Thank you, Mr. Chair. I would like to extend a warm welcome to Executive Director Bachelet, and thank her for her inspiring words this morning to the Third Committee. Our consideration of Advancement of Women this year is especially important, as it is the first gathering since UN Women was established. The creation of UN Women represents more than simply reform of the UN system. Improving the situation of women and children contributes more broadly to their communities’ development, security, and prosperity. By bolstering the UN’s gender-related work, tangible benefits to the lives of women, men, and children will result.
We are delighted to welcome Michelle Bachelet as Executive Director of UN Women. As a former President and Minister of Defense, she has the leadership experience needed to guide UN Women during this critical initial phase of its operations. She also has extensive knowledge and experience on gender issues and a deep commitment to bettering the lives of women and children. The United States stands ready to work with Executive Director Bachelet and her management team to enhance the UN’s ability to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment. We are gratified that her management team is bridging bureaucratic divisions in order to make UN Women into a truly unified entity. We will give priority to assuring that her organization has adequate resources to carry out its critical mission. Over the past years, U.S. contributions to UNIFEM, now folded into UN Women, have steadily increased. For FY 2010, the United States contributed $5.985 million to UNIFEM, making us one of UN Women’s largest donors. We will seek to engage forcefully and continuously on the Executive Board, to enable us to best help UN Women carry out its mandate.
Let me speak to U.S. hopes for UN Women. We envision that the organization will have a comprehensive mandate for women’s empowerment, including mainstreaming gender throughout the UN system. We expect UN Women to inform policies and implement programs to ensure women’s full and equal participation in political, economic, and social life, including in conflict prevention and peace-building, and to combat violence against women.
Secretary Clinton has said many times, “Supporting women and girls is both the right thing to do and also the smart thing to do. That’s why we have made it a key priority of the foreign policy in the Obama Administration.” The Secretary has further said, “Investing in the potential of the world’s women and girls is one of the surest ways to achieve global economic progress, political stability, and greater prosperity for women – and men – the world over.”
For these reasons, we believe that the United Nations, through the leadership of UN Women, should make women’s equality and empowerment a key priority. In this year – the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing Women’s Conference, as well as the tenth anniversary of the Millennium Summit and the adoption of Security Council Resolution 1325 – we have all come to realize that empowerment of women is essential to progress. We know that higher rates of women’s participation in government are associated with lower levels of corruption; that investing in the health and education of women and girls improves the lives of their families and communities; and that countries are more peaceful and prosperous when women are accorded full and equal rights and opportunities.
As Ambassador Melanne Verveer said during the U.S. National Voluntary Presentation at ECOSOC this summer, “… investment in women and girls must be at the core of any strategy to grow economics, attack disease, strengthen democracy, and achieve peace and security.”
While there are a small number of core functions that must be done at headquarters, the bulk of UN Women’s work should be out in the field. The organization will need an adequate number of staff – at sufficiently senior levels and with the required technical expertise – to work with other UN agencies and government ministries to align field-level programs with women’s strengths and needs and to effect real change. Overhead costs and duplication must be reduced to free up resources for in-country programs that will tangibly improve women’s lives.
Although UN Women has a key role to play in addressing critical issues such as women’s political and economic empowerment, women’s health, violence against women, and laws that discriminate against women, its creation does not relieve UN organizations of their responsibility to consider how their work impacts upon women. Rather, UN Women should serve as a catalyst to ensure that all parts of the UN system mainstream gender considerations throughout their operations.
The United States looks forward to the opportunity to work with and support UN Women in order to galvanize the UN system and set the world’s women on a reinvigorated path towards advancement, empowerment and equality. Thank you for your attention.
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