9 November 2006


9 November 2006
Press Conference
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



There was a missing link between the policy and programmatic sides of the United Nations gender equality machinery, a representative of the women’s group Development Alternatives with Women for a New Era (DAWN) said today at a Headquarters press conference on the reaction of women’s groups to the report of the High-Level Panel on System-wide Coherence.

Doris Mpoumou said that, while DAWN welcomed the dual mandate recommended for the new women’s agency proposed by the Panel -– a mandate combining both policy and country-level operational functions –- such an entity would need more explicit synergy between the policy and programmatic sides.  DAWN endorsed the Panel’s recommendation for strengthening the Organization’s gender equality architecture, but emphasized the importance of a strong operational capacity as a requirement for transforming its commitments to women’s advancement.  DAWN demanded that all United Nations country teams incorporate senior gender expertise.  “Women’s rights are not optional and should not be subject to the will of this or that donor, interested only in this or that country”, she stressed.

Reinforcing that point, June Zeitlin, Executive Director of the Women’s Environment and Development Organization, noted the tremendous gap between gender-equality rhetoric and Government promises on the one hand, and on the other, the lack of results on the ground.  The initial $200 million proposed as the target figure for financing the new agency was merely a beginning and there was a critical need to raise adequate resources.  “What we see… in this recommendation is the beginning of a much stronger architecture …to help Member States and the United Nations begin to deliver for women on the ground”, she added.

Voicing a third reaction, Bani Dugal, Principal Representative of the Baha’i International Community to the United Nations, also underscored that the proposed entity must be “ambitiously resourced” to be a success.  In addition, the dual mandate recommended for it would make the gender mainstreaming work of other United Nations agencies more effective while directly advancing women’s rights.

The High-Level Panel’s report envisages the establishment of a dynamic United Nations entity focused on gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Three existing entities –- the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Division for the Advancement of Women –- would be consolidated into one enhanced and independent gender entity.

It would have a stronger normative and advocacy role, combined with a targeted programming role.  The gender entity would be fully and ambitiously funded.  Gender equality would be a component of the “One UN Country Programme”, and remain the responsibility of all United Nations organizations.

Moderating the press conference, Cynthia Rothschild of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership, said the proposed new entity’s executive director should have the rank of Under-Secretary-General in order to guarantee influence in United Nations system-wide decision-making.

Noting that a number of women’s groups around the world had been working on the recommendations for the past nine months, she said they had called for an open, transparent and global search for a candidate with substantive gender-equality expertise, a recommendation included in the report.

In reply to a question about next steps, Ms. Rothschild said that, after being handed a series of entry points, the need now was to ensure that they were taken advantage of.  “We have a road plan ahead of us.  The time is now to work with Governments.”

Ms. Mpoumou added that it was important to take advantage of regional and global events like the upcoming World Social Forum, to be held in January, to mobilize women at the local and national levels.

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For information media • not an official record
For information media. Not an official record.