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  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    “Donor Base for UN Women Continues to Widen”

    Lakshmi Puri
    Credit: Courtesy of UN Women

    Sunaina Perera interviews LAKSHMI PURI, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

    UNITED NATIONS, Aug 18, 2011 (IPS) – The donor base for UN Women has expanded to 95 countries since the new United Nations entity was launched at the start of this year, according to Lakshmi Puri, the assistant secretary-general and deputy executive director of UN Women.

    Puri, who is responsible for the leadership and management of the bureau supporting inter-governmental bodies, U.N. coordination and external relations, said that Spain remains the largest donor for total resources (core and non-core), followed by Norway. The UK recently announced an increase from three to 10 million pounds and thus became the second largest core donor.

    Other key donors who have significantly boosted their support include Canada (eight- fold increase), Sweden (which doubled its core contribution), Australia, Denmark, Netherland, Finland and the Republic of Korea.

    “We likewise have been receiving strengthened support from non-OECD DAC donors such as India (one million dollars) and Nigeria (500,000 dollars). These are very encouraging trends which we hope to see replicated by many member states,” she said.

    In an interview with IPS, Puri explained the budget, goals and progress of UN Women and the challenges it continues to face. Excerpts from the interview follow.

    Q: UN Women currently has a presence in dozens of countries, and expects to continue growing. How quickly do you expect to expand into more countries, where aid is also needed?

    A: UN Women— United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women—is an historic step forward for women. We are the largest single U.N. body ever charged with advancing gender equality. It is an entity with an ambitious agenda but also a practical agenda of building an organisation that can make a lasting difference in women’s lives.

    The Field Capacity Assessment (FCA) that UN Women completed in February 2011 has identified our current presence, which varies in size, scale and complexity, in 75 countries and territories. The first Strategic Plan for the organisation was just approved by the Executive Board in June 2011. In the first few years, we propose a particular focus on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and middle income countries with high inequality as well as countries in conflict and post-conflict situations with particular insecurity for women.

    Q: Women in developing countries will often risk their own lives to provide necessary care for their families, but this is after the occurrence of a crisis. How does UN Women hope to integrate women into disaster preparedness and prevention before a crisis hits?

    A: Yes, gender inequalities often increase women’s vulnerability during natural disasters and environmental stress, for various reasons from literacy levels which often restrict women’s access to public information on forecasts of natural disasters and related relief services, to women’s clothing or lack of skills such as swimming and climbing trees which contributes to the death rate of women – especially when compared to men – in typhoons, tsunamis and floods.

    Women’s overall empowerment is the primary prevention to women’s disproportionate risk during and after disasters. Women living and working as equals are at lower risk of mortality from disasters. They are more likely to be economically empowered which increases their resiliency; they are more politically empowered so their needs are heard in planning and decision-making processes; and they are socially empowered, educated, literate, and can mobilise to prepare and respond.

    Q: What is the current UN Women budget, in addition to the minimum 500 million dollars recognised as an annual minimum? How does this limited budget manage to meet the needs of each of UN Women’s programs, considering the weight of its proposed tasks?

    A: For UN Women, the financial target for annual voluntary contributions amounts are $300 million in 2011, 400 million dollars in 2012 and 500 million dollars in 2013. In terms of composition of resources, the target is that 50 percent of total contributions will be to unearmarked core and the other 50 percent will be to non-core (un-earmarked) resources, including the Fund for Gender Equality and the UN Trust Fund to End Violence against Women.

    By establishing UN Women, countries have strongly committed to support gender equality and to invest in it, and we are hopeful that they will do so.

    Q: The U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for fifty- fifty gender parity on decision making jobs at the U.N. by the year 2000, with a final goal of fifty-fifty gender parity within the U.N. How much of this has been achieved?

    A: Following U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s focus on the representation of women, the U.N. has experienced an unprecedented increase in women at the most senior levels. Over three years (2007- 2009), women at the under secretary-general level rose by 12 percent from 17 percent to 29 percent, and at assistant-secretary-general level by five percent from 20 percent to 25 percent in the U.N. Secretariat, where the vast majority of senior-most posts reside.

    These figures are remarkable when we consider that this progress over a three-year period exceeds that of the entire decade. Across the U.N. system, this trend is further supported by evidence that 20 entities increased their representation of women between 2007 and 2009, and that 45.2 percent of all appointments were women.

    In terms of decision-making posts, there has been an increase in the percentage of women at all levels (D-1 to ASG/USG) between 2007 and 2009, which have been 1.2 percent, one percent and 3.5 percent, respectively. However, none of these levels have yet achieved gender parity and all levels report less than 30 percent female staff.

    Regarding the P-1 to P-5 levels, between 2000 and 2009 the U.N. achieved or exceeded parity at the P-1 and P-2 levels, and at the P-1 level it maintained gender balance throughout the decade. At the General Service and Field Service levels, the representation of women on all contract types at headquarters significantly exceeded the target of gender parity: 63.3 percent for General Service and 72.7 percent for Field Service, mirroring the traditional pattern of dominance of females at the lower ranks.

    Therefore, while we see that there is an increase in women in decision-making roles at the U.N., much still remains to be done, and UN Women will continue to strongly advocate for it.


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