At ECOSOC UN Women calls for the mainstreaming of a gender perspective into all policies and programmes

Statement by Deputy Executive Director Lakshmi Puri, at the ECOSOC Coordination and Management Session of 2014, 12 June 2014, New York.

Date: 12 Jun 2014

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Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,

Nineteen years ago, the Platform for Action adopted at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 established that gender mainstreaming was a global strategy for promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women, and its relevance to all 12 Critical Areas of Concern was also clearly identified. The Platform for Action stressed that development partners, including the UN system, should promote an active and visible policy of mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes, so that, before decisions are taken, an analysis is made of the effects on women and men, respectively.

In 1997, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) agreed conclusions defined gender mainstreaming as the process of assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, including legislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. In doing so, Member States agreed that gender mainstreaming is required to integrate women’s specific concerns and experiences into all policies and programmes in all sectors so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is not perpetuated. In its conclusions, the Council clearly stated that the ultimate goal of gender mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

Important intergovernmental bodies and major global events since 1997 have also provided important mandates for gender mainstreaming in specific areas of the work of the United Nations, including the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (June 2000) to follow-up on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, as well as Security Council through its major breakthrough resolution 1325 (October 2000) on ‘Women and peace and security’ which highlighted the role of women as vital to lasting peace and justice.

ECOSOC has consistently strengthened the ability of the United Nations system to provide coherent, timely and demand-driven support to Member States in the area of gender equality and women’s empowerment. Also, through its annual resolution on gender mainstreaming, the council has clearly pointed to the reaffirmation of confidence in the strategy as a transformative and practical means to advance the gender equality goal.

In the last 18 years, the UN system has undertaken this mandate at the organizational and programming levels as a means to implement its global commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women. UN system efforts are seen in the adoption of policies, mechanisms, training programmes, methods of analysis and reporting that have highlighted gender dimensions. 

These efforts have resulted in tangible and significant contributions to our collective efforts to advance human rights, social and economic progress as well as peace and security. Gender equality and women empowerment are not only principle-driven goals but crucial mechanisms for sustainable development. For example, in the food and agriculture sector, women are now viewed as critical players to the achievement of food security. In the labour sector, the needs of both women and men are integrated into international conventions and policies on decent work, social protection, migration, domestic workers. In public health, gender inequality is understood as a key factor in addressing the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Since its establishment and in keeping with its mandate, UN Women has enhanced support for gender mainstreaming across the UN system especially through its work on promoting coordination, coherence and accountability. With the adoption of the United Nations System-wide Action Plan on Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN-SWAP) in 2012, the United Nations system now counts on an institutionalized system-wide accountability framework on gender mainstreaming.
Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen, it is my pleasure now to introduce the report of the Secretary-General (E/2014/63) on mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes in the United Nations system.

The mandate for this report emanates from ECOSOC resolution 2013/6, which required the Secretary-General to submit this report now, with particular emphasis on progress in promoting system-wide accountability on gender equality and the empowerment of women at both the global and country levels.

The report before you provides an assessment of progress made in promoting gender equality and the empowerment of women within the United Nations system since the adoption of the aforementioned resