After more than three years of work and struggle by women’s rights advocates worldwide, the UN General Assembly yesterday took a momentous step forward. In a unanimous vote, they adopted a resolution pledging to create a new UN agency for women.
To date, the efforts of existing UN entities related to women’s rights issues have been undermined by their lack of funding and political clout. Unlike many other UN agencies, the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), are not headed by an under-secretary-general, the third highest ranking position in the UN system.
All of these factors have combined to weaken the status of women’s rights at the UN.
All of this is set to change with this week’s historic resolution.
The new UN women’s agency is set to be created in early 2010, out of the consolidation of the four existing women’s entities, and led by an under-secretary-general. The resolution charges Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with creating a detailed plan for the organization, funding and composition of the new agency.
The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, mobilizing over 300 international organizations, has for years fought to change the status quo for women’s rights at the UN. In a statement, the GEAR Campaign commended this latest step forward, while recognizing the work that still remains to make this new UN women’s agency a reality. The campaign stated:
*Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevecadman/ / CC BY-SA 2.0
Women around the world have waited a long time for the United Nations and member states to fulfill the promises made since the first International Women’s Year in 1975, the adoption of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) thirty years ago, as well as the UN World Conferences in Nairobi (1985) and Beijing (1995).
This is an important and crucial step forward – now it must be made operational without further delay.