International: Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head New United Nations Women's Agency (UN Women)
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today (14 September) named former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head United Nations Women (UN Women), a newly created entity to oversee all of the world body’s programmes aimed at promoting women’s rights and full participation in global affairs.
The new body – which will receive a large boost in funding and become operational in January – merges four UN agencies and offices: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).
“UN Women will promote the interests of women and girls across the globe,” Mr. Ban told reporters in announcing the appointment. “Ms. Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic global leadership, highly honed political skills and uncommon ability to create consensus and focus among UN agencies and many partners in both the public and private sector.”
“I’m confident that under her strong leadership we can improve the lives of millions of women and girls throughout the world.”
Ms. Bachelet, Chile’s first female president who prioritized women’s issues throughout her tenure and since leaving office has been working with UNIFEM to advocate for the needs of Haitian women following January’s devastating earthquake, was chosen over two other candidates.
The new entity is set to have an annual budget of at least $500 million, double the current combined resources of the four agencies it comprises.
“As you know the creation of UN Women is the culmination of almost four years’ effort and today’s announcement has been made possible thanks to the hard work of the Member States and the many partners who share our commitment to this agenda, and this has been a top and very personal priority of mine,” Mr. Ban said.
He stressed that at next week’s UN Summit on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) women and children will be “at the very core of our final push” to realize the ambitious targets for slashing extreme poverty and hunger, maternal and infant mortality, rampant diseases, and lack of access to education and health services, all by the deadline of 2015.
“We have a little more than three and a half months,” Mr. Ban said. “I will discuss this Sunday, when I appoint her formally, how we can make the process very speedy, so that we can appoint and recruit staff and we have to have our agendas. Basically we have all these structures in place. Now it is a matter of how we can speedily implement these structures and policy and visions.”
“I ask all the Member States and civil community leaders, and governments, and business communities, to render their full support and cooperation.”
Today’s announcement follows a unanimous General Assembly vote on 2 July to create a dynamic new entity merging the four offices focusing on gender equality. One of its main goals will be to support the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies.
It will also aim to help Member States implement standards, provide technical and financial support to countries which request it, and forge partnerships with civil society. Within the UN, it will hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.
The GEAR Campaign Enthusiastically Welcomes the New Under-Secretary-General of UN Women
The Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign is thrilled that the United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon has chosen Michelle Bachelet as the new Under-Secretary-General (USG) of UN Women. This appointment is essential to the effectiveness of the new entity and the campaign is pleased that the UN SG has selected a qualified and strong leader for this high level UN position that will envision and work for the future of women’s rights and advocate for women worldwide.
“Michelle Bachelet is a top notch choice and has long been one of GEAR’s dream candidates. An effective leader of great integrity, Bachelet has demonstrated strong commitment to women’s empowerment and the ability to shape gender equality policies in a variety of areas. She also has the stature to mobilize the resources crucial to make UN Women a success,” stated Charlotte Bunch, Center for Women’s Global Leadership (CWGL) at Rutgers University and a founding member of the GEAR Campaign.
The GEAR Campaign has developed criteria and questions for the new USG and is eager to begin conversations with her regarding her vision for UN Women. The campaign requests an open dialogue with civil society about the key priorities of the new entity and how UN Women will become a powerful voice for women and girls at the global, regional and local levels. As the new entity is being developed, civil society wants to be consulted and would like to hear from Bachelet how she plans to ensure meaningful participation with civil society and particularly women’s organizations from grassroots to international groups.
Bani Dugal of the Bahá'í International Community UN office shared that, “it is our hope that her experience of leadership in the international arena, her dedication to the advancement of women and girls, and her commitment to working with civil society and the women’s movement will guide the work of this ground-breaking entity and rally member states to strengthen their efforts to achieve the equality of women and men.”
This landmark decision comes at a critical juncture as the UN reforms its internal systems and has recently been seen as an exhausted and under-resourced international institution. UN Women can provide new vision and hope and will need to bridge governments and civil society as we progress into the 21st century and the GEAR Campaign will be there to support its leadership and maintain visibility throughout the transitional period and beyond.
The GEAR Campaign is a network of over 300 women’s, human rights and social justice groups around the world that have been working for over four years to gain UN Member States and UN Secretariat approval for creation of a larger more coherent coordinated UN agency that can advance further the UN’s mandate of working for gender equality as a crucial component of development, human rights, humanitarian concerns, peace and security.
The new gender equality entity to be headed by an Under-Secretary-General, will consolidate the four existing UN bodies on women, increase operational capacity at the country level and gain increased funding for work on women’s empowerment and advancement. The UN currently has four separate entities dedicated to women’s issues which will be combined in the new entity: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and the Office of the Special Adviser to the UN Secretary-General on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI). Combining these agencies and coordinating their work more with gender mainstreaming throughout the UN system will enable the UN and governments to deliver more effectively on their obligations and commitments to advance gender equality, women’s empowerment and women’s human rights.