Assembly hails the birth of the United Nations Women

THE General Assembly on Friday unanimously approved the establishment of a single United Nations agency to promote equality for women.

THE General Assembly on Friday unanimously approved the establishment of a single United Nations agency to promote equality for women.

The new United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women - its official name - will work on policy issues, provide assistance to UN member states that seek it, and promote and monitor the UN system's actions to promote the advancement of women.

A resolution adopted by consensus by the 192-member world body will put four existing UN bodies dealing with the advancement of women under a single umbrella that will be known as "UN Women."

Diplomats burst into applause when assembly president Ali Abdessalam Treki banged his gavel signifying approval.

"This is truly a watershed day. 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 secretary-general Ban Ki-moon.

The highest-ranking official currently dealing with women's issues is assistant secretary-general Rachel Mayanja, who is Ban's special adviser.

The resolution states that UN Women will be led by a higher-ranking undersecretary-general, to be chosen by the secretary-general before the next General Assembly session begins in September.

Three names already floated publicly to lead the new body are former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, Rwanda's foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo, and Radhika Coomaraswamy, the UN special representative for children in armed conflict.

"It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls or to fail to take the necessary action. Women in all parts of the world still suffer discrimination," Ban said.

Approval of the resolution culminates a four-year campaign to streamline the UN's activities promoting the status of women led by the European Union and strongly supported by women's organisations and other non-governmental groups who hailed the birth of UN Women.

Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro called the vote "historic," saying UN Women will for the first time give the UN a "single recognised driver" to direct and accelerate progress towards the goals of women's rights.

"We have high expectations for this new agency to be a solid foundation for advancing the human rights of women," said Charlotte Bunch of the Centre for Women's Global Leadership at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

For many years, the UN has faced serious challenges in trying to promote equality for women around the world because of the lack of funding and the lack of a single high-powered spokesperson and agency to pursue action.

Under the resolution's provisions, the platform to achieve women's equality adopted by 189 nations at the 1995 UN women's conference in Beijing will be the framework for the new body's work. - Sapa