Report of the First Regular Session of the Executive Board, UN Women

Reporting by Julie Tam

Delegation Responses to the Report on Operational Activities

The Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director Michelle Bachelet produced a statement underlining the key issues discussed in the report of the Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women on operational activities. Following Bachelet’s statement were statements made by delegates of countries of the Executive Board in regards to the report in the following order: Spain, Estonia, Tanzania, Bangladesh, India, Peru, Japan, Argentina, U.S., Russia, China, Korea, Mexico, Finland, Ethiopia, Kazakhstan, Nigeria, Indonesia, New Zealand, Dominican Republic, Libya, Pakistan, Malaysia, Norway, Nigeria.  After these statements, delegates from these non-members of the Executive Board made contributions to the discussion:  Germany, Greece, Kenya, and Switzerland. Click for a full list of the Executive Board and Bureau.

Broadly speaking, the general issues raised were concerns about UN Women’s funding,[1] fair distribution (with some suggesting emphasis on middle income countries[2] and others emphasizing equitable funding geographically[3]), effectiveness[4], efficiency, capacity[5], and systematic cohesion. The delegate from Kenya specifically requested funding be allocated where it will be the most effective and that UN Women not become just another UN agency — that it distinguish itself by being different. Several delegates made calls for sound financial management, including support for gender responsive national budgeting[6] and cost recovery policy reform[7].

Cohesion: It was suggested UN Women consolidate human resources of the UN in general and make gender mainstreaming a priority within the UN[8].  Delegates from China and Pakistan both suggested better integration of UN Women with governments and other development agents. Brazil’s delegate called for a comprehensive guideline for national policies. Such a guideline would likely be challenged by China’s delegate, based on the country’s vocalized concerns about national sovereignty over policy. China’s delegate also expressed concern over linking aid with development gender indicators. In contrast, Korea’s delegate advocated for the mainstreaming of gender statistics into national statistics to make country monitoring more comparable and conclusive. The delegate for Indonesia called for a comprehensive assessment of national regime efforts in regards to gender inequality. Russia’s delegate made explicit his concern over the legitimacy of UN Women. Russia’s delegate emphasized country ownership of programs and declared authorization for a UN Women presence to be garnered by request from the host nation.  In line with Russia’s delegate’s concerns, Pakistan’s delegate was apprehensive about the use of noncore resources for any program out of sync with national priorities.

Other issues raised by country delegates at the session included concern over monitoring and evaluation plans as well as improved transparency at the country and UN levels of operation[9]. Various delegates called for UN Women to prioritize economic empowerment, poverty elimination, and/or political inequality. Pakistan’s delegate advised the creation of a network of women parliamentarians and Libya’s delegate requested greater support for women’s political empowerment. Germany’s delegate called for UN Women to maintain a network of business women to encourage the exchange of information, practices, and support internationally. Kenya’s delegate called on UN Women to be more than just another UN agency, but something more dynamic.  Along with these initiatives, some delegates requested a greater emphasis on South-South and triangular cooperation plans[10].

Executive Staff Responses to Comments by Board and Delegations

The response to these concerns was extensive and underscored where UN Women may already be addressing the issues mentioned by the country representatives. In regard to the call for greater cooperation with other agencies, delegates were reminded that UN Women is working closely throughout the UN system, specifically with QCPR, DESA, UNDG, FAO, ILO, World Bank and others.  It was also noted that the regional architecture review, a report coming in May, will address the changes needed to improve capacity and help with efforts to restructure UN Women’s strategic plan. The staff agreed that a greater emphasis should be placed on efficiency and results orientation. To achieve this, the staff accepted the requests to strengthen evaluation teams on the ground and set up a community of practitioners to share best practices across regions.

Funding: Core and noncore funding should be matched 50/50.  As noncore funding increases, countries can expand programs in line with national agendas but that as core funding increases, UN Women’s initiative will gain capacity and these funds will be used in line with UN Women’s priorities. In regard to requests for the allocation of resources to middle income countries the staff restated the universal mandate of UN Women but also conceded to the need for further discussion on the allocation of resources since 72% of the world’s poorest people live in middle income countries. The staff agreed that a major issue for UN Women is resource mobilization as there is an overdependence on voluntary government pledges.  A continuous point of effort will be to enhance contributions to reach the target of $400 million for 2012.

The staff emphasized the importance of a positive sum relationship between core and noncore resources and the need for core resources to reach critical mass. It was stated that core resources should not subsidize noncore programs. Additionally, it was said that UN Women will focus on developing and strengthening private sector’s interest in gender issues at all levels to enhance funding, especially on the ground level. Also needed is greater evidence of the value added of UN Women to increase intergovernmental connection with operational activities.

Capacity: The Executive Board staff agreed with the call for better structured and institutional linkages between field and center.  The staff mentioned the role of CSW in bringing operational experience to strengthen field activities.  The focus on increasing core funding to maximize country teams was described as necessary to improve UN Women’s reach and impact on the ground.  Efforts to strategically change national policy and mainstream gender issues within the UN are also critical next steps to improve capacity.

Draft decision, First Regular Session 2012 of the UN-Women Executive Board

1)    Takes note of the “Report of the Under-Secretary-General/Executive Director of the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women on operational activities (UNW/2012/1).

2)    Decides to transmit the report to the Economic and Social Council

Draft Annual Workplan

Annual Session: 29 May – 1 June 2012

Second Regular Session 5 – 7 September 2012

[1] Estonia, Bangladesh, Peru, Argentina, Canada, Indonesia, NorwayDominican Republic, Libya

[2] Peru, Argentina, Mexico

[3] China, Libya, Pakistan

[4] Korea, Argentina, Mexico, Kenya, Switzerland

[5] Canada, Estonia,

[6] Ethiopia, Germany

[7] Canada, Korea, Argentina, Indonesia, Kenya

[8] Canada, Switzerland, Korea

[9] Russia, China, Canada

[10] Mexico, Kenya


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