UNITED NATIONS: After intense negotiations stretching four years, the UN General Assembly has approved setting up of a single entity within the world body to promote equality for women at its plenary session chaired by Minister of State for External Affairs Ms Preneet Kaur.
The establishment of this new composite UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, which is to be known as ‘UN Women’, brings together as many as four women-related agencies of the world body.
The move, which meets a longstanding demand, came Friday night after four years of intense and difficult political negotiations.
“The newest member of the UN family has been born,” Secretary General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, told the Assembly after it passed the resolution establishing the new UN entity.
“This is truly a watershed day,” he declared.
The new body will merge four of the world body’s agencies and offices: UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).
“By bringing together four parts of the UN system dedicated to women’s issues, Member States have created a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level,” said the Secretary General.
“It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls – or to fail to take the necessary action,” he added.
Ms Kaur, who was honoured with the distinction of chairing the plenary session of the General Assembly that established ‘UN women’, said India has always been at the forefront of issues relating to gender equality, mainstreaming and empowerment.
She recalled that Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit was the first woman president of the UN General Assembly in 1953.
Noting that India is home to more than half a billion women, Ms Kaur said India has taken major strides in the area of political empowerment of women. Today, more than a million women elected representatives participate in political decision-making at the grassroots level, she said.
“A move to provide similar reservation of seats for women in the Indian Parliament is in advanced stage of the legislative process, already having received the approval of the Upper House of our Parliament,” the minister said.
“India welcomes the creation of the UN Women as a significant victory for the cause of women worldwide. It is a reflection of our collective commitment to the pursuit of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
“Our decision here today also takes a step towards restoring the faith of those Member States, including mine, who often regard the UN as an anachronistic body resistant to organisational reform and innovation. We, of course, hope that it creates a momentum for much-needed reform in other areas as well,” Ms Kaur said.
Pledging India’s full support to UN Women, Ms Kaur said: “We urge early operationalisation of the entity so that the international community can work with renewed vigour and commitment for gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
UN Women is set to have an annual budget of at least USD 500 million – double the current combined resources of the four agencies it will comprise.
“Today’s action (of UNGA) will do more than simply consolidate United Nations offices,” Deputy Secretary General Ms Asha-Rose Migiro said.
“It will consolidate the United Nations strengths,” she said, noting that while the UN has made significant strides, it has also faced serious challenges such as inadequate funding and fragmentation.
One of the main goals of the UN Women will be to support the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies.
The new body will also aim to help Member States implement standards, provide technical and financial support to countries which request it and forge partnerships with civil society.
Within the UN, it will hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.
“UN Women will give women and girls the strong, unified voice they deserve on the world stage,” Ms Migiro said, calling its establishment a “positive and exciting moment” for the entire UN family.
Set to be based in New York, UN Women will be headed by an Under-Secretary General, to be appointed by Ban.
The UN, said General Assembly President Ali Treki, is “uniquely placed” to take the leading role on the issue of promoting women’s rights, expressing his delight at the creation of UN Women.