The UN voted unanimously Friday to create a new office on women to be called the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), which will begin operating officially in January 2011. UN Women consolidates four formerly separate entities within the UN that work for the advancement of women: the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
Negotiations to form the entity have gone on for four years because of differing opinions between some developed and developing countries, according to the BBC. The UN has estimated that a minimum budget of $500 million for the new entity, which is twice the budget of all four former organizations combined. The director of UN Women will be an under-secretary-general appointed by the UN’s Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. According to a New York Times editorial, a favored candidate is Michelle Bachelet, Chile’s former president.
The organization will have two basic functions. One is to assist intergovernmental bodies in forming policies and global standards and the other is to help Member States uphold the standards set by these bodies, along with providing the support to do so. According to a UN press release, “Gender equality is not only a basic human right, but its achievement has enormous socio-economic ramifications. Empowering women fuels thriving economies, spurring productivity and growth.” UN Women’s work will be guided by the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).
Asha-Rose Migiro, the Deputy Secretary-General of the UN, said, “UN Women will give women and girls the strong, unified voice they deserve on the world stage. I look forward to seeing this new entity up and running so that we – women and men – can move forward together in our endeavor to achieve the goals of equality, development and peace for all women and girls, everywhere.”