Volume 14, No.6 - June 2010

Feature articles

Women’s suffering in times of conflict


Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors and throughout all levels of economic activity is essential to build strong economies and establish more stable and just societies. It also propels countries to achieve their internationally agreed goals for development, sustainability and human rights as well as improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities.

The 2010 Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) will try to assess the progress made towards achieving some of these goals which are part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and other goals and targets agreed at major UN conferences and summits over the past 15 years, which together constitute the United Nations Development Agenda (UNDA).

The AMR will be held during the High-Level Segment of the substantive session of ECOSOC from 28 June to 1 July 2010 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The central focus of the review will be on “Implementing the internationally agreed goals and commitments in regard to gender equality and the empowerment of women”. It is expected that the AMR could also contribute to the Beijing+15 global review, assessing the progress made in the Beijing Platform for Action, adopted in 1995.

The AMR session consists of three main elements: A global review of the United Nations development agenda, a thematic review, and a series of national voluntary presentations of both developing and developed countries on their progress in implementing internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The current global and national trends and challenges and their impact on gender equality and empowerment of women are going to be at the forefront of the session. The major trends and challenges that have affected economic and social conditions worldwide, especially in developing countries include imbalances and systemic weaknesses in the global economy, food insecurity, climate change, humanitarian crises, armed conflicts, and international development cooperation.

Women in conflict, post-conflict and post-crises situations

Women tend to suffer disproportionately in time of crisis or hardship, as evidenced during the recent financial and economic crisis and food crisis, as well as from the impacts of climate change. Also, women frequently have fewer and less effective economic and social safety nets. Periods of transition and crisis provide, however, an opportunity to redefine economic and social policies and related institutions, to advance gender equality and empowerment of women.

Evidence shows that women and girls tend to suffer significantly more during times of conflict and unrest. The use of sexual and gender-based violence as a deliberate tactic of warfare has increased alarmingly in recent years. One trend, which have been observed in some conflicts, is increasingly organized and widespread sexual violence, including rape, sex trafficking, forced marriages, and other human rights abuses.

In times of crisis, all forms of gender-based violence, in particular sexual violence tend to exacerbate and access to health care, education and livelihood can also be severely affected. In addition, for women and girls, the occurrence of sexual violence often continues well after “peace” has been established.

One way to mitigate and address the situation is involving women in decision-making process in conflict, post-conflict and post-crises situations. In many crisis situations, women continue to be excluded from decision-making processes and recent evidence point to an inadequate recognition of and financing for their needs.

Conflicts, natural disasters and other crisis situations have profoundly different impacts on women, girls, boys and men, who also bring different perspectives and solutions to the issue at hand. The participation and inclusion of women in the aftermath of a crisis is not only effective but can also prove to be essential. For overlooking the needs and priorities of women and girls, including in terms of physical security, access to basic services and control of productive assets and income, can have devastating consequences.

However, crises may provide important opportunities for positive transformation of gender roles and women’s political, economic and social empowerment. In post-crisis situations, it is important to build on and expand these opportunities and redress gender inequalities and gender-based discrimination of the past, including through legislative change, policy development, institutional and economic reforms and allocation of resources.

Ensuring women’s participation

Today there is an increased recognition of the importance of gender equality and empowerment of women to effective crisis response, as well as to sustainable economic growth and development.

The United Nations Security Council urges Member States, UN bodies, donors and civil society to ensure that women’s empowerment is taken into account during post-conflict needs assessments and planning, and factored into subsequent funding disbursements and programme activities, including through developing transparent analysis and tracking of funds allocated for addressing women’s needs in the post-conflict phase.

The AMR also calls for women’s increased participation in peace processes, the elimination of sexual violence in armed conflict, the protection and promotion of women’s human rights and mainstreaming of gender equality perspectives in the context of armed conflict, peacekeeping, peacebuilding and reconstruction. There are good and promising practices which need to be implemented effectively in post-conflict and crisis situations.

