Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

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UN Agency for Women Mired by Lack of Funds

Stefano Gennarini, J.D.

NEW YORK, December 30 (C-FAM) - UN Women, a high-level agency that began its work a year ago, may have to rethink its goals and role because of lack of financial support from member states and rivalry with other UN agencies.

When the UN General Assembly formed UN Women in 2010 it consolidated four UN programs dedicated to women’s issues. The goal of the merger was to increase gender equality initiatives within the UN and with member states. The objective was to create field offices throughout the world to galvanize civil society and influence national legislation, a proposition that would be remarkably costly.

A year ago UN Women optimistically estimated an annual budget that included $500 million in voluntary contributions from UN member states to carry out the expansion of the agency. Those projections have been re-evaluated in light of actual support.

The Executive Board of UN Women met in early December and revised the budget. It explained the changes as “premised on more conservative projections” that account for the “global economic conditions.” The board now estimates $230 million in contributions for 2011, $300 million for 2012 and $400 million for 2013.

Some observers believe the board of UN Women is still being a tad optimistic.

Barbara Crossette, writing for The Nation, depicted an even bleaker picture than the board will let on. Crossette reports that only $52 million dollars have actually been received by the agency from UN member countries, and the United States has contributed only $6 million.  Keep in mind they agencies was launched during a global recession where even “donor countries” are strapped for cash.

According to Crossette, the agency is also plagued by some “some petty turf games inside the UN system.”  She cites Paula Donovan, a co-director of AIDS-Free World, who criticizes other UN agencies for not helping UN Women with fundraising.

Crossette complains that “[t]he list of donors says a lot about how much or how little the nations of the world want a powerful women’s agency to succeed.”

This lack of support may be due to UN Women’s attention to gender equality above other issues. In this regard, the agency duplicates the work of other UN entities without offering much that is new. Lakshimi Puri, Deputy Executive Director of UN Women, described UN Women to the General Assembly’s third committee, as “the implementing arm of The Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).” But the CEDAW committee, which monitors the implementation of the convention, already works with countries on the issue of gender equality.

Moreover UN Women’s version of gender equality is somewhat narrow. The first report of the agency, titled “Access to Justice” is so ideologically charged that it appears to have been written by a fringe women’s advocacy group. A UN agency advocating equality is probably viewed as repetitive and unnecessary by countries that already carry the dole for similar projects.

Other agencies like UNICEF and UNDP are successful in raising funds because they are seen as addressing fundamental issues like water, food, healthcare and education.

Reprinted with permission from c-fam.org

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