By Sheila Mulli

On 14th September, 2009, the General Assembly adopted resolution 63/311 that supports the establishment of a new composite entity that will bring together the mandates and assets of DAW (Division for Advancement of Women); OSAGI (Office of the Special Advisor for Gender Issues); UNIFEM (United Nations Development Fund for Women); and INSTRAW (UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women).  This resolution stemmed largely from years of advocacy by the global women’s movement and strong support by key Member states for the United Nations to be more effective and address critical gaps and weaknesses in its response on issues affecting women in every region.

Over the decades, women have seen the United Nations as a force for our efforts to define a comprehensive global agenda for peace and security, human rights, gender equality, women’s empowerment, poverty eradication and sustainable development.

Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign is a network of over 300 women, human rights and social justice groups around the world urging the United Nations Member states and the UN Secretariat to move swiftly forward to create the new composite UN gender equality entity.

This new composite entity will sharpen the focus and impact of the gender equality activities of the entire United Nations system and will be more strategic, powerful and catalytic. However, it will not relieve any other part of the United Nations system from their responsibility to contribute to the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.  Instead, the new entity will provide:

  1. A powerful voice for women and girls at the global, regional and local levels;
  1. Better support for Member States as they enhance the normative and policy environment to accelerate progress towards gender equality
  1. Increased assistance for national partners as they address critical gaps and challenges in their efforts to achieve equality for women and girls – this includes leading the United Nations system in developing and implementing innovative and catalytic initiatives.
  1. Ensure an enhanced and coordinated UN response to country-defined needs and priorities, where the UN system works in a more effective, collaborative and coherent way
  1. Strengthened accountability in the UN system for gender mainstreaming including, through oversight, monitoring and reporting on system-wide performance on gender equality

The Secretary General’s “Comprehensive proposal” for the Composite Entity was circulated to Member States on 7 January 2010. It proposed a mission statement, function, structure, mandate, and funding and governance arrangement for the new entity.  It is too early to predict how long the process of considering the proposal will take and when a founding resolution will be adopted by the General Assembly, but the GEAR Campaign hopes that a decision will be taken during the 64th session of the General Assembly (ending September 2010). In the meantime, the GEAR Campaign has written to their country’s Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Ministers of Gender and Women’s Affairs and Permanent Missions to the UN to support the proposal and take steps towards forming the new composite entity.

This new composite entity will be headed by an Under Secretary General. Finding the right individual to be the first leader of the new composite entity is critical to its success. As the UN’s primary and most powerful voice for women and girls, the head of the new entity must be a persuasive and effective advocate and leader with demonstrated commitment to fulfilling the promises made by the international community to the women and girls of the world.

Secretary General, Ban-Ki Moon has called on all Member states to nominate well qualified candidates for this position; The ideal candidate will have a vision for and demonstrated commitment to meeting gender equality goals and securing women’s humans rights. The GEAR campaign has developed criteria for selection of the Under Secretary General and has shared them with the Secretary General. They are as follows:

  1. Experience in and passion for working on gender equality and women’s empowerment/ human rights, with a demonstrated interest in engaging with civil society, and particularly women’s organizations;
  1. Thorough understanding of the needs and interests of women at the country level, both in the Global South and North, with a successful track record of concrete impact in the field;
  1. Demonstrated and recognized leadership and integrity, including:

–         Collaborative working style and ability to build positive relationships with a wide range of partners;

–         human rights and empowerment; and

–         Visible record of public advocacy for gender equality and women’s Readiness to be outspoken and independent in fulfilling the entity’s mandates;

  1. Track record in fundraising and proven skills in the management of complex organizations and developing strategy accordingly in a creative and effective manner;
  1. Be politically astute and able to engage effectively with a wide range of key actors in international negotiations.

The African Women’s Development and Communication Network (FEMNET), which is the GEAR campaign Regional Focal Point for Anglophone Africa, calls on women’s organizations to write to their country’s Ministries of Gender and women’s Affairs to nominate candidates who meet the criteria.

*Sheila Mulli is an intern at FEMNET in the Communication & Advocacy Program*

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