Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General of the newly created United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, addressed the Third Committee today, 11 October.
Ms. Bachelet, the former President of Chile, called on the support of the Committee to ensure that existing laws, policies and rights for the advancement of women are translated into practice. She commended the General Assembly for demonstrating its vision and commitment to gender equality and the empowerment of women through the creation of UN Women.
“I am fully aware of the challenges…and I hope my experience will be important in helping meet the challenges we face,” she said. “Women are important stakeholders in development…That gender equality and women’s empowerment are goals in their own right, and central to all other goals, must be more than a mantra. It must become a lived reality… in all countries,” she urged.
The Under-Secretary-General expressed her hope that the creation of UN Women would send a clear message, showing that gender equality must be given a priority on a par with other development priorities, both within the United Nations itself and at a national level worldwide.
Ms. Bachelet suggested that the main stumbling block for the advancement of women over the past 15 years had stemmed not from a lack of laws or policies, nor from a reluctance of member states to sign up to conventions, but rather from gaps in the implementation of existing legislation. The slow progress in the gender equality dimensions of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) was given as an example of what she referred to as “the implementation challenge”.
“Much more needs to be done to close the gaps between women’s rights in the law and their enjoyment in practice,” she said. She went on to highlight the four major tasks, which she will focus on as head of UN Women. These will include ensuring that UN Women is operational by 1 January 2011 and consulting and strengthening collaboration within the United Nations, to avoid duplication. Ms. Bachelet also pledged to re-engage with constituencies on the ground, in order to understand what women worldwide expect of UN Women. Finally, the head of UN Women said she would aim to build new and innovative partnerships with member states.
“During the next weeks I will embark upon a consultative process involving all stakeholders to develop UN Women’s future strategy,” she promised.
The chairperson of the Thrid Committee, H.E. Mr. Michel Tommo Monthe of Cameroon, spoke on behalf of all delegates, commending Ms. Bachelet for her enthusiasm and assuring her of the full support of the commission. “In You we trust,” he said.
Reports on ending violence against women, trafficking in women and girls were also presented to the Committee, as were a report on the improvement of the status of women in the UN system and the Secretatry-General’s Annual Note on the 2009 Activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM – now part of UN Women).
The Third Committee will continue to discuss issues relating to gender equality and the advancement of women from 11 – 13 October.