Statement by Laurie Phipps Adviser, General Assembly Interactive Meeting on Institutional Arrangements in Support of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
June 8, 2009


Mr. Chairman,

The United States thanks you and your co-chair for convening this meeting to continue discussions on the institutional arrangements for support of gender equality and the empowerment of women. We also acknowledge the Deputy-Secretary-General’s efforts to move all branches of the System-Wide Coherence process forward, including through her papers on reforming the UN’s gender architecture.

The United States is unequivocally in favor of improving the UN’s systemic response to issues confronting women around the world. Women make up half the world’s population, but have been marginalized for too long. We endorse in principle the proposal to create a composite entity to serve as a catalyst for the rest of the UN system to deal effectively with gender issues.

We envision this hybrid entity as a central repository of expertise, analysis and research on issues such as gender equality, women’s political participation, women’s economic opportunities, violence and discrimination against women, women’s health, women and development, women’s political participation, economic and educational opportunities for women, women with disabilities, indigenous women, and gender aspects of peace negotiations, among others.

The composite entity would not only draft reports on these issues, but would deploy staff into the field to serve a catalytic role to raise those issues within country teams, and work with operational agencies to ensure that their work takes due account of gender aspects of their projects. It would serve as a reference and advisor to build capacity within the agencies to understand the role that gender plays in their own programming, and how to evaluate it on the basis of equal access to programs and the impact that programs have on women and men. The composite entity’s advisers in the field would work with host country ministries to raise awareness of women’s issues and gender dimensions of development policies. In developed countries, the composite entity’s regional offices could provide expertise and advice to governments on gender issues. The composite entity would be able to send increased numbers of experts and advisers into the field with the increased voluntary contributions that we understand will be forthcoming from several member states.

The composite entity should have a strong field presence, but would have universal scope rather than universal presence. Its influence on women’s empowerment would extend throughout the globe, but we do not expect that new UN offices would be established in all countries. The new entity would play a role in advancing and empowering women in developed as well as in developing countries.

In addition to the operational and analytical roles, we foresee the new entity having a small branch that organizationally would be part of the UN secretariat. Ideally the secretariat functions would be carried out within existing resources, or even at a savings brought about by streamlining and the elimination of duplication.

The head of the composite entity would therefore have two hats – one as the executive head of the women’s Fund, and one as a member of the Secretary-General’s team of Department heads. As part of the Secretary-General’s senior leadership team, the head of the entity would participate in the Secretary-General’s Senior Policy Committee. The composite entity head would have a voice equal to others in the Chief Executives Board (CEB), the High-Level Committee on Programs (HLCP), the High-Level Committee on Management (HLCM), the UN Development Group (UNDG), and other senior-level consultative bodies. He or she would also speak to the need for more women mediators and high level staff, and also ensure that occupants of those high positions are aware of the gender implications of their policies and programs.

In order to fulfill such functions, the head of the composite entity will need to hold the rank of Under-Secretary-General. It is essential that the composite entity head be forceful, dynamic and committed, with a strong track record of organizational ability and insight into women’s issues.

We envisage an entity that would be funded primarily through voluntary contributions, with a portion of the budget coming from regular budget assessments to cover the reduced secretariat function. We look forward to examining a draft projection of the budget and organizational chart of the composite entity.

In fleshing out the details of the composite entity, it will be essential for the existing operational Funds and Programmes to be consulted at an expert level on how to maximize the efficient interaction on the ground and at headquarters level with the composite entity. The composite entity will certainly not be able to carry out all programs in all places having an impact on all aspects of women’s lives. There should be no illusions that the composite entity would be able to assume such a mammoth task. Rather, modalities must be found for the composite entity to be a catalyst and a driver to help provide a gender lens when UNDP, UNFPA, UNHCR, OHCHR, WFP, UNICEF, or others might not automatically see through one. At the same time, we must ensure that creation of the composite entity does not result in duplicating the purpose or efforts of other organizations responsible for gender issues.

As for intergovernmental governance of the composite entity, we believe the existing UNDP/UNFPA joint Executive Board should be expanded to have oversight also over the composite entity. This will facilitate coherence in development programming. The Board can also oversee the data collection and programming on women’s empowerment, gender equality, and elimination of discrimination in developed countries. In addition, the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) will continue to meet and provide the normative guidance that it has developed over several decades through resolutions and decisions.

We recommend that the composite entity be reviewed after a period of time -- perhaps three to five years -- to assess its effectiveness.

There is political will within the United States for strengthening the UN’s work to bring about real improvements in women’s lives. As evidence of this, the U.S. Congress has appropriate $7 million for UNIFEM and the UNIFEM Trust Fund this year, and $50 million to UNFPA.

Thank you for the opportunity to exchange views on this important new undertaking. You have the support of the United States in moving forward to develop the details of how the composite entity will function. We look forward to working with you, other Member States, the Deputy-Secretary-General, the four existing units that will be merged into the composite entity, and the other affected parts of the UN system in filling in the missing details of how to make this vision a reality.


PRN: 2009/121