• Thursday, September 18, 2014
  • A program of IPS Inter Press Service supported by the Dutch MDG3 Fund

    Donor Base for UN Women Continues to Widen

    Lakshmi Puri. Credit U.N.

    Sunaina Perera interviews Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

    UNITED NATIONS, Aug 12 (IPS ) – The donor base for UN Women has continued to widen since the new UN entity was established last year,  according to Lakshmi Puri,  Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women.

    Puri, who  is responsible for leadership and management of the Bureau supporting inter-governmental bodies, UN coordination and external relations, said that Spain remains the  largest donor for total resources (core and noncore) while the UK recently announced an increase from 3 to 10 million pounds and thus became the second largest core donor.

    Other key donors who have significantly increased their contributions include Canada (eight- fold increase), Sweden doubled their core contribution, Australia, Denmark, Netherlands, Finland and the Republic of Korea.

    “We likewise have been receiving strengthened support from non-OECD DAC (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and the Development Assistance Committee) donors  such as India (USD 1 million) and Nigeria (USD 500,000). These are very encouraging trends which we hope to see replicated by many Member States.

    “While some pledging decisions for 2011 are yet to be made, we are particularly encouraged by the 95 member states that have pledged so far”.

    “ We hope that the second half of the year will bring us positive commitments in spite of the current difficult financial and economic circumstances, and that donors would prioritize UN Women, specifically at this critical formative stage of our mission.

    In an interview with IPS, Puri, explains the budget, goals and progress of UN Women and the challenges it continues to face. This new UN group serves as the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women and will continue to grow and gain support in the years to come.

    Excerpts from the interview:

    Q: Women’s rights, treatment and empowerment are problems worldwide. UN Women currently has presence in 80 countries, and expects to continue growing. Does UN Women adequately cater to the needs of women in the 80 countries? How quickly do you expect its presence to expand into more countries, where aid is also needed?

    PURI: 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 UN body ever charged with advancing gender equality. It is an entity with an ambitious agenda but also a practical agenda of building an organization that can make a lasting difference in women’s lives.

    While we are the youngest UN entity—we became operational on 1st January 2011–we come with a long history. It merges four previously distinct parts of the UN system which focused exclusively on gender equality and women’s empowerment. And our work today builds on the strong foundation of the four parts that this new agency combines.

    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 (http://www.unwomen.org/about-us/governance/executive-board/) for the organization was just approved by the Executive Board in June 2011.

    In the first few years of the organization, 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.

    An essential dimension of the Strategic Plan is the vision of eventually offering of a “standard model of support” to Member States in 75 countries by 2013. The proposed model is derived from UN Women’s founding resolution and the Secretary-General’s Comprehensive Report. It was further validated by the extensive global partner survey and field visits under the Field Capacity Assessment, with government and civil society organizations rating all four proposed areas of the Standard Model of Support as almost equally important. They are:

    - supporting development and implementation of evidence-based laws, plans, policies and budgets in line with international and national commitments;

    - supporting gender equality advocates, both within government and NGOs;

    - supporting the capacities of national partners to generate data and knowledge, including through South-South exchange, that underpin public policy and programme development as well as progress tracking; and,

    - leading coordination, within the Resident Coordinator system, to promote enhanced coherence and accountability within the United Nations country team.

    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?

    PURI: 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.

    Post-disaster, climate related disasters have a greater negative effect on household food security in female-headed households. Low body weights and anemia plague many women in developing countries and increase their susceptibility to poor health and diseases post-natural disaster.

    Therefore, 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 mobilize to prepare and respond. Women’s empowerment and gender equality is the basis of UN Women’s work.

    In the field, for example, UN Women in Vietnam works directly on disaster preparedness, whereby the medium of radio is used in a targeted fashion to reach rural women listeners to build awareness on what communities can to do to prepare and respond to disasters.

    The radio show format is an operatic drama, with women as the heroines; they are leading figures who successfully prepare for and respond to a disaster in their homes and communities. It has tremendous potential for further replication as rural communities as radios are often the most popular medium of information and entertainment.

