This week at the United Nations (UN), member states will start deliberating the details of the new “super” agency for women. The General Assembly decided last fall to reform the current “gender architecture” by consolidating the UN’s four existing departments on women and establish a new office, but details regarding the new entity’s mandate, structure and funding have yet to be finalized.
In anticipation of these meetings, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon released a comprehensive proposal for the new entity last month, outlining a vision for the new office that includes a half-billion dollar budget, national, regional and international advocacy work and the creation of a new under-secretary-general position to accommodate the new office’s executive director.
As decided in last year’s resolution, the four existing UN offices that address women’s issue, including the Division on the Advancement of Women, are to be merged into a new “composite entity” headed by an Executive Director with the title of under-secretary-general, which is the third highest ranking position in the UN system, after secretary-general and deputy secretary-general. The new office will be a subsidiary organ of the General Assembly and report to it via the Economic and Social Council. In addition, the new entity will have its own financial regulations and rules and the Executive Director “will have full authority in respect of all financial matters.”
The new organization was created with the broad mandate of working towards “gender equality” and the “elimination of discrimination against women and girls.” The Secretary-General’s proposal lays out a more detailed proposed mission statement which reads “women’s rights will be at the centre of all its efforts” and that “the composite entity will lead and coordinate United Nations system efforts to ensure that commitments on gender equality and gender mainstreaming translate into action throughout the world.” The new office “will provide strong and coherent leadership in support of Member States’ priorities and efforts, building effective partnerships with civil society and other relevant actors.”
The latest Secretary-General proposal for the composite entity reiterates that the new office will be funded by both voluntary contributions and the regular budget of the UN. The report states that “taking into account the significant need to fill funding gaps, especially at the country level, total funding requirements for the start-up phase are approximately $500 million. Of that annual $500 million initial “start-up” cost, $127 million is estimated for staffing costs. $7 million – the approximate amount made available from the UN’s regular operating budget to the four existing offices – would be transferred to the new agency, with the rest coming from voluntary contributions from member states.
Radical feminist groups allied under the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) campaign worked in tandem with prominent UN staffers to successfully push for the creation of the new women’s mega-agency. Critics fear that instead of advocating for the real needs of women worldwide, the new entity will be used as a tool to promote the abortion rights agenda of the radical feminist organizations who demanded for its creation in the first place.
Deliberations on the new agency are expected to take place through the coming months.
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