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ECOSOC Substantive Session of 2002

1-26 July, 2002



Ms. Angela E. V. King

Assistant Secretary-General

Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women

Agenda item 7(e):

Coordination, programme and other questions: mainstreaming a gender perspective

into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system

18 July 2002, New York

Mr. President

Distinguished Delegates,

Colleagues and Friends.

It is my honour to address the Economic and Social Council as it considers, for the first time, its new item on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system.† I am very gratified by the strong commitment among Member States to the gender mainstreaming strategy, which is apparent not only in the adoption of Council resolution 2001/41, but also by the many examples of its implementation at the national level that are being presented to intergovernmental bodies such as the Commission on the Status of Women.

The establishment of this new item constitutes an important step in support of a more consistent and systematic attention to gender perspectives in all aspects of the Councilís own work and that of its subsidiary machinery.† It is indicative of the greater understanding that gender mainstreaming requires the incorporation of gender perspectives in different areas of work of the United Nations.†† Gender mainstreaming is important for the promotion of gender equality, but also for the achievement of the Millennium Declaration goals and the goals of all the major United Nations conferences and summits.†

Last year, the Council made it clear that a main purpose of the inclusion of this specific item on its annual agenda would be to monitor and evaluate progress and obstacles in gender mainstreaming, and to consider further measures to enhance attention to gender perspectives. (In other words, the Council intended to undertake annually a critical review of how the Council itself and its subsidiary machinery are adhering to the guidance provided in agreed conclusions 1997/2 on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system, and what more needed to be done.)†

These annual monitoring exercises, and the lessons learned, will be essential building blocks towards the Council's overall review and appraisal of the system-wide implementation of its agreed conclusion 1997/2 that it has committed itself to undertake before 2005.

(In its agreed conclusions 1997/2, the Council provided a definition of gender mainstreaming and identified the main principles of the strategy. It addressed concrete recommendations for action to the entities of the United Nations system, and to the intergovernmental process, including the Councilís subsidiary machinery.† The Council also invited the General Assembly to direct all of its committees and bodies to integrate gender perspectives in all areas, including in such areas as macro-economic questions, operational activities for development, poverty eradication, human rights, humanitarian assistance, disarmament, and peace and security.)†

Since 1997, steady, but somewhat uneven progress continues to be made at different levels, and in various sectors, to identify gender perspectives and reflect them in all areas of work.† (An update on the steps taken by the entities of the UN system was submitted to the last session of the Commission on the Status of Women in March 2002 (E/CN.6/2002/2).† A report on any new and additional measures will be submitted to the Commission next March.)† Many agencies Ė members of the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality - have provided short synopses of progress in gender mainstreaming in their areas for the information of the Council at this session, and which I am happy to make available in an information kit.††

The report before you, contained in document E/2002/66, assesses the attention given to gender perspectives at the intergovernmental level, more specifically by the functional commissions that met this spring, as well as by the Council itself during the 2001 session.† (It reviews the role of the Commission on the Status of Women as a catalyst for gender mainstreaming, including the input it provided to this yearís high-level segment, and its agreed conclusions on environmental management and natural disasters which are of relevance to the humanitarian affairs segment.) In light of the Councilís responsibilities for coordination and programme questions, an overview of the catalytic work of the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality in support of gender mainstreaming is also provided.† This information might be particularly timely as the annual overview report of the United Nations Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB) is also scheduled for consideration this afternoon.†

(The reports submitted to the Commission and the Council will be complemented by the report that will be before the General Assembly at its fifty-seventh session, and which will review the attention given to gender equality issues and gender perspectives by the Assembly and its main committees during the 56th session, as well as by high-level events that occurred during 2001.† Taken together, these three annual reports should provide a solid basis for undertaking the review of system-wide progress in gender mainstreaming before 2005.)†

At the same time, opportunities should be sought for monitoring progress, gaps and challenges in gender mainstreaming in other inter-governmental processes.† I refer in particular to the work of the governing bodies of the funds and programmes, and of specialized agencies.† While steps taken by the entities of the UN system are covered in the report prepared for the Commission on the Status of Women, no systematic review of the extent to which gender perspectives are reflected in the decisions of these bodies is currently undertaken.†

Mr. President,

As members of the Council will recall, on 11 June, my Office and the Division for the Advancement of Women, in collaboration with the Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination, organized a panel discussion on gender mainstreaming in the functional commissions of ECOSOC.† (I would like to thank Council Vice-President H.E. Ambassador Marjatta Rasi, for chairing the event.† My appreciation also goes to the Chairperson of the Commission on the Status of Women, H.E. Ambassador Othman Jerandi, to the moderator, the panellists and the many members of the Council for their very active participation in the dialogue.)† We convened this panel ahead of the session as we recognize the Councilís heavy workload under the general segment, and related time constraints, a point also made by several panellists.† Careful thought thus needs to be given as to how best to exercise the monitoring function under the new sub-item in an effective manner, while at the same time enhancing the concrete implementation of the strategy in all segments.

(The panel discussion focused on good practices, on gaps and challenges, as well as future opportunities for reflecting gender perspectives in the areas of social development, forestry, and crime prevention and criminal justice.† The Chairpersons of the three functional commissions and the heads of their respective substantive Secretariats emphasized the positive correlation between gender-sensitive reports on the one hand, and increased ability of intergovernmental bodies to reflect gender perspectives in policy recommendations and actions.† They also underlined the importance of regular and systematic monitoring to ensure continuous progress.)

A strong sense emanated from the panel discussion that the Councilís detailed guidance would further strengthen the ability of the commissions to integrate gender perspectives into their work.† Participants made a number of concrete suggestions to enhance capacity for gender mainstreaming, and ensure consistent monitoring. These included a call for regular reporting by the functional commissions to the Council on progress and challenges, the Councilís review of such reports, and explicit attention to gender mainstreaming at joint bureaux meetings.† Speakers also suggested that Commission bureaux could designate one of their members to monitor attention to gender perspectives; and invited the Commission on the Status of Women or the Secretariat to provide regular briefings on gender mainstreaming. Continuous competence development for Secretariat staff was also recommended.†

Mr. President,

It would be my hope that the suggestions that emanated from the panel, together with the conclusions and recommendations contained in the report before you, will assist the Council in providing further guidance to its functional commissions as they endeavour to implement agreed conclusions 1997/2.† At the same time, the Council may also commit itself to intensify its own efforts at gender mainstreaming in all its segments.†

Thank you.