VSO welcomes UN decision on women’s agency but calls on swift decisions to agree budget and mandate
VSO welcomes the positive steps the UN General Assembly has taken in expressing unanimous support for the creation a UN women’s agency to be headed by a new Under Secretary-General (USG).
This decision comes three years after a high level panel first recommended the creation of a unified women’s agency and follows committed lobbying from hundreds of NGOs and their supporters around the world. Thousands of VSO supporters across the UK campaigned for this agency through the charity’s Help Women Help the World campaign and overseas staff and volunteers got involved by lobbying their UN Permanent Representatives.
However, while VSO welcomes this decision, it is also urging the Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, to act swiftly to ensure the agency is operational during 2010 and has the budget and mandate to enable it to genuinely change the lives of disadvantaged women.
Commenting on the decision VSO Chief Executive Marg Mayne said:
“This is an historic moment for women around the world and the efforts of the numerous campaigners and organisations calling for this resolution have been justly rewarded. But let’s be realistic, this agency has its work cut out. Persistent inequalities and discrimination have led to women being amongst the poorest and most disadvantaged people in the world and it will take money, clarity and commitment to really have an impact. A UN women’s agency has the potential to change lives but VSO will be watching closely to make sure its creation does not become embroiled in bureaucracy and political game playing.”
VSO believes a functioning and effective agency must be funded to at least $1bn a year, with expert staff and adequate resources to run programmes on the ground that will improve women's lives. It must have strong leadership along with a willingness to listen to the women’s organisations and charities operating on the ground.
Currently over half a million women die in childbirth or pregnancy every year because they can't access the healthcare they need. Every day hundreds of women are the victims of rape and sexual violence in conflict zones like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Three-quarters of people infected by HIV and AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa are female and the majority of children out of school are girls.