United Nations


General Assembly

Distr. GENERAL  

26 June 1996



General Assembly
Fifty-first session
Item 106 of the preliminary list*

*    A/51/50.

                             ADVANCEMENT OF WOMEN

                  The advancement of women through and in the
                    programmes of the United Nations system

                         Note by the Secretary-General

     The Secretary-General has the honour to transmit to the General
Assembly the comments of the Administrative Committee on Coordination
on the report of the Joint Inspection Unit entitled "The advancement
of women through and in the programmes of the United Nations system: 
What happens after the Fourth World Conference on Women?" (A/50/509).


           Comments of the Administrative Committee on Coordination

                                  I.  GENERAL

1.   The positive tone of the report (A/50/509) is welcomed.  It offers
a clear, accurate and balanced analysis of, and forthright information
on, the present situation, as well as of many of the obstacles that
still need to be addressed by the United Nations system.

2.   While specific follow-up to the implementation of the report's
recommendations was considered necessary, the mechanisms for their
implementation and indicators for measuring progress would need to be
discussed in more detail.  As the report points out, there is a need
for such information exchanges on successes and failures and on
methodologies used and experience gained in bringing about change. 
The report's assessment of the current situation with regard to
programmatic and resources aspects, as well as commitment to women's
and gender responsive programmes, provides a good point of departure
for future action.

3.   One of the key points made in the report (A/50/509, para. 15) that
deserves emphasis is:

     "... substantive women's programmes and women's status issues are
     intertwined ... substantive gender programmes will be stronger,
     better applied, and better understood if they are led and
     implemented by both men and women, especially at top management
     and programme management levels.  Conversely, women's status and
     career advancement in an organization should be facilitated if
     that organization is already gender-aware and gender-oriented in
     its substantive programmes."

4.   Through the Consultative Committee on Administrative Questions
(CCAQ), the organizations have also acknowledged, as it was done in
the report, that it is time to move beyond rhetoric and policy
statements; many of the concrete, results-oriented actions called for
in the report have already been embarked upon by CCAQ and others are
being taken by individual organizations.  However, the capacity of
human resources departments to undertake new or enhanced initiatives
is constrained now more than ever by the severe financial situation,
which often is more greatly felt at the administrative level.  For
example, during the biennium 1996-1997 the personnel department of the
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) will be
reduced by approximately one third and the Office of Human Resources
Management of the United Nations Secretariat has been reduced by some
16 per cent within the past two years.

5.   Recognition is rightly given throughout the report to enhancing
performance management and to holding managers accountable, but as the
report correctly emphasizes, policies and strategies must be properly
communicated and the organizational culture must be transformed (para.
34).  Human resource development and training programmes must
therefore be appropriately equipped in terms of financial and human
resources to deliver these programmes.

6.   Concerning the issue of increased accountability for management,
CCAQ recalled at its eighty-second session that management
competencies should be introduced as part of an integrated human
resource strategy if organizations were to succeed in their bid to
improve organizational performance.  A prototype management competency
framework and guidelines for performance appraisal have been made
available to all organizations of the common system.  It is especially
noteworthy that the competency "integrity and international outlook",
inter alia, includes the performance indicator "freedom from prejudice
or bias regarding race, creed or gender".

7.   Although the report's recognition that resources allocated for
gender mainstreaming and women-targeted activities must match the size
of the programme, many organizations and agencies found the report to
be too "headquarters-centred", with insufficient attention to the
particular challenges faced by operational entities at the country
level.  The role of the United Nations Development Fund for Women
(UNIFEM) in supporting coordination of gender responsive programming
at the country level needed to be emphasized.

8.   The recognition given in the report to the responsibilities of
governing bodies and Member States is also welcome (sect. III.8). 
Indeed, it was recognized earlier, in a report of 24 February 1992 on
the status of women, including special measures for their recruitment,
of the International Civil Service Commission (ICSC), that the United
Nations system could not do more than reflect the world community. 
Until such time as women participate in sufficient numbers in all
disciplines and in decision-making positions at the national levels
and as representatives in governmental and non-governmental bodies,
organizations' efforts to bring about a more equitable representation
of women in their secretariats will require intense efforts.  Member
States' responsibility in upholding the policy by placing gender
balance on an equal footing with geographic distribution would also be
a propelling force.