    We are also working through intergovernmental processes and with UN partners on the issue. At the First Regular Session of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (Nairobi, 2011), UN Women Under-Secretary- General and Executive Director Ms. Michelle Bachelet stressed—along with UNFPA and UNICEF—the need to build the capacity of people to respond to disasters in a manner that addressed the needs of different population sectors, particularly women and children, during the session on “Issues of system-wide concern: Disaster Risk Reduction”.

    For the “Manila Declaration for Global Action on Gender in Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction”—the first of its kind—which outlined the consensus of over 300 civil society members and NGO representatives for gender-responsive policies and programmes by the international community, UN Women provided active support, alongside key partners on this issue—including ISDR, UNEP, UNDP, IUCN, and WEDO— as part of the “Third Global Congress of Women in Politics and Governance” in 2008.

    Looking forward and at the broader issue, for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development

    (Rio+20)—UN Women is involved in several activities, including UN inter-agency processes to ensure   gender dimensions are included in inputs by the UN system to the intergovernmental process; and supporting grassroots women organizations at regional conferences and policy dialogue in preparations for Rio+20, along with partners WEDO, Voices of African Mothers, and Women of Europe for a Common Future (WECD) and Energia.

    We are working with UNEP on an event titled  “Women’s Symposium on Social Justice and Governance for Environmental Sustainability” to be held just before the conference in Rio, to bring visibility and sound recommendations at the highest level possible to the intergovernmental process. For work on the ground, we have co-sponsored the first ever SEED Gender Equality Award by the SEED initiative— as part of an annual award scheme (led by UNEP, UNDP and IUCN) for innovative pilot projects that advance sustainable development.

    This year training and networking opportunities and a grant will be provided to a women-led initiative; and UN Women has worked with SEED to mainstream gender in the sustainability criteria in its 30-plus other awards to be given in this award cycle (2011). The application process is now open (http://www.unwomen.org/calendar-of-events/?event_id=19).

    UN Women also aims to provide a compilation of innovative practices on women in green economy to be published in time for Rio+20, which will bring attention to good practices that can be up-scaled and replicated post Rio, as well as include recommendations to create an enabling environment for their uptake and success.

    Q: What is the current budget, in addition to the minimum 500 million dollars recognized as a minimum annually for UN Women? How does this limited budget manage to meet the needs of each of UN Women’s programmes, considering the severity of its proposed tasks?

    PURI: For UN Women, the financial target for annual voluntary contributions amounts are $300 million in 2011, $400 million in 2012 and $500 million 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. UN Women will continue to focus its attention towards where it is needed most.

    To ensure maximum impact, we will work on the five thematic areas outlined in the Strategic Plan: Increasing women’s leadership and participation; increasing women’s access to economic empowerment and opportunities; preventing violence against women and girls and expanding access to services; increasing women’s leadership in peace, security and humanitarian responses; strengthening the responsiveness of plans and budgets to gender quality at all levels; and supporting a set of global norms, policies and standards on gender equality and women’s empowerment to provide a basis for action.

    UN Women’s coordination mandate allows us to provide expertise through UN partners where limited resources might restrain us from being present otherwise, while continuing to provide strong support to least developed countries. We remain realistically ambitious and look forward to reaching our goals in partnership with Member States, civil society, private sector, as well as the media.

    Q: The UN general assembly adopted a resolution calling for a 50: 50 gender parity on decision making jobs at the UN by the year 2000 with a final goal of a 50:50 gender parity within the UN. How much of this has been achieved?

    PURI: The UN Secretary- General has provided great leadership in significantly increasing women’s representation in leadership positions at the United Nations. However, hiring managers across the system need to be held accountable for increasing gender representation in their respective agencies.

    Following UN Secretary- General Ban Ki Moon’s focus on the representation of women, the UN 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 UN 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 UN 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.

    As outlined in the Secretary-General’s Report to the General Assembly on the Improvement of the Status of Women, Sept 2010, there has been an overall trend towards increasing the representation of women within the UN system.  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%, 1% and 3.5% 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 UN 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 per cent for General Service and 72.7 per cent 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 UN, much still remains to be done, and UN Women will continue to strongly advocate for it.

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