The General Assembly of the United Nations has voted unanimously to establish a new umbrella agency, UN Women. Formally known as United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the new agency will work to address the needs of women across the globe. The decision comes after four years of negotiations among member states at the UN.
The creation of UN Women allows the UN to consolidate agencies working on issues of women’s empowerment. With the resolution passed by the General Assembly, the UN hopes to strengthen progress in this effort.
Ambassador Tiina Intelmann, Permanent Representative of Estonia, served as co-facilitator during the talks leading up to the creation of UN Women. She is pleased to see the agency become a reality after years of negotiations.
“The process involved long and contentious talks between the member states and various NGOs on what the final structure of the entity would look like and what its domain would be. The talks went through several stages and end result is one that we are certainly proud of.”
The new agency is formal consolidation of four smaller UN agencies: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said at the press conference that the search for a Chief Administrator would take place between now and the start of the 65th General Assembly Session in September of this year. Rumored candidates include Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile.
UN Women is not slated to become fully operational until January 2011. Besides filling the Under Secretary- General position, UN Women will also need to decide on two nations to act as executive board members. According to the provisions decided last Friday, the agency will have a six-country board. Top donor nations will fill four seats and the remaining two will be determined according to geographic diversity.
“We wanted to be sure that we gave this organisation inclusive leadership,” said Intelmann. “It is structural point, sure, but it also gives incentives for country participation in achieving women’s empowerment.”
The UN insists the structural shifts will allow for better oversight in efforts to address gender equality. Bringing together the four separate smaller agencies will also mean combining their individual budgets, which supposedly gives UN Women a funding power the smaller agencies never had.
The General Assembly recognises US$500 million as the minimum investment required for the agency’s effectiveness, an amount that is double the combined budget of DAW, INSTRAW, OSAGI, and UNIFEM.
Pointing out that the UNIFEM budget had been increased over the past three years, Intelmann believes UN Women is off to a good start.
“The goal now is to get the four agencies to come together and work together. We are not trying to jump into completely uncharted waters,” she said. “Much of the evaluation of the way forward is looking at the requests for assistance that have been unmet before the creation of this entity and moving to do what we could not do alone together.”
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