“I am grateful to Member States for having taken this major step forward for the world’s women and girls,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated in a speech welcoming the decision. “UN Women will significantly boost UN efforts to promote gender equality, expand opportunity, and tackle discrimination around the globe…I have made gender equality and the empowerment of women one of my top priorities — from working to end the scourge of violence against women, to appointing more women to senior positions, to efforts to reduce maternal mortality rates.”
UN Women merges and will build on the important work of four previously distinct parts of the UN system which focus exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment: Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW, established in 1946); International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW, established in 1976); Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI, established in 1997); and United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM, established in 1976).
UN Women — which will be operational by January 2011 — will be a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local levels. It will enhance, not replace, efforts by other parts of the UN system (such as UNICEF, UNDP, and UNFPA) that continue to have responsibility to work for gender equality and women’s empowerment in their areas of expertise.
UN Women will have two key roles: It will support inter-governmental bodies such as the Commission on the Status of Women in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms, and it will help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it, as well as forging effective partnerships with civil society. It will also help the UN system to be accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress. The new entity will also work with UN partners at the regional and country levels to ensure that demand for technical expertise from national partners and regional organizations are met.
Secretary-General Ban will appoint an Under-Secretary-General to head the new body and is inviting suggestions from Member States and civil society partners. The Under-Secretary-General will be a member of all senior UN decision-making bodies and will report to the Secretary-General.
The operations of UN Women will be funded from voluntary contributions, while the regular UN budget will support its normative work. At least US$500 million — double the current combined budget of DAW, INSTRAW, OSAGI, and UNIFEM – has been recognized by Member States as the minimum investment needed for UN Women.
The comprehensive proposal for the establishment of UN Women mandates the entity to develop strategic partnerships with international financial and trade organizations, including the World Bank, who have grown increasingly aware of the importance of gender equality and women empowerment for sustainable development. The creation of and partnership with UN Women comes at an opportune time for the World Bank, as it recommits to increasing investments in women for 2011-2014 by including gender as one of the top priorities for its IDA replenishment (IDA16).
Indeed, the World Bank has been at the forefront of increasing investments in women in recent years, viewing the empowerment of women as “smart economics” and recognizing that gender issues are important dimensions of its poverty reduction, economic growth, human well-being and the development effectiveness agenda. Though its Gender Action Plan (GAP), launched in 2007 with a budget of $US 65 million, over 220 projects to increase women’s economic opportunities in Agriculture, Labor Markets, Infrastructure and the Private Sector have been funded. As a recognized specialized agency of the UN system, the World Bank will work closely with UN Women to ensure that this agenda moves forward and is advocated for among countries, especially in the run up to IDA16 and the September 2010 MDG Summit.