Background

Ms. Lakshmi Puri, Assistant Secretary-General for Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships of UN Women, introduced the UN System-wide Action Plan (SWAP) for the implementation of the UN system-wide policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women. She recalled that CEB, in 2006, had endorsed a system-wide policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women, in accordance with ECSOOC Agreed Conclusions 1997/2. In addition, CEB had requested the Inter-agency Network on Women and Gender Equality (IANWGE) to develop, in broad consultation with the UN System, a system-wide action plan that would operationalize the policy and accelerate gender mainstreaming within the UN system. CEB had agreed that the action plan would specify in detail the actions required for implementing the six main elements of the strategy, reflect a system-wide understanding of concepts, norms, standards and indicators, and build on lessons learned and the achievements of each individual organization. The Chair of IANGWE was asked to report to HLCM and HLCP on the implementation of the Action Plan, which had now been finalized. Ms. Puri noted that UN Women had accomplished and finalized the Plan within a six-month period.

She added that, under the leadership of UN Women, as Chair of IANWGE, a preparatory process for the development of the SWAP had been carried out which involved extensive consultations with more than 50 entities of the UN system and included a pilot exercise. The pilot exercise covered a diverse cross-section of UN organizations to test the SWAP’s feasibility and viability The process resulted in the development of the SWAP as a unified gender framework designed to promote common understanding, enhanced coherence, systematic self-assessment, and a progressive approach to gender mainstreaming. Ms. Puri underscored that the SWAP transformed accountability for the work on gender equality of UN system entities from a reactive to a proactive one. It served to provide simultaneously both a snapshot of the state of gender in the entity and an aspirational guide pointing the direction in which managers might progress. The SWAP, which included a set of 15 common system-wide performance indicators, constituted a framework for reporting and accountability that was expected to markedly advance gender equality and the empowerment of women in the policies and programmes of UN system organizations.

Ms. Puri noted that reporting on the SWAP would commence in 2013 by setting a baseline for the UN system. Such reporting would contribute to the Report of the Secretary-General to ECOSOC on “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the UN system.” It would thus facilitate and substantiate accountability to Member States for the work of the UN system on gender equality and the empowerment of women. She added that the roll-out of the SWAP over the next year was critical and would require the continued engagement of all UN System entities backstopped by UN Women. She stressed that the centrality of the roll out phase for the sustainability and success of the SWAP could not be overly emphasized.

Discussion

Following Ms. Puri’s presentation, HLCP congratulated UN Women on the highly successful preparation of the SWAP, noting with appreciation the outstanding collaborative and inclusive approach that had been applied throughout the process of developing the action plan. Representatives of organizations that had participated in the pilot exercise emphasized the framework’s practical application and usefulness in advancing gender equality and the empowerment of women in the policies and programmes of the UN system, noting that the highest quality of the SWAP consultative process also matched its substantive soundness, commending both. In a number of entities, the SWAP had already proved “inspirational” and motivated UN agencies to take additional action on the corporate level to strengthen institutional gender policies, providing both a valuable tool for advocacy and galvanizing efforts and interest both within and across the entities. Several representatives of technical agencies noted with appreciation the flexibility built into the plan, which met the particular needs of their organizations. Others noted that the returns on investing in the SWAP far exceeded the inputs that were required. As such, the return on investment of the exercise was valuably high as was also evidenced in the thoroughness with which it had been prepared.

Action

HLCP took note with great appreciation of the progress achieved in the development of the UN System-wide Action Plan (SWAP) on the implementation of the UN system-wide policy on gender equality and the empowerment of women. It highlighted the exemplary practice in coordination, coherence, collaboration and substantive quality of the results achieved under the leadership of UN Women. HLCP also encouraged UN system entities to take the SWAP (Annex VII) forward in order to ensure a seamless continuum from development to implementation.