UN Women in Transition. What Does This Mean for PPSEAWA?

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On July 2 the GA passed a resolution to create UN Women. In the months leading up to the resolution, international feminists became increasingly giddy as the culmination of their four year effort to create a bigger more effective UN agency for women grew closer. UN Women unites the four previous agencies working for women including UNIFEM, the entity most focused on country level programming. The transition is in process and UN Women will be officially fully operational by January 1, 2011.

By September 27, Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, had been appointed to head the new agency. Her status as Undersecretary General magnifies her potential impact within what is a hierarchical bureaucracy. At last, Women will be at the table at the UN. The agency will be funded initially with one half billion dollars which is more than twice the total of the four entities that are being combined. The operational on-the-ground programming will be funded by donors. Donors are predominantly developed countries, foundations and large multinational corporations. It is thought that Ms. Bachelet’s status as a much beloved, charismatic former head of state will serve her well with other heads of state from whom she will have to raise funds and sell the UN Women’s agenda. Previous executive directors of UNIFEM, for example, have come from development backgrounds and have been at executive director level.

Michelle Bachelet is setting priorities. Two of them have been to increase and coordinate efforts to stop violence against women. Another is to push the follow up on Security Council Resolution 1325 and its successive follow up resolutions which promise to bring women to the peace table in post conflict situations, provide them with gender specific protections and opportunities for constitutional building. And, as always, UN Women continues to support the passage and implementation of CEDAW (The Convention on the Elimination of All Discrimination against women).

As UN Women’s vision continues to move beyond an image of women as victims in need of relief to agents of change and equal participants in the decisions that intimately effect their daily lives and very survival, how will this impact PPSEAWA’s discussions and agenda?

In 2000 when the countries of the world got together in NYC to draw up the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) women’s rights were confined to a couple points. Through effective leadership by women increasingly recognized by men, through scholarship mainly conceptualized by women, it has become a mantra throughout the world that equality for women and girls is key for successful development. This will benefit families- men and women, boys and girls. Women must be free from violence and have equal access to education, health, economic opportunity and political participation.