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Honouring the champions in public service


The United Nations Millennium Declaration emphasizes the role of democratic and participatory governance in assuring the rights of men and women to “live their lives and raise their children in dignity, free from hunger and from the fear of violence, oppression, or injustice”. It also notes that good governance within each country is a prerequisite to “making development a reality for everyone and to freeing the entire human race from want”.

With that vow in mind, the United Nations Public Service Awards (UNPSA) continues to recognize excellence in public service. One of the most prestigious international awards, UNPSA rewards the creative achievements and contributions of public service institutions to a more effective and responsive public administration in countries worldwide.

This year, on the occasion of the celebration of the United Nations Public Service Day, the UN Public Service Awards Ceremony and a Forum will take place in Barcelona, Spain from 21 to 23 June 2010on the theme “The Role of Public Service in Achieving the Millennium Development Goals: Challenges and Best Practices”. The day has also been marked as the United Nations Public Service Day by the General Assembly in order to “celebrate the value and virtue of service to the community”. Incidentally, 23 June is also Africa Public Service Day.

The award is given in four categories, namely: improving transparency, accountability and responsiveness in the Public Service; improving the delivery of services; fostering participation in policy-making decisions through innovative mechanisms, and advancing knowledge management in government. Also handed out each year is a Special Award—UNPAN Member Excellence Award on Knowledge Sharing.

Some of the recipients of 2010

A total of twenty-two recipients from fourteen countries are being awarded this year. One of them is the “Women Friendly City Project” by the Women Policy Division of the Seoul Metropolitan Government in the Republic of Korea who won the first prize in the first category. In 2007, Seoul City launched the “Women Friendly City Project”, comprising 90 sub-projects. This initiative was intended to promote “substantial” happiness among women. In the beginning it facilitated special consideration to women in the areas of employment, prosperity, convenience and safety. The areas covered have now been expanded to include roads, transportation, culture, and housing.

The second prize in the same category will go to the “State-Wide Attention on Grievances by Application of Technology”, helmed by the Chief Minister’s Office of the Government of Gujarat in India. The SWAGAT initiative is a transparent system through which citizens can air their grievances regarding government’s provision of public services. It gives citizens direct access to meet the Chief Minister personally to present their case. Administrators are held accountable for responding to both the citizen and Chief Minister. This open and transparent system allows citizens to derive satisfaction from the fairness of the process, even if the decision is not in their favour. Status tracking of applications may also be viewed online and the updated status can be seen at any time.

Another recipient of the award in the category “Improving the delivery of public services” is “Online registry facilitating document access for citizens” by the Centre for Administrative Services of Tunisia. The Unified Civil Status System is a component of Tunisia’s public sector management reform programme, which is aimed towards improving the quality and responsiveness of public services. This new system provides a centralized database for the civil status of all Tunisian citizens (birth, marriage, death, etc.) as well as for foreign residents and visitors. The public is assured of the protection of their personal data, in accordance with the laws of the country.

The goal of the 2010 UNPSA

The scope and breadth of UNPSA is thus, wide-ranging. One of its major highlights is to inspire innovative institutions from around the globe working in the area of governance and public administration to improve the quality of life of citizens.

The event is expected to increase knowledge of public administration strategies and trends, enhance sharing of knowledge and practices, and create greater understanding of the key success factors in promoting an effective, transparent, accountable, participatory and citizen-centric public administration through the discussion of key recommendations and policy options.

In addition, for the first time, the UN Public Service Day and the Awards Ceremony will be held outside of the United Nations headquarters. The Directorate General for Participation of the Government of Catalonia of Spain, winner of the UNPSA in 2008, will co-sponsor and host this major event.

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Global economic recovery too slow to spur job growth


The global economy is slowly rebounding from the worst of the recession but the recovery remains too anaemic to create enough jobs to replace those lost so far, says the updated 2010 World Economic Situation and Prospects, released on 27 May.

Speaking at a Headquarters press conference to present the updated report, Rob Vos, Director of Development Policy and Analysis, said “growth was projected at 3 per cent in 2010 and 3.1 per cent in 2011, if countries continued their fiscal and monetary stimulus activities.”

World gross product started to grow again in the early months of this year after it contracted by 2 per cent last year amid the most severe international recession since World War Two.