Women NGOs Express Concern and Disappointment over UN's Failure to Integrate Gender Equality in the UN Reform Agenda

Monday, July 26 2010

By Mavic Cabrera-Balleza

UN Reform is high up on the agenda of this year’s UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW) session. Two panel discussions on this topic were held--one at the NGO Consultation coordinated by the NGO Committee on the Status of Women and another organized by the International Women's Tribune Centre and the Heinrich Böll Foundation that specifically examined the UN Reform agenda’s relevance to women.

Following these, more discussions on this topic took place in regional caucuses as well as in the Linkage Caucus. In its statement to the official plenary on February 28, 2006, the Asia-Pacific Caucus called for the setting up of a women’s task force on the Reform of the UN. It noted the under-representation of women in decision making roles within the UN system and urged the UN to be a role model of its member states in promoting equal participation of women and men in development. In addition, the Asia-Pacific women emphasized that women’s equal participation in all levels of decision-making will strengthen the gender architecture of the UN structure, processes and mechanisms, and reinforce its commitments to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Beijing Platform for Action.

An open letter presented to the UN Secretary General on March 6, 2006, by women’s NGOs participating in the CSW, expressed disappointment and outrage over the fact that “gender equality and strengthening of women’s machineries within the UN system are barely noted, and are not addressed as a central part of the reform agenda.” They also raised questions on why more than ten years after the commitment to gender parity at the Beijing Conference, the UN is still offering only token representation of women on critical committees, high level expert panels and in senior positions within the organization. They expressed serious concern over the fact the new High-Level Panel on UN system-wide coherence in areas of development, humanitarian assistance and the environment has only three women out of 15 members. In the same letter, the women welcomed paragraph 59 in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document, --the document that articulated the UN reform package--in which governments undertook to “strengthen the capabilities of the United Nations system in the arena of gender.” However, such commitment “will not be met unless gender equality issues and women’s machineries are an integral part of the UN reform process,” the women NGOs added.

Information Dissemination Efforts on UN Reform

Following the panel “UN Reform: What’s in it for Women? A debate about the gender relevance of the UN Reform Agenda” that took place on March 1, 2006, the International Women's Tribune Centre and the Heinrich Böll Foundation will be circulating a summary of the presentations and discussions during the said panel. Plans are also underway for a publication that will present insights and analysis of the different components of the UN Reform package particularly their relevance to women at the national and community levels. To request the summary and a copy of the publication which will be produced at a later time, please contact: Mavic Cabrera-Balleza : mavic@iwtc.org

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