The UN is often seen as a huge lumbering beast, that only looks to its own self-fulfilling concerns. Yet most recently, talk of reform has been on the table. Reform of the UN's funding and its structure.
Part of this reform has been a discussion about setting up a dedicated UN Women's Agency, which could affect the lives of women the world over. Much has been done. Many countries have agreed the need for it. A resolution has been put forward to the UN General Assembly. However, it is mired in the horse-trading and geo-political discussions that accompany the signing of any resolution. It is in danger of not being signed at all (see Mark Tran's article here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/sep/11/ratification-un-women-agency-threatened).
The resolution must be passed by today, 14th September, 2009. Who knows what will happen. If it is passed, we are on our way to creating an autonomous, fully funded, dedicated agency for women, that has vowed to work in partnership with CSOs on the ground and have the proper level of leadership needed for this important body.
It is most desperately needed.
A quick glance at UN statistics (courtesy of GEAR) show that the women's agencies spend is a terribly low $221m - and this against a global UN spend in 2008 of $27bn. This means that fewer than 1% is spent on gender equality within the UN.
Rather than give a whole level of detail about the background, you can access the campaign here: http://www.un-gear.eu/home.shtml. The home page has some sobering statistics:
- Every minute of every day, a woman dies in childbirth - a statistic that hasn't improved in two decades
- 70% of the world's poor and 67% of the world's illiterate are women
- In 141 countries, marital rape remains a legal activity
- Only 9% of HIV+ women in the developing world have access to treatment that blocks passing their HIV onto newborn
As someone on the ground, simply campaigning for a better life for women, I'm still wholeheartedly shocked at how our global hegemonies spout the rhetoric, yet do so little in practice. This is a prime example.
For those who argue that we will simply be creating a whole new UN instrument in the form of its predecessors, I would argue that in order to beat the system, sometimes you need to infiltrate from within and play with the same orchestra....
Let's all hope today's vote goes the way we need it to.