Statement by John Sammis, Deputy U.S. Representative to ECOSOC, on System-Wide Coherence: Composite gender equality entity, in Informal Consultations of the General Assembly

John F. Sammis
United States Deputy Representative to ECOSOC 
U.S. Mission to the United Nations 
New York, NY
February 16, 2010


Distinguished Co-chairs and delegates. To begin I would like to thank the co-chairs for convening this series of informal consultations.  We welcome the opportunity to elaborate our views on System-Wide Coherence and to hear the views of others.  We are convinced that the moment is right for moving ahead and making concrete progress in the next few months to bring to reality some of the ideas that have been percolating for the last several years.

Last week’s discussion of Funding and Governance was an excellent beginning.  We hope to make progress on all aspects of System-Wide Coherence, and are particularly looking forward to resolving the remaining issues surrounding the Gender Entity so that we can achieve the consolidation swiftly and effectively.

The Co-chairs’ letter of February 10 lays out several questions which need further discussion and elaboration, and we look forward to getting into greater detail on Friday and next Tuesday on the functions, structure, funding and governance of the composite entity.  Our position on these issues has been spelled out to some extent in our previous statements, and we welcome the opportunity to flesh out and exchange ideas on these important aspects of creating an effective new mechanism for women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Turning to the topics for today’s discussion, I would like to say that the Secretariat’s excellent report did, indeed, provide the information that member states had requested in resolution 63/311, and that the “composite” entity described in the report appears to be on track to meet the needs of the women of member states more effectively than the current UN arrangements do.  It is important to note that the new “composite” entity will be tasked with looking into issues that impact on all women -- whether they are from developing or developed countries.  While part of the new entity’s functions will be related to development and operational activities affecting women in low income and middle income countries, another major role of the entity will be related to women’s rights and empowerment.

As my colleague from the Russian Federation pointed out last week, there is not a single state in the world that is absolutely free of violations and discriminations against women, and the future gender architecture must therefore be universal in its sphere of competence.  We expect that the normative work done up until now by the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) and INSTRAW will be deepened and strengthened by its consolidation into a wider entity that creates organic linkages between the studies carried out at headquarters and real conditions on the ground.

The United States expects the new entity to provide a strong voice for the women of all countries.  A key component will be the prompt appointment of an articulate, passionate and well-respected person as Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director to head the organization, as well as strong managers and cogent thinkers as her (or his) deputies.  We encourage the Secretary-General to move decisively to begin the search process as soon as possible for the right individual to appoint as head of the incipient composite entity. 

As identified in the co-chairs’ letter, the relationship of the new entity to existing bodies within the UN system is key to its effective functioning.  As we have said previously, the new entity must be a catalyst for making the entire system respond for effectively to women’s concerns and women’s needs.  It can do this through close coordination with other UN Funds and Programmes, including through the Resident Coordinator system on the ground and the Chief Executives Board for Coordination at headquarters level.  However, the new entity cannot be limited to merely playing a coordination role, such as that currently assigned to the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues (OSAGI).  The new entity must be a vigorous actor, with resources to command and programmes to carry out, in line with the priorities of national governments and in coordination with the rest of the UN system.  At the same time, the new entity will not be able to provide all support in all areas to all women.  The existing UN funds and programmes and specialized agencies will need to continue to carry out programming that benefits women in the countries where they are present, and may need to maintain gender focal points. 

The Under-Secretary-General slash Executive Director of the new entity will need to be on a par with the Executive Directors of the major funds and programmes.  Additionally, the USG slash Executive Director will also need to be on a par, institutionally, with the Under-Secretaries-General heading major departments within the Secretariat.  It is this “hybrid” nature of the new entity’s role, which is somewhat unprecedented, and which merits further discussion and elaboration in our future discussions and as the new entity takes shape.

Establishing workable and effective lines of authority between the new entity and its governing bodies will be as important as clearly enunciating its relationship to other funds, programmes, agencies and departments within the UN system.  We envision an entity that will be governed jointly by the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) and by an Executive Board.  We see the USG slash Executive Director playing a role in both these organs, and expect that the entity would provide the supporting background documentation for future meetings of CSW and the government Board of the entity. 

We look forward to hearing from the Secretariat and from other member states on how to operationalize this somewhat complicated, but nonetheless important, new member of the UN family.  For too long, women -- who should be at the heart of any family -- have been taking a back seat in the UN organization.  The U.S. welcomes the effort of our co-chairs to put this initiative on the path to taking action to formally create a women’s organization within the UN before the end of the current GA.


PRN: 2010/025