adequate human and financial resources to carry out its mandate, a sufficiently high position in the UN structure, and an ample level of capacity to implement its functions.
Pakistan: Maria Rashid, a representative of ROZAN, an NGO based in Pakistan, indicated that the current conceptualization and
operationalization of gender mainstreaming has been unsuccessful. She explained that gender units/focal people are “often ineffective because they lack expertise, resources and authority to really attempt the transformative nature of change required.” Additionally, she noted that the UN currently lacks institutional memory of gender differentiated needs in services and programmes (exemplified during the Pakistani earthquake), due to the lack of a UN agency for women.
Norway: A spokesperson for Norwegian women’s organizations, Torild Skard, referenced an independent evaluation in 2005 of Norway’s bilateral aid cooperation, which concluded that despite the introduction of gender mainstreaming and continued political support by the Ministers for Development Cooperation, the practical application was “weak, fragmented, and partly invisible.” There was clearly a need for a re-institutionalization of the gender concern, entailing a committed, knowledgeable and accountable leadership among the top management; more systematic and visible efforts for gender equality, including specific women-targeted interventions; a critical mass of gender expertise;
allocation of human and financial resources; and regular reporting and evaluations of results. She indicated that the lessons learned in Norway were similar to those in other donor country administrations and UN organizations.
In her comments, Skard asserted that gender mainstreaming is not an end unto itself, “but a means to empower women and achieve gender equality,” which must be supplemented by a broad range of different means. She further argued that an autonomous UN agency for women with a strong mandate and adequate resources is necessary to promote gender equality in practice in an effective way.
Indigenous Women: The coordinator of the International Indigenous Women’s Forum (FIMI) and Program Director at MADRE, Monica Alemán, expressed support for a UN Women’s Agency, “whose work would be rooted in an understanding of the overlapping crises that women face on the basis of elements of their identity beyond gender, including race, ethnicity, language, geography, religion, age, sexual orientation and class.” Alemán emphasized the importance that this agency both represent the interests of women and empower those women to represent
their own needs and priorities; and the need for Indigenous women be included in all facets and phases of the agency’s work (from
conceptualization to implementation). She explained that in addition to the agency, it is necessary to further the application of gender
mainstreaming and ensure women-specific programming throughout the UN system. Finally she called for greater contributions of funds from member states to programs that promote gender equality in their own countries.
Peace and Security: Speaking on behalf of NGOs working on women, peace and security issues, Mavic Cabrera-Balleza of the International Women’s Tribune Centre pointed out the need to ensure women’s participation in the work of the Peacebuilding Commission (PBC), one of the key components of the UN reform package. She highlighted women’s efforts in lobbying the Security Council and UN Member States so that the resolution on the PBC adapted by Security Council and the General Assembly reaffirms the important role of women in conflict prevention and resolution and in peace building as well as the need to increase women’s participation in decision-making on peace and security issues.
Cabrera-Balleza called on the High Level Panel to support the
integration of gender equality and women’s human rights principles in the work of the PBC. She also appealed to the Panel to make
recommendations to ensure that the Peace Building Support Office and the Peace Building Fund adequately address gender concerns and promote the full implementation of SCR 1325.
4. UPCOMING UN REFORM PUBLICATION: “UN REFORM: WHAT’S IN IT FOR WOMEN?”
The International Women’s Tribune Centre and the Heinrich Böll
Foundation will publish a book entitled, “UN Reform: What’s in it for Women?” The publication features reflections, insights, and analysis by women from different regions specifically examining the impact of the UN reform process on women at the regional and national levels. It also presents different initiatives and proposals in ensuring women’s spaces within the UN as well as concrete recommendations on how to influence the UN reform process. If interested in receiving copies, please contact Mavic Cabrera-Balleza at IWTC: email@example.com.
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