Women’s rights and gender equality are major concerns for the Norwegian government. Allow me to address the Chapter V of the Secretary General’s report, “Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women”. We welcome the mandate review and support the efforts to strengthen and focus the mandates for gender equality within the UN.
The report of the Secretary General states that gender equality deserves equal attention as other cross-cutting issues within the UN. We argue that it deserves even more attention. The importance of gender equality in poverty reduction, development and the promotion of human rights and democracy can not be overstated. We strongly believe that the UN Millennium Development Goals will not be achieved unless more attention is given to women’s rights. Gender equality and women’s empowerment are also key perspectives in peace building processes to achieve a sustainable peace for all. These are responsibilities the UN needs to take even more seriously in the future.
Both the UN High Level Panel on Coherence and the mandate review process represent opportunities for initiating change that can make a difference for women’s empowerment and gender equality within the UN system. These two processes must complement each other.
The report of the Secretary General directs our attention to the large amount of general mandates on gender equality that exists within the UN. It also outlines the dilemma of the great number of reports produced, often on the same subjects. We welcome the initiative to streamline reporting procedures and to review the many mandates on gender equality.
We also strongly support the Secretary General when he states that there is a need to review the institutional architecture for gender and to strengthen the institutional mechanisms for gender mainstreaming. In relation to this, it is important to link the process of the mandate review to the work of the High Level Panel on Coherence. The Secretary General has asked the panel specifically to review the UN system’s efforts for women and gender equality.
Gender mainstreaming is a responsibility for leaders at all levels and in all organisations in the UN system. There are great variations, however, as to how seriously this responsibility is taken within the different UN organisations. It seems as the UN is neither able to mainstream gender nor secure effective targeted interventions and programs directed towards women’s rights and gender equality in an effective manner.
The UN needs to perform better in mainstreaming than it does today. The mandates on gender equality need to be reviewed and focused – but they also need to be delivered on.
First of all, there is a need for better policies, incentives, mechanisms and resources for this work. The evaluation of gender mainstreaming in UNDP (2006) clearly demonstrates this need. Secondly, all organisations and units working with issues related to women’s empowerment and gender equality must complement each other, not overlap and duplicate their work, in order to secure efficient use of resources and effective implementation. Thirdly, all UN organisations must make a stronger effort to make sure that women are equally represented at all levels, especially in leadership positions.
The UN gender machinery is weak, fragmented and under-funded. The discussion on how the gender machinery should be organised must be based on the functions the gender machinery of UN needs to fulfil:
- Firstly: Perform the advocacy/watch dog function
- Secondly: Drive implementation and innovation
- Thirdly: Contribute to the gender mainstreaming process in the UN as a whole
There must be an independent voice within the UN that can advocate the fulfilment of international conventions and obligations when it comes to women’s empowerment and gender equality. This entity must be able to put pressure on other UN organisations when it comes to their responsibility to gender mainstream their activities, both in policy development and at the operational level.
When it comes to implementation and innovation, the gender machinery must be able to address issues and take on tasks that other UN organisations do not, when it comes to women’s empowerment and gender equality. This applies to policy level as well as implementation.
The operational unit must be capable to develop strategies and programs that will advance the agenda and that can function as best practices for others (both UN organisations and member countries).
Finally, the gender machinery must be allocated more resources to make it able to intensify the effort and to fulfil their mandates. The gender machinery needs more clout than today, both in New York and in the field. The status must also be elevated and the operational unit must be represented in the UN coordinating bodies of UNDG and CEB in order for it to have a real impact on the UN system as a whole.
In other words, the mandates for gender equality need to be reviewed and focused and the effort to implement the mandates must be intensified. Gender mainstreaming strategy must be implemented more forcefully in the whole UN system. At the same time the gender machinery must be upgraded, better funded and given more influence in order to perform fully these vital functions.