General Assembly approves the creation of a new women's entity at the UN
Friday, 02 July 2010 16:40


In a landmark decision on 2nd July 2010, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution to establish a new UN entity that will promote the rights of women worldwide. With the name 'UN Women', it is intended to be a more coherent, better-coordinated UN organisation that will advance the goals of gender equality and the empowerment of women. Its creation was welcomed by civil society organisations across the world, many of whom are members of the GEAR campaign, a network of over 300 women’s, human rights, development and social justice groups, which has worked for four years to achieve this outcome.


The General Assembly called for UN Women to be operational by 1 January 2011. According to the resolution, the existing mandates and functions of the four separate UN organisations currently dedicated to women’s issues,* will be consolidated over the next six  months and transferred to the new entity. UN Women will have the additional role of 'leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the UN system in its work on gender equality and women’s empowerment', as well as an increased operational presence at the country level. Importantly, UN Women will also maintain the UN's technical and policy work on women's rights.


To ensure women's rights get some much needed political clout within the UN system, UN Women will be led by an Under Secretary-General (USG), the second highest position within the UN bureaucracy. This high-level post is expected to be filled by September 2010, allowing the USG to lead the transitional team and help shape the new entity. For civil society, there is much riding on this appointment, given that one of the USG's tasks is to ensure the continuance of 'the existing practice of effective consultation with civil society organisations.' Concern amongst civil society organisations that the Secretary-General's appointment process is less than transparent, has led to calls that Mr Ban Ki-moon appoint a 'strong' leader who 'combines a global vision with gender equality experience'. 


Over the past few months intense negotiations on the gender entity have taken place at the UN Headquarters in New York. The most contested issue for member states was how the operational side of the new entity would be governed. While several donor countries wanted this to be the current UNDP/UNFPA Executive Board and to remain small for quick decision-making, developing countries (G77) preferred a larger board with numbers comparable to that of the Commission on the Status of Women for stronger geographical representation from the Global South. In the final days of negotiations, a compromise was reached to create a new Executive Board that seeks to address the need for accountability from donor countries and satisfies the geographical ask of developing countries. The new Executive Board will consist of 41 countries with seats distributed as follows:

  • Africa: 10
  • Asia: 10
  • Eastern Europe: 4
  • Latin America and the Caribbean: 6
  • Western Europe and Other States Group (WEOG): 5
  • Contributing countries: 6 (Four of these seats will be chosen by the top ten donors to the entity, and 2 are reserved for non-WEOG donors.)
One of the other points of contention amongst states negotiating the resolution was the question of funding for the new entity. This remains unresolved and will be hotly debated over the coming months. The GEAR campaign has consistently argued that funds of at least US$1 billion must be forthcoming in the intial years of the entity's establishment to ensure it is able to fully implement its mandate. Further, the funding sources must, in its view, be 'stable and predictable'.

* The four organisations that have worked on women's rights are: UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).
Last Updated on Tuesday, 24 August 2010 17:00
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