On July 2, after four years of negotiation, the United Nations created a new agency for promoting gender equality. The General Assembly voted to combine four UN offices dedicated to women’s issues – United Nations Development Fund for Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, Division for the Advancement of Women, and the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women – into one entity: United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, or UN Women. “By bringing together four parts of the UN system dedicated to women’s issues, member states have created a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level,” said UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
The work of UN Women will be based on the Beijing Platform for Action, encouraging nations to implement gender equality in such areas as health, education, employment, political participation, and human rights. Operations began on Jan.1, 2011, led by an Under-Secretary-General appointed by Ban Ki-moon. It is rumoured that former Chilean president and feminist socialist Michelle Bachelet is a candidate to lead the new organization. UN Women will also consist of an executive board of 41 nations with a start-up budget of $500 million.
One of the organizations that played a major role in advocating for the creation of UN Women was the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) campaign. According to leading advocate Charlotte Bunch, GEAR “will now turn its efforts toward ensuring that the new body has the human and financial resources necessary to succeed.” GEAR is a coalition of 300 predominantly feminist and pro-abortion organizations, including Planned Parenthood International. Former Canadian ambassador to the UN and prominent abortion activist Stephen Lewis has also long advocated the creation of UN Women.
Samantha Singson of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute told The Interim she is concerned that the radically feminist Western delegates could try to impose their agenda on poorer countries, which may include abortion access. Before the creation of UN Women, there was much debate regarding the size of the executive board. “The fight was that developing countries wanted a more expanded board (as) they will be the countries in which UN alert watches are going to be taking place.” Noting GEAR’s influence in the creation and monitoring of UN Women, Singson said, “We on the other side as well are going to be watching the debate.”
In the August CLC National News, Jim Hughes, president of Campaign Life Coalition and vice president of the International Right to Life Federation, said, “In many parts of the world, women face terrible discrimination. Unfortunately, the UN focuses on narrow, ideological causes which do little to improve the lives and opportunities of girls and women.”