Новое агенство ООН - женское!

AIDS-Free World welcomes the new UN women’s agency; will the Secretary-General be up to the job of making it work?

September 15, 2009 (New York)

Yesterday the UN’s 192 member states unanimously passed a resolution establishing a new UN agency for women, giving Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon authority to immediately appoint an Under Secretary-General to lead it. This is a truly memorable moment.
AIDS-Free World’s Co-Director Stephen Lewis said, “We see this not as an end but a beginning – the UN’s first attempt to form a serious gender entity, and the Secretary-General’s opportunity to make a monumental change both in the way the UN operates, and in the lives of women everywhere.”

The new agency was first advanced in 2006, when a high-level panel for UN reform appointed by Kofi Annan recommended a complete overhaul of the UN’s fragmented, under-funded women’s programs.

In the last year, governments from North and South, the Secretary-General, and senior staff of those fragmented women’s programs have all publicly proclaimed that the UN’s response to women’s rights and development has been starkly inadequate, and have come out in support of the new agency.

“Women have watched with a mix of optimism and dread as momentum built, while entrenched interests inside the UN, as well as countries that do not believe in women’s rights have tried to sabotage the process,” said Paula Donovan, Co-Director of AIDS-Free World. “Now the Secretary-General has been given clear direction, and an historic opportunity. We’re impatient  for action, and will follow every step of the process as it unfolds. There will be no meek acquiescence to any further foot-dragging.”

Mr. Ban has clear choices to make between failure and success: the women’s agency must not merely be a consolidation of the tiny, under-funded elements that already exist. To be seen as credible by women who’ve been ignored for over half a century, he must allow women to build a wholly new agency. It cannot be confined to the “catalytic” roles of the past: it must be able to act—to build partnerships with governments; to engage in public policy; to design, finance and run long-needed programs; and to support the work of women’s NGOs and community-based
women’s groups in every country. Beginning with its new leader, it must have a full and stellar complement of expert staff with operational capacity at country level. It must be funded at the level of comparable agencies, with $1 billion dollars to start so that it can work effectively from the moment its doors open, and with projected rapid growth each year. It must include the expertise, vision and experience of women’s groups in its governance and programs.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon can demonstrate his willingness to start afresh today, even before the appointment of the agency’s leader, by announcing that he is reserving a seat for the head of the women’s agency on the Committee of Co-sponsoring Organizations (CCO) that comprise the UN’s joint response to HIV/AIDS: UNAIDS.

Thirteen years after UNAIDS was established, and even with the subsequent horrendous toll of the pandemic on women and global recognition of the feminization of AIDS (women make up 61% of people living with AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, and the percentage increases to 75% among young women between 15-24), there is no organization representing women on the committee that steers UNAIDS’ work. UNIFEM lacked the status to sit at the table, and was represented instead by UNDP.

What better example is there of the UN’s dismissal of women? UNICEF, the High Commission for Refugees, the World Health Organization, the World Food Program, the United Nations Development Programme, the Population Fund, the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Labour Organization, the Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization and the World Bank are all co-sponsors of UNAIDS, and they have been able to craft the UN’s joint response to the worst pandemic of our time without anyone devoted specifically to looking out for the interests of women.
No wonder that response has been a lamentable failure.

The Secretary-General’s chance to lead the UN out of the bygone era of male supremacy begins today. Every day’s delay in the construction of a strong new agency is a day that tens of thousands of women will die in childbirth, fall victim to rape , become infected by HIV, assume the care of orphaned grandchildren, and do double the work of men for a fraction of the pay.

After 63 years of delays, women cannot afford one more day without an agency that speaks for them and collaborates with them. “The Secretary General has given the impression that intermittent speeches, pro forma endorsement and occasional attention are all that are needed by the women of the world. This pattern must end,” said Stephen Lewis.

The UN resolution passed yesterday places responsibility squarely on Mr. Ban’s shoulders. He stands in the dock of world opinion: Will he or will he not embrace gender equality?

For further information, please contact:
Christina Magill
Executive Assistant to Stephen Lewis
TEL: +1-416-657-4458
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