|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL, IN REMARKS TO WOMEN’S AFFAIRS MINISTERS, SPELLS OUT
STEPS TAKEN TOWARDS STRENGTHENING UNITED NATIONS GENDER ARCHITECTURE
Following is the text of UN Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s remarks at a ministerial lunch on gender architecture, in New York on 2 March:
It means a lot to me to be here today. As a former minister, this is like a homecoming. In fact, as Deputy Secretary-General I feel I am still a Minister of Women’s Affairs -- but for 192 Member States!
Thank you, Rachel [Mayanja], for inviting me to brief you on progress on strengthening the coherence of the United Nations system’s work on gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Over the years, Governments have made significant commitments to women in the Beijing Platform for Action, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the 2005 Millennium Summit outcome, the Millennium Development Goals and other policy frameworks.
Significant progress has been achieved in many countries. There is much broader acceptance today that the full and equal participation of women is not just a goal in itself; it is essential for peace and the promotion of human rights. It is also a prerequisite to achieving the internationally agreed upon development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals.
Yet gender inequality persists in all countries of the world. All countries -- developing and developed -- need to make an extra effort to achieve gender equality and women’s political, economic and social empowerment.
The United Nations plays a significant role in supporting Governments and civil society to achieve these goals. The Secretary-General continues his efforts to reform this Organization and make it a more effective, efficient, coherent and accountable instrument of service to humankind. Part of that effort involves exploring how we, as an institution, can better benefit from women’s experiences, resourcefulness, creativity and energy in responding to the challenges of our times, from the economic and food crises to climate change, political instability, AIDS and, well, the list goes on. And part of that effort means overhauling the United Nations system where necessary.
And that, of course, brings me to the question of the Organization’s gender architecture. There is little disagreement that the gender architecture is fragmented. It is also inadequately funded and insufficiently focused on country-driven demands. There are gaps between policies and implementation. Authority is weak. Accountability is lacking. There is no single recognized driver to direct United Nations activities.
The purpose of United Nations reform is to strengthen the support we provide to Member States. That will, among other things, help them mobilize women’s creative and productive potential and achieve the goals of gender equality and women’s empowerment, in line with national development priorities.
Our architecture must allow us to realize that vision. Towards that end, we looked into two approaches. The first would be to leave the gender architecture as it is now, with perhaps more resources and better interagency cooperation. The second approach would be to consolidate the four gender-focused entities: the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
The options for consolidation include a fund or programme, such as the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) or the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), focused on women; a department of the Secretariat, such as the Department of Economic and Social Affairs; or a composite entity that would combine the features of a fund and a department.
These options were discussed during informal consultations of the General Assembly last September, facilitated by Ambassador [John Paul] Kavanagh of Ireland and Ambassador [Augustine] Mahiga of Tanzania. While the Assembly failed to identify a single preferred option, most delegations expressed support for the composite entity.
In its subsequent resolution on system-wide coherence, the Assembly asked the Secretary-General to provide a further, detailed paper on these options, but focusing in particular on the composite entity option. This paper has been prepared with the close cooperation of United Nations entities, based on the views of Member States, and in broad consultation with civil society. It is ready for submission to the General Assembly and we anticipate that a new round of informal consultations, to be facilitated by Namibia and Spain, will begin soon.
It is hoped that the intergovernmental process will ensure we put in place a new gender entity that will strengthen our efforts at both the operational and normative levels. A new entity that will eliminate the current fragmentation and help provide a stronger and more coherent system-wide response to women’s empowerment and gender-equality needs.
The issue of strengthening the United Nations system’s work for gender equality has been under discussion for almost two years. It is time for a decision on this critical issue. Women of the world look to us for leadership and action. We cannot fail them.
A new entity focused on gender equality is overdue. The credibility of the Organization is at stake. Much work has been done and important agreements among Member States have been achieved. The solution is in our grasp. Your support is critical.
* *** *