2 July 2010
Press Conference

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Press Conference on Establishment of New Gender Entity, ‘UN Women’

 


“UN Women” would give women and girls the strong unified voice they deserve on the world stage, said United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro, ahead of an anticipated decision by the General Assembly to bring together four distinct parts of the United Nations system devoted to women’s issues into one composite entity.


Speaking alongside Ms. Migiro at a Headquarters press conference were Tiina Intelmann, Permanent Representative of Estonia, and Ghazi Jomaa, Permanent Representative of Tunisia, who co-facilitated the talks on the resolution on system-wide coherence — containing a section devoted to the new entity — expected for passage by the General Assembly this afternoon.  UN Women was expected to be operational by January 2011.


Ms. Migiro acknowledged the great progress made in the last few decades to advance the cause of women’s empowerment and gender equality, but explained that the movement had suffered at times from inadequate funding as well as fragmentation, owing to the lack of a single driver on women’s issues.  There was hope among Member States, the Secretariat and other stakeholders that UN Women would address those hindrances.


So far, she said, eight countries had already put forward their suggestions on who should head the new body, following an invitation from the Secretary-General in April.  Once the entity was formally endorsed by the Assembly, the Secretary-General was expected to announce a deadline for submission of candidates, which she said would probably spur more stakeholders to contribute to the list, including civil society partners.  (See Press Release DSG/SM/515 for Ms. Migiro’s opening remarks)


According to Ms. Intelmann, the decision had taken more than four years to negotiate, and had been unanimously agreed at an informal meeting of the General Assembly on 30 June.  The agreement was part of a package of measures to allow the United Nations to better respond to country needs, through enhanced coherence of its development work.


The new body was designed to be stronger than the sum of its four parts, she said, with Member States recognizing that the normative side of the women’s empowerment movement had existed in isolation from operational activities being carried out by the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), one of the four parts of the United Nations system tasked with women’s issues.  The others were the Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW) and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women.


The Assembly would give UN Women the mandate to oversee gender mainstreaming in the United Nations system, which, she explained, would involve studying “how women were represented across the United Nations system”.  Member States were hopeful that the appointment of a “visionary and active head” would add to the strength of UN Women.  And, she had heard repeated pledges from donor countries that they would begin to channel funds once the entity was formally announced.  Many States had been frustrated at the lack of funding for UNIFEM, which had constrained its response to the many requests for its assistance.


Member States had decided that the new entity would carry out both normative and operational activities, she continued, making it different from United Nations funds, programmes and agencies, which tended to be mostly operational, and the Secretariat, which was largely policy-oriented.


Mr. Jomaa added the entity would have a brand new executive board, telling one journalist that six seats would be reserved for donor countries — from both the developed and developing world — according to the formula derived by the Assembly.  Other members of the board would be appointed by the Assembly itself and the Economic and Social Council.


Asked to comment on how Member States had dealt with the situation of women living under occupation, Ms. Entelmann explained that Member States had striven to reach a balance in creating a mandate that provided “universal coverage”, while also mindful of the situation specific to women living in especially vulnerable situations.  The final decision had been to give a mandate to the Under-Secretary-General to develop an organizational structure that reflected both those goals.


Mr. Jomaa added that the issue of women and armed conflict was one of the 12 priorities listed in the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, and was one of several documents referred to in the mandating resolution.


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For information media • not an official record