Friday, July 09, 2010

UN creates 'UN Women'

After four years of negotiations, the UN General Assembly voted unanimously July 2nd to consolidate four UN agencies focused on advancing gender equality into one new body. The agencies (UN Development Fund for Women, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women) will now be known as UN Women. It will be headed by an Under-Secretary-General, to be appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and will be given a $500 million annual budget - double the combined budgets of the four previous agencies.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migro explained that UN Women was not a move solely to consolidate agencies, but to consolidate women's issues within the UN. "UN Women will give women and girls the strong, unified voice they deserve on the world stage," Ms. Migiro said. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon went on to explain that, "Equality for women and girls is not only a basic human right, it is a social and economic imperative. Where women are educated and empowered, economies are more productive and strong. Where women are fully represented, societies are more peaceful and stable." It was also noted that while there have been some improvements, women's issues within the UN have faced challenges in "funding and fragmentation". UN Women hopes to overcome these hurdles.

The forming of UN Women coincides with a meeting of the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) where the role of culture in women's empowerment was hotly debated. "Cultural diversity is an important aspect of what is happening in the world nowadays... it should never be an excuse to violate the rights of women," said Irina Bokova, Director-General of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. The President of ECOSOC, Hamidon Ali, welcomed the creation of UN Women and noted that the empowerment of women is key to realizing the Millenium Development Goals by 2015.

- Clara Hill