Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment

By Inés Alberdi, Executive Director, UNIFEM (part of UN Women)

Date: 13 October 2010

Occasion: 65th Session of the UN General Assembly UN General Assembly, Second Committee, 13 October 2010. Agenda item 25: Operational Activities for Development.

[Check against delivery.]

Madame Chairperson, distinguished delegates, colleagues and friends,

I would like to congratulate you, Madame Chairperson, and other members of the bureau on your election to this committee. I thank you for this opportunity to present what will be the final Note by the Secretary-General on the Activities of the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM now part of UN Women).

Madame Chairperson, we are beginning a new era in terms of recognition and action on gender equality and women’s empowerment. On 2 July this year the General Assembly adopted a resolution on system-wide coherence (A/RES/64/289) establishing the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), which unites UNIFEM, OSAGI, the Division for the Advancement of Women and INSTRAW. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s appointment of Ms. Michelle Bachelet as the first Executive Director of UN Women demonstrates the importance that the UN gives to gender equality and the empowerment of women. Ms. Bachelet could not be here today as she is making her first visit to one of UN Women’s programmes in the field, in Viet Nam.

World leaders participating in the 2010 MDG Summit recognized the centrality of gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s full enjoyment of human rights to economic and social development, including the achievement of all the Millennium Development Goals, welcomed the establishment of UN Women and pledged their full support to its operationalization. There is now both new political will and stronger institutional capacity to move forward on these multiple dimensions of gender equality and women’s empowerment.

Guided by its strategic plan, 2008-2013, UNIFEM worked with governments, civil society and UN partners to strengthen women’s economic security and rights; end violence against women, reduce the prevalence of HIV and AIDS among women and girls and advance gender justice in democratic governance in conflict and non-conflict situations. The report before you (A/65/218) reviews the 2009 results in each of these areas, in support of the overall goal of assisting countries to implement commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment in line with their national priorities.

UNIFEM is guided by the Triennial Comprehensive Policy Review (TCPR) resolution, including its recommendation calling upon the United Nations system “to avail itself of the technical experience of UNIFEM on gender issues.” As attention and expectations with regard to gender equality now focus on UN Women, it is important to recognize that the strong support of member States will be critical to enable UN Women to meet the rapidly increasing demand for technical and policy support on gender equality.

In presenting this report, I will focus on three ways that UN Women can build on UNIFEM experiences and lessons as reflected in this report, namely: a) policy and programming, b) UN coordination and reform, and c) strategic partnerships and resources.

Policy and Programming

UNIFEM has coordinated with other UN organizations to produce guidance on strengthening knowledge and practice to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. In 2009, highlights included guidance notes for mediators in five key areas of peace negotiations that contributed to discussions relevant to Security Council resolutions 1888 (2009) and 1889 (2009); guidance on integrating gender-responsive budgeting in the aid effectiveness agenda; the launch of a virtual knowledge centre on ending violence against women; and an accountability checklist for national AIDS planning.

Nine efforts to replicate or upscale UNIFEM-supported initiatives were tracked in 2009. They included the replication of the Rwanda National Police and the Rwandan Defence Forces training curricula to combat violence against women and/or gender desks in eight instances; and the upscaling of community-based training for a women migrant workers initiative in 40 villages by the Government of Indonesia, supported by the Australian Agency for International Development, the Government of Japan and the World Bank.

In order to identify key elements needed for successful replication, UNIFEM evaluation practice aligned with UN Evaluation Group standards. Its Evaluation Resource Centre became fully functional this year and publicly posts all evaluations and management responses. Lessons learned from evaluation feed into strengthened policy and normative frameworks, and there is greater potential for this virtuous cycle in the context of UN Women. UNIFEM evaluations since 2008 are publicly available in the online Evaluation Resource Centre.

UN Coordination and Reform

There are two areas of results that UNIFEM has contributed to in line with the overall reform process and the TCPR. First, supporting the UN Development Group (UNDG) and Regional Directors Teams to build greater system-wide coherence on gender equality. Second, strengthening the gender equality perspective and learning opportunities in the Delivering as One pilots and self-starters.

Over the past four years, the UNDG Task Team on Gender Equality, involving 17 UN organizations, has secured:

a) UNDG heads of agency agreement on UN Country Team performance indicators that to date have been implemented by 12 UNCTs while another approximately 40 countries are planning implementation in order to establish a baseline against which they can measure improvements and gaps;

b) changes in reporting guidelines for Resident Coordinators, which has elicited improved reporting on gender equality, showing, for instance, a four-fold increase in UNCTs reporting on efforts to end violence against women and five-fold increase in UNCTs reporting on support to national women’s machineries since 2004;

c) greater demand for and better guidance to UN Gender Theme Groups, resulting in a rise in the number of such groups from 37 in 2004 to 99 in 2009; and

d) stronger and clearer guidance on gender equality as a key programming principle within the United Nations Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF).

The Task Team is finalizing its third assessment of the gender-responsiveness of UNDAFs and the findings are informing consultations with UNCTs that are now formulating UNDAFs.

