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UN Women

UN entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women.
UN Women
Leadership team

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Director)

Michelle Bachelet (First Director)

Headquarters
New York City, United States
Type
Banking, Financial Services, FinTech, Government
Region served
Worldwide
Year stablished
2010
Summary

UN Women is the United Nations body entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN Women is also known as United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women.


History

The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) first met at Lake Success, New York, in February 1947, soon after the founding of the United Nations. All 15 government representatives were women. From its inception, the Commission was supported by a unit of the United Nations that later became the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW) in the UN Secretariat. The CSW forged a close relationship with non-governmental organizations, with those in consultative status with the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) invited to participate as observers.

From 1947 to 1962, the Commission focused on setting standards and formulating international conventions to change discriminatory legislation and foster global awareness of women’s issues. In contributing to the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the CSW successfully argued against references to “men” as a synonym for humanity, and succeeded in introducing new, more inclusive language.

Since the codification of the legal rights of women needed to be supported by data and analysis, the Commission embarked on a global assessment of the status of women. Extensive research produced a detailed, country-by-country picture of their political and legal standing, which over time became a basis for drafting human rights instruments.

The Commission drafted the early international conventions on women’s rights, such as the 1953 Convention on the Political Rights of Women, which was the first international law instrument to recognize and protect the political rights of women; and the first international agreements on women’s rights in marriage, namely the 1957 Convention on the Nationality of Married Women, and the 1962 Convention on Consent to Marriage, Minimum Age for Marriage and Registration of Marriages. The Commission also contributed to the work of UN offices, such as the International Labour Organization’s 1951 Convention concerning Equal Remuneration for Men and Women Workers for Work of Equal Value, which enshrined the principle of equal pay for equal work.

In 1963, efforts to consolidate standards on women’s rights led the UN General Assembly to request the Commission to draft a Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, which the Assembly ultimately adopted in 1967. The legally binding Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), also drafted by the Commission, followed in 1979. In 1999, the Optional Protocol to the Convention introduced the right of petition for women victims of discrimination.

As evidence began to accumulate in the 1960s that women were disproportionately affected by poverty, the work of the Commission centred on women’s needs in community and rural development, agricultural work, family planning, and scientific and technological advances. The Commission encouraged the UN system to expand its technical assistance to further the advancement of women, especially in developing countries.

In 1972, to mark its 25th anniversary, the Commission recommended that 1975 be designated International Women’s Year—an idea endorsed by the General Assembly to draw attention to women’s equality with men and to their contributions to development and peace. The year was marked by holding the First World Conference on Women in Mexico City,  followed by the 1976–1985 UN Decade for Women: Equality, Development and Peace. Additional world conferences took place in Copenhagen  in 1980 and Nairobi  in 1985. New UN offices dedicated to women were established, in particular the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).

In 1987, as part of follow-up to the Third World Conference on Women in Nairobi, the Commission took the lead in coordinating and promoting the UN system’s work on economic and social issues for women’s empowerment. Its efforts shifted to promoting women’s issues as cross-cutting and part of the mainstream, rather than as separate concerns. In the same period, the Commission helped bring violence against women to the forefront of international debates for the first time. These efforts resulted in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the General Assembly on 20 December 1993. In 1994, a UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences was appointed by the Commission on Human Rights, with a mandate to investigate and report on all aspects of violence against women.

The Commission served as the preparatory body for the 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women , which adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. After the conference, the Commission was mandated by the General Assembly to play a central role in monitoring implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and advising ECOSOC accordingly. As called for in the Platform for Action, an additional UN office for the promotion of gender equality was established: the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI).

In 2011, the four parts of the UN system mentioned above—DAW, INSTRAW, OSAGI and UNIFEM—merged to become UN Women, now the Secretariat of the Commission on the Status of Women.


Goals and Purpose

UN Women is the United Nations body entity dedicated to gender equality and the empowerment of women. It aims to accelerate progress in meeting the needs of women and girls worldwide. 

In accordance with the provisions of resolution 64/289, UN Women will work within the framework of the UN Charter and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, including its twelve critical areas of concern and the outcome of the twenty-third special session of the General Assembly, as well as other applicable UN instruments, standards and resolutions that address gender equality and the empowerment and advancement of women.

UN Women’s main thematic areas of work include:

The main roles of UN Women are:

  • To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms
  • To help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it and to forge effective partnerships with civil society
  • To enable member states to hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.

The year 2015 marked a number of significant milestones, such as the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was the focus of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) from 9–20 March 2015, where global leaders took stock of progress and remaining challenges for implementing this landmark agreement for gender equality and women’s rights. 

UN Women played an active role in major intergovernmental negotiations and processes including the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015, the outcome of which was strong on the need to adequately fund gender equality and incorporate it in development planning, as well as the negotiations and successful adoption of the new post-2015 development agenda on 25 September 2015. The new global development roadmap includes a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment (Sustainable Development Goal 5), and mainstreams these priorities throughout all 17 goals.


Impact

The main roles of UN Women are:

To support inter-governmental bodies, such as the Commission on the Status of Women, in their formulation of policies, global standards and norms.


To help Member States to implement these standards, standing ready to provide suitable technical and financial support to those countries that request it and to forge effective partnerships with civil society.


To enable member states to hold the UN system accountable for its own commitments on gender equality, including regular monitoring of system-wide progress.


The year 2015 marked a number of significant milestones, such as the 20th anniversary of the Fourth World Conference on Women and adoption of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, which was the focus of the 59th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW59) from 9–20 March 2015, where global leaders took stock of progress and remaining challenges for implementing this landmark agreement for gender equality and women’s rights.

UN Women played an active role in major intergovernmental negotiations and processes including the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa in July 2015, the outcome of which was strong on the need to adequately fund gender equality and incorporate it in development planning, as well as the negotiations and successful adoption of the new post-2015 development agenda on 25 September 2015. The new global development roadmap includes a stand-alone goal on gender equality and women’s empowerment (Sustainable Development Goal 5), and mainstreams these priorities throughout all 17 goals.


References
UN Women
Leadership team

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka (Director)

Michelle Bachelet (First Director)

Headquarters
New York City, United States
Type
Banking, Financial Services, FinTech, Government
Region served
Worldwide
Year stablished
2010