(NEW YORK – C-FAM) The United Nations (UN) General Assembly voted unanimously this week to create a new, more powerful agency for women after three years of negotiations. The resolution calls for the four existing UN offices that address women's issues to be merged into a new "super agency" headed by an under-secretary-general – the third highest ranking position in the UN system, after secretary-general and deputy secretary-general.
While the resolution was approved by the 192 UN member states by consensus, it was not without drama. Four states – Egypt, Iran, Sudan and Cuba – led a last-minute campaign asking UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to elaborate on the new agency's structure and present a comprehensive proposal detailing the agency's mission statement, organizational arrangements, funding and executive board before giving the go-ahead.
Four existing UN offices are dedicated to women – the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, the UN Division for the Advancement of Women and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. During the rounds of consultations leading up to this week's vote, states were pushed by UN officials to come to a quick decision on amalgamating the offices and create a new agency even though many had expressed concern at the lack of details on budget, structure, staffing, or mandate.
The particulars regarding the new entity are still unclear. While the resolution approves the new agency, it also tasks the Secretary-General with producing a comprehensive proposal outlining the specifics of the composite entity to be presented to member states for consideration during the current General Assembly session, which opened this week.
The new "composite entity" is expected to have an annual program budget of approximately $1 billion, including an estimated $300 million in salaries for a projected 1000 staffers.
A coalition of radical feminist groups allied under the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) campaign worked in tandem with prominent UN staffers to demand a new, super-agency with a budget and staff to match those of the other major UN funds and programs, such as the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Program (UNDP). Charlotte Bunch, executive director of the Centre for Women's Global Leadership and vocal advocate for the GEAR campaign, called the General Assembly decision to create the new agency "a great victory."
Critics fear that instead of advocating for the real needs of women worldwide, the new women's agency 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.
After the resolution passed, the GEAR campaign started pushing Ban Ki-moon to start the recruitment process for head of the new women's agency immediately. A statement issued by the group read, "We expect a broad, open search process to start promptly so that the USG [under-secretary-general] is in place and the entity can be operational by the time of the Beijing + 15 Review at the Commission on the Status of Women in March of 2010."