Recommendation 1 (b)

9.   At its nineteenth session in January 1996, the CCAQ Subcommittee
on Staff Training discussed trends and developments in staff training
in gender-related issues and found that staff training programmes
tended to be impeded by limited resources.

10.  In developing his human resources management strategy, the
Secretary-General made a deliberate effort to integrate the objectives
set for the advancement of women into the new management culture
envisaged for the Secretariat.  To date, 4,500 staff have been trained
in the new performance appraisal system (PAS).  PAS includes mandatory
performance indicators to evaluate the extent to which managers and
supervisors achieve gender balance in their immediate office.  Gender
sensitivity is emphasized in the people management training programme
being required of senior managers Secretariat-wide.

Recommendation 2 (a)

11.  Improvements are currently being incorporated into the CCAQ
database from which system-wide statistics are derived.  In addition,
the CCAQ secretariat is now reviewing with organizations the new data
elements that could be introduced into the global common system

Recommendation 2 (b)

12.  A brochure containing the policy statement of the Administrative
Committee on Coordination (ACC) on the status of women is being
published and will be made available to all organizations, including
special interest groups (see also comments in para. 9 above concerning
staff training efforts).

Recommendation 2 (c)

13.  Many recent initiatives target all categories of staff, such as,
for example, the ACC policy statements on (a) the work/family agenda
for the common system and (b) combatting sexual harassment in the
workplace.  These have been followed up by a number of initiatives
within individual organizations.

Recommendation 2 (d)

14.  In 1994, the CCAQ Subcommittee on Staff Training developed two
videos and a training manual for staff training in this area.

15.  In January 1995, a joint staff-management task force began
examining the effectiveness of the Organization's policies and
procedures established in October 1992 to deal with sexual harassment
in the workplace.  In June 1995, the Staff Management Coordination
Committee agreed to a task force proposal to survey United Nations
staff in order to gauge the degree to which harassment exists in the
United Nations workplace.  The survey will be the first of such
breadth and scope, making it a benchmark-setting exercise for the
United Nations and its family of organizations and agencies.  Staff at
all duty stations of the Secretariat, the United Nations Children's
Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the
United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) will be guaranteed anonymity in
completing the questionnaire.  The survey, which is currently being
developed and will be reviewed by a series of departmental focus
groups, is scheduled for release in 1996.

Recommendations 2 (e) and (f)

16.  The recent ACC policy statement on a work/family agenda for the
common system will be published shortly as a brochure and made
available to all organizations.  In 1995, CCAQ decided that each
organization should follow up on this policy with specific
organizational policies and guidelines in keeping with each
organization's structure and mandate.  Other areas to be pursued at
the inter-agency level by CCAQ are:  proposals for short-term family
leave, trends and experiences with flexi-place and current policies
regulating salaries and allowances and other entitlements to ensure
that they are designed in a way that responds to family needs and are
in step with modern thinking and practice.

Recommendation 2 (g)

17.  In 1996, CCAQ intends to review "downsizing" experiences across
the common system and to look further into the capacity of human
resources departments to develop strategic approaches to downsizing
and re-engineering the "human" organization.

Recommendation 2 (h)

18.  The CCAQ and the ICSC secretariats are currently working with the
International Telecommunication Union (ITU), which is providing the
technical expertise to make the ICSC vacancy announcement bulletin
available on the Internet.  This will ensure a wider dissemination of
vacancies across the organizations of the common system.  In 1995,
CCAQ also agreed to undertake a study of the feasibility of developing
an inter-agency roster of staff members.  Both of these undertakings
should help to identify a larger pool of potential women candidates
for consideration for forthcoming vacancies in organizations.

19.  In the area of spouse employment, a number of organizations have
already taken steps to remove from their staff rules any impediments
to the employment of spouses; others have taken some groundbreaking
steps to increase cooperation to facilitate spouse employment.  CCAQ
has also agreed to pursue and monitor the following approaches:  (a)
extending the type of cooperation agreement on spouse employment
reached by the Rome-based organizations across the common system; and
(b) requesting lead organizations at each duty station to review
impediments to and explore the possibility for liberalizing policies
restricting the employment of domestic partners.

