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Roles and responsibilities for gender mainstreaming

Responsibility for implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy lies with the senior management in each United Nations entity, as clearly stated in the Letter from the Secretary-General to heads of all United Nations entities in October 1997.

In many parts of the United Nations system Gender Units and Gender Focal Points have been established to support management undertake their roles in implementing gender mainstreaming. Gender Units are staffed with gender specialists. Experience has shown that the mandates, location and resources of Gender Units are critical for ensuring that effective support can be provided. Gender Focal Points are not necessarily gender specialists but are assigned responsibility to promote and monitor the implementation of gender mainstreaming. The mandates for Gender Focal Points are in the ECOSOC agreed conclusions 1997/2 and the outcome document of the Twenty-third special session of the General Assembly. Gender Focal Points can only function if provided with adequate support and if it is well understood that they are a resource rather than those with overall responsibility for gender mainstreaming. The Interagency Network on Women and Gender Equality has carried out a study with UNFPA as task manager of the use of Gender Focal Points in the United Nations system and made concrete recommendations for improvements.

There have never been Gender Units or Gender Specialists in the Departments in the Secretariat, although Gender Focal Points have been appointed in most Departments in recent years. The regional commissions have had gender specificities for many years. To support the Gender Focal Points in the Secretariat, a network has been established to enable OSAGI to more effectively provide training, briefings, access to information and advice and support.