UN Women was established in July 2010 by the General Assembly (res. 64/289) to improve the coordination and coherence of gender equality and empowerment of women, and promote more effective gender mainstreaming across the UN system.
It consolidated the work of four UN gender entities: the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women. It has an additional role of leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the UN system in its work on gender equality and the empowerment of women.
UN Women's fundamental objective is to enhance national capacity and ownership to enable national partners to formulate gender-responsive laws and policies and to scale up successful strategies to deliver on national commitments to gender equality. It has five core principles:
Providing demand-driven support to national partners to enhance implementation of international agreements and standards
Supporting inter-governmental processes to strengthen the global normative and policy framework on gender equality
Advocating for gender equality and women's empowerment, championing the rights of women and girls - particularly those who are most excluded
Leading and promoting coherence in UN system work on gender equality
Acting as a global broker of knowledge and experience, aligning practice with normative guidance.
UN Women's five thematic pnontles are: expanding women's voice, leadership and participation; ending violence against women; strengthening implementation of women's peace and security agenda; enhancing women's economic empowerment; and making gender equality priorities central to national, local and sectoral planning, budgeting and statistics.
Several international agreements guide the work of UN Women: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW); Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (PFA); UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security (2000) and subsequent resolutions 1820 (2008), 1888 (2009), 1889 (2009) and 1960 (2010); and the Millennium Declaration and Millennium Development Goals.
The establishment of UN Women was part of efforts to improve UN system-wide coherence that came from the World Summit of global leaders in 2005 when the UN Secretary-General was asked to undertake reforms within the UN to reduce waste and improve results in several areas. The goal was to have a stronger focus on operational outcomes 'on the ground' and more efficient operational practices. Streamlining the UN's gender architecture was part of this.
UN Women functions as a secretariat, providing support to inter-governmental policy and normative processes, and also carries out programmes of operational activities at the country level to support Member States, at their request. It is headed by an Under-Secretary-General and governed by a multi-tiered structure comprising the General Assembly, Economic and Social Council, Commission on the Status of Women and an executive board.
The Board engages with the executive boards of other UN development agencies to coordinate work on gender equality and women's empowerment across the UN system. The Board is responsible for providing inter-governmental support to, and monitoring of, UN Women's activities, and for ensuring that UN Women is responsive to national priorities and needs. It also approves UN Women's strategic plan and budget. The specific functions of the Board are set out in GA res. 64/289 (2010). The Board's work is coordinated by a bureau comprising one representative from each of the five regional groups of Member States.
GA res. 64/289 (2010) specified there should be 41 members on the Executive Board, made up of 35 representatives from the five UN regional groups of member states and six from contributing countries (including non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries).
The numbers from each regional group are: African states (10), Asian states (10), Eastern European states (four), Latin America and the Caribbean states (six), Western European and Other states (five), and six from contributing countries (four for the top 10 largest providers of voluntary core contributions and two seats for top 10 non-OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) developing countries providing voluntary core contributions, giving due consideration to geographical balance).
The terms of all 41 members began from the day of election in 2010 and run until 31 December of the year in which their term ends. In subsequent elections, members will be elected for three years, beginning on 1 January and running until 31 December of the year in which their term ends.
The Executive Board Bureau is composed of one president and four vice-presidents elected from the members at the first regular session each year, taking into account the need for equitable geographical representation. The primary functions of the Bureau are to prepare and organise board meetings, facilitate transparent decision-making and promote dialogue in decision making.
Bureau members for 2011 are:
President U Joy Ogwu, Nigeria
Vice-Presidents Asia group: Zahid Rastam, Malaysia Eastern European group: Olha Kavun, Ukraine Latin America and Caribbean group: Carmen Arias, Peru Western European and Other group: Magnus Lennartsson, Sweden
Executive Board members are:
African states Angola Cape Verde Congo COte d'Ivoire DR Congo Ethiopia Lesotho Libya Nigeria Tanzania
Asian states Bangladesh China India Indonesia Japan Kazakhstan Malaysia Pakistan ROK Timor-Leste
Eastern European states Estonia Hungary Russian Federation Ukraine
Latin America and the Caribbean states Argentina Brazil Dominican Republic El Salvador Grenada Peru
Western Europe and Other states Denmark France Italy Luxembourg Sweden
Contributing countries Mexico Norway Saudi Arabia Spain UK USA
The Board meets in one annual and two regular sessions a year, holding inter-sessional meetings as it deems necessary. In 2011, the Executive Board's first regular session was held in New York from 24 to 26 January 2011, and the annual session from 27 to 30 June 2011. The second regular session held from 5 to 7 December 2011.
In addition to the scheduled Board meetings, joint meetings are also held with the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), UN Development Programme (UNDP), UN Population Fund (UNFPA), UN Office for Project Services (UNOPS), UN Women and World Food Programme (WFP) boards.
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