UN Women can build on the existing coordination mechanisms that UNIFEM already leads. At the global level, UNIFEM manages the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women on behalf of the UN system, is the Secretariat for UN Action against Sexual Violence in Conflict (which will now move to the Special Representative of the Secretary General on Sexual Violence), and is a co-chair of the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS. At regional level, UNIFEM is co-located in the majority of the hubs where regional bureaus of UN organizations are converging with Regional Directors Teams (e.g., Johannesburg, Panama, Dakar, Bangkok, etc.) and is playing a coordination role, for instance, by chairing or co-chairing regional Gender Theme Groups (in Bangkok and Johannesburg) as well as leading or co-leading, often with UNFPA, UN regional coordination of the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign as well as participating in the High Level Steering Committee for the campaign. UNIFEM plays a pivotal role in inter-agency networks related to peace and security and recently led the inter-agency effort to develop a first draft of global indicators for tracking Security Council resolution 1325.

UNIFEM is present in the eight Delivering as One pilot countries and has learned a great deal about Delivering as One on gender equality. In Albania, as part of the Monitoring and Evaluation Framework, a Perception Survey of the Delivering as One pilot was carried out among partners. Among all partners, the UN work on gender equality was repeatedly listed as the primary and/or one of the primary sectors where UN Reform has had the most positive and visible impact. At the same time, it is clear that even in the pilots, actions and budgets for gender equality are often not specified and capacity to respond to country demand is regrettably weak. The hope is that with the advent of a well resourced UN Women, we will be able to fill this response gap.

Strategic Partnerships

Partnerships with governments, civil society, regional organizations, and UN organizations have been a cornerstone of UNIFEM work. UNIFEM has continued to invest in supporting the capacities of women’s national machineries and women’s networks to drive stronger policy and practice on gender equality, while expanding partnerships with Ministries of Finance and Planning, Ministries of Labour, Electoral Commissions, military and law enforcement personnel, the justice system, faith-based organizations and groups of men and boys.

In 2009 UNIFEM increased its participation in UN coordination and joint programmes at all levels, engaging in 95 joint programmes compared to 72 in 2008. UNIFEM led or participated in gender theme groups in 69 countries along with 75 other coordination mechanisms at global, regional and country levels. It participated in 13 common country assessments and UN development assistance frameworks, and carried out 7 gender audits at the request of UN country teams, drawing on the UNDG performance indicators on gender equality as well as the ILO Gender Audit Methodology.

UNIFEM participation in and leadership of a growing number of global, regional and national-level partnerships contribute to lower transaction costs for countries and better use of the unique capacities of UN organizations. The majority of partnerships with UN organizations are with UNDP, UNFPA and UNICEF, which, combined, account for approximately half of the total number of UN partnerships. With UNDP, UNIFEM regularly supported national partners to strengthen gender equality commitments in national development plans and poverty reduction strategies. UNIFEM works closely with the European Commission in 11 countries to support multi-stakeholder groups to develop and pilot indicators for tracking allocations to gender equality in the context of aid effectiveness. UNIFEM also works with Secretariat-based departments and specialized agencies. In 2009 this included working with the Department of Political Affairs to field gender advisors to mediators and envoys in order to open spaces for women’s participation in peace negotiations, including to the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for the negotiations on northern Uganda. UNIFEM also took the technical lead in an inter-agency technical working group to identify a set of indicators for monitoring implementation of Security Council resolution 1325, which are expected to be endorsed at the 2010 Open Debate later this month.

Partnerships continued with multilateral development banks. UNIFEM is finalizing its partnership on expanding women’s livelihood options and opportunities with the World Bank and the International Center for Research on Women on Results Based Initiatives in six countries (Cambodia, Egypt, Kenya, Lao, Liberia and Peru) to produce proven and replicable models to increase women’s economic security. In Egypt the gender equality in employment model that began in 10 companies is being adopted and upscaled by the Government investment authority as well as the Ministry of Labour.

The establishment of UN Women reflects the recognition by Member States of the need for an exponential increase in the financial and human resources available to meet growing demand for expertise, programming and services to advance gender equality. While contributions to UNIFEM have increased in the past several years, they have been inadequate to meet this growing demand. Clearly, demand for support from countries worldwide is strong. What is required is ambitious and predictable support, especially for UN Women to meet the high expectations from all partners.

The same applies to the Trust Funds that UNIFEM manages (which UN Women will continue to manage) and which are accounted for separately from UNIFEM finances. The UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women, for example, received nearly US$900 million in requests in 2009, while it had only US$12 million to give out in grants as of the beginning of October. The Fund for Gender Equality, which UNIFEM has just launched with an initial grant of US$65 million from the Government of Spain, received more than 1,100 proposals requesting nearly US$2 billion.

Moving Forward

The establishment of UN Women is a recognition that eliminating persistent gender inequalities requires both coordinated action and high level support across the UN system.

The UN system is increasingly working together at all levels to address the causes and consequences of gender inequality, from inter-agency initiatives on sexual violence, trafficking and female genital mutilation to the increasing number of UN Gender Theme Groups active in UN Country Teams. With the establishment of UN Women, these efforts now have a recognized driver, within the UN and at country level, with the positioning, authority and mandate for coordination needed to drive the gender equality agenda.

As the countdown begins to the 2015 target for achieving the Millennium Development Goals, demand for assistance in achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment will only increase. We appreciate the partnership and support we have received from UN Member States and look forward to continuing — as UN Women — to work together to implement commitments to gender equality and women’s empowerment and assist all countries to achieve the MDGs.

I thank you.