                         III.  OTHER SPECIFIC COMMENTS

Current status, patterns and problems (paras. 24-42)

20.  It should be noted that information in paragraph 33 of the report
is somewhat misleading in regard to the resource commitments to
women-related programming by some organizations and agencies.  In the
case of UNFPA, more than 50 per cent of resources have been earmarked
for the reproductive health/family planning sector.  In addition,
funds are allocated for specific activities for women.  The
establishment of the FAO gender unit dates back to 1945, and the unit,
which now has 10 Professional officers and the necessary support
staff, has been well supported by FAO management for a number of

Sound action programmes in each organization (paras. 47-56)

21.  Concerning the question of mainstreaming, it is agreed that there
is a need to place greater emphasis on mainstreaming and to clarify
its conceptual and operational implications.  Mainstreaming women's
issues into development policies and programmes at the national level,
mainstreaming of women's concerns and the raising of gender awareness
at recent United Nations conferences and a wider integration of gender
concerns in the work programmes of intergovernmental bodies have been
visible examples of what is currently being done.  In effect,
mainstreaming requires that planners and policy makers incorporate a
gender perspective into all of their activities.  Such an approach
will lead to encouraging further women's empowerment and active
involvement in development in general.  It should also help to
eliminate the pitfalls of a purely women-specific approach, which has
often led to (if not perpetuated) marginalization of women's issues. 
However, mainstreaming does not eliminate the need for targeting.

22.  Gender and women's programmes must not be the concern of only a
focal point, but must involve top management and be infused in the
efforts of all staff in carrying out their work.

Gender training programmes (paras. 57-60)

23.  In referring to recent findings, it was proposed that the
observations, contained in the report, on the potential impact of
gender training could have been slightly more nuanced.  Three recent
studies a/ suggest that there is very little evidence thus far to
demonstrate the positive impact of gender training on organizational
behaviour.  At the same time, the point, made in paragraph 60
regarding the need to undertake further assessment of results obtained
from past efforts in gender training, was well taken.

24.  In addition to the information provided in the report on
significant progress made in gender training by some organizations, it
should be pointed out that experience has clearly shown the need for
follow-up to gender training to ensure the translation of skills
acquired into action.  This applies in particular to operational
programmes and country programming.  Networking is in place among
programme officers and focal points to exchange experience and to
share information and expertise.  Decentralized management structures
and operations make gender orientation for country representatives and
senior managers at all levels critical.

25.  It should be pointed out that attitudinal and societal change must
also take place at the national level.  United Nations system
initiatives, such as training of trainers, the publication of training
manuals and handbooks and the convening of training workshops for
government officials, have contributed to a greater understanding and
promotion of the integration of a gender perspective into national
development processes.  Nevertheless, there still is a need for
further assessment of the approaches taken to gender training and
their impact at various levels.

26.  Concerning gender training by the International Research and
Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), it should
be clarified that the persons INSTRAW has trained are themselves
trainers who will continue the training process within their
countries, thus establishing a multiplier effect in gender training. 
INSTRAW and other entities have developed training materials on gender

27.  It should also be clarified that, by the end of 1993, FAO had held
43 training workshops for approximately 800 Professional officers,
which comprise approximately 85 per cent of all Professional officers
in the organization.  This remains the highest percentage within the
United Nations system of Professional officers who have received such
sensitization training.  FAO emphasized that it was continuing to
develop collaboratively with ILO and UNDP the innovative programme for
gender training known as the Socio-Economic and Gender Analysis

28.  It should be noted that the gender training programme of the
United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) was
developed in 1992 and is aimed at all UNIDO staff members at
headquarters and in the field.  A specific training manual has been
prepared and is constantly updated and enriched by case-studies
developed in the course of the training sessions.  The objectives of
the training programme are to provide UNIDO staff with a common
understanding on gender issues and with practical guidance on how to
integrate women and gender issues into their operational work.

29.  The report could have benefited from incorporating information
about ongoing inter-agency collaboration and networking on training
and on the contribution of the Joint Consultative Group on Policy
training subgroup to those activities.

Sharpening programme analysis (paras. 61-64)

30.  It should be noted that a revised system-wide medium-term plan for
the advancement of women is being prepared.  In this regard, an effort
had been made to highlight the particular comparative advantage of the
United Nations system in the implementation of the Beijing Declaration
and Platform for Action agreed at the Fourth World Conference on Women
in September 1995 (A/CONF.177/20, chap. I).  The report's conclusion
that there was need for a streamlined, transparent and pragmatic
system of monitoring and follow-up to programmes for women is valid. 
The role of ACC, the Commission on the Status of Women, the Economic
and Social Council and the General Assembly in this regard is
especially important as a complement to the role of the respective
governing bodies of the various entities of the United Nations system.

Regularizing inter-agency meetings (paras. 65-69)

31.  The report stresses the contribution made by the ACC Ad Hoc Inter-
Agency Meeting on Women, held since 1975 in conjunction with the
meetings of the Commission on the Status of Women and in cooperation
with the Division for the Advancement of Women of the United Nations
Secretariat.  There is unanimous support for regularizing this Meeting
and for the report's conclusion that the meetings provide an
irreplaceable opportunity for substantive discussions among agency
representatives dealing with women's programming and for developing
new initiatives and activities in this regard.

32.  The Inter-Agency Meeting provided a unique opportunity for staff
at the working level to meet and develop joint activities and inter-
agency positions on issues before the Commission on the Status of
Women.  There is need to strengthen support for these meetings by ACC
and the executive heads of the organizations of the United Nations

Assessing and enhancing resources (paras. 70-74)

33.  Concerning a system-wide inventory of resources for women's
advancement programmes, it should be recalled that the Consultative
Committee on Programme and Operational Questions (CCPOQ) (as well as
CCAQ(FB) in the past) regularly provides an overview report on the
programmes and resources of the United Nations system, which, inter
alia, includes programmes on the advancement of women (see E/1995/64,
subsectors 173 and 174).

34.  While some ACC members agreed with the assessment made in the
report concerning the ability - or inability - to give accurate
estimates of the resources allocated to programming to benefit women
and to gender issues, the hope was expressed that ongoing revision of
programme monitoring systems would improve the situation. 
Difficulties in making such assessments were attributed, inter alia,
to the cross-sectoral nature of gender-responsive programming and to
the inadequacy of programme monitoring systems to disaggregate
allocations and expenditures by gender.

35.  The increasing pursuit of gender mainstreaming strategies raises a
number of additional methodological problems of calculating spending
on programming to advance the status of women.  In that regard, it
would be unfortunate if mainstreaming were to be used as a cover to
avoid committing resources to women in development/gender programmes. 
More thought should be given to the suitability of existing
measurement and tracking systems for expenditures on both
gender-responsive programmes and on those that specifically target
women.  The recommendations made in paragraph 73 of the report would
be one approach to addressing this problem, but would require inputs
from financial planners and the careful development of a suitable
methodology for "unpacking" expenditures that impact on women.

36.  In addition to the general assessment of the resources allocated
to the advancement of women, a further breakdown should detail
allocations to research and training and to operational activities as
well as to information and outreach.  This would make it possible, in
future, to verify, with disaggregated statistics, whether "very few"
resources are allocated to women's programmes.

New initiatives:  the example of gender statistics (paras. 75-83)

37.  ACC appreciates the importance given in the report to the
programme on gender statistics and endorses the recommendations made
on the programme.  At the same time, it should be noted that the
report, in its paragraph 87, omits to mention a computerized database
operated by FAO, known as the World Agricultural Information Centre
(WAICENT), into which gender-disaggregated data is entered.

38.  The report's assessment of the significance of the publication and
updating of The World's Women is encouraging.  However, UNFPA
involvement in funding national censuses and ensuring that the data
are collected, analysed and disseminated as disaggregated by gender
was not reflected in the report.  It should also be noted that FAO had
contributed to producing The World's Women 1995, particularly in
ensuring that rural women were accorded appropriate attention.  It is
also of relevance that inter-agency follow-up to the Fourth World
Conference on Women offers opportunities for similar efforts in areas
covered by the Platform for Action and the Ad Hoc Inter-Agency Meeting
on Women should discuss ways and means of coordinating such inputs in
future and make a proposal to ACC in this regard.

Information outreach and quality (paras. 84-93)

39.  ACC agrees with the report's analysis of information outreach and
quality.  The points on electronic information networks are
particularly important.  There is need for a rational system of
collection, organization and dissemination of the varied information
on women and gender produced by the United Nations system.  Of
particular interest is the proposal for the establishment of a joint
World Wide Web site aimed at promoting the use of new technologies
among women's organizations and improving the outreach of information
from the United Nations system on women's advancement.  In the initial
phase, the emphasis will be on information from the Division for the
Advancement of Women of the United Nations Secretariat, INSTRAW and
UNIFEM.  In a second phase, if resources permit, the project would be
extended to the system as a whole.

40.  A number of agencies pursued additional information activities,
especially the production and dissemination of information in the
framework of the Fourth World Conference on Women, including updated
bibliographies, videos and films.  Efforts will be made to update and
complete the selected bibliography presented in annex II to the
report, while the resource centre of the Division for the Advancement
of Women should continue to be a repository for materials produced by
the United Nations system on women and gender issues.

Interaction with non-governmental organizations (paras. 94-99)

41.  It is indisputable that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are
particularly important in women's programmes.  Many United Nations
entities have long-standing and close working relationships with NGOs
at the country level, as well as with NGOs that are based at the
headquarters of the respective agencies.  The worldwide network of NGO
committees of UNICEF is one example.  In response to the International
Conference on Population and Development, UNFPA has established an NGO
Advisory Committee at the international level to advise the Fund on
policy and programming matters, and to promote a more active
involvement of NGOs, especially in advocacy.  The Division for the
Advancement of Women maintains a database of over 2000 NGOs that were
accredited to the Fourth World Conference on Women, and has plans to
increase its outreach to this important constituency.

42.  In some cases, NGOs carry out projects funded by United Nations
agencies and work closely with implementing agencies.  They serve as
fundraisers and as advocates for United Nations programmes.  They also
sometimes serve as a link between United Nations agencies and
Governments.  Likewise, United Nations agencies have also invested in
enhancing the capacities and roles of women's groups and of
professional associations at the national level, which will be crucial
for sustainability of development cooperation.

Governing body support (paras. 100-105)

43.  ACC agrees with the report's observations on governing body
support.  It should be noted that other governing bodies, besides
those mentioned in the report, have been very supportive of gender
issues.  The FAO governing body, the FAO Conference, has given regular
and serious attention to the advancement of women through the
organization's programmes, including the systematic review of the
implementation of the FAO Plan of Action for Women in Development and
the adoption of a revised Plan of Action for 1996-2001 by the FAO
Conference at its twenty-eighth session in November 1995.  The UNICEF
Executive Board, at its most recent session in January 1996,
considered follow-up proposals to the Fourth World Conference on Women
and made specific recommendations to focus, inter alia, on women's
human rights.


     a/  "Gender as a cross-cutting theme in development assistance -
an evaluation of CIDA's WID policy and activities, 1984-1992", final
report of the Audit and Evaluation Division, Canadian International
Development Agency (CIDA), July 1993; 

     "Gender mainstreaming:  a study of efforts by UNDP, the World Bank
and ILO to institutionalize gender issues", United Nations Research
Institute for Social Development (UNRISD)/UNDP occasional paper No. 4,
August 1995; 

     "Technical assistance and women:  from mainstreaming towards
institutional accountability", report of the Commission on the Status
of Women (E/CN.6/1995/6).


This document has been posted online by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA). Reproduction and dissemination of the document - in electronic and/or printed format - is encouraged, provided acknowledgement is made of the role of the United Nations in making it available.

Date last posted: 28 December 1999 17:35:10
Comments and suggestions: esa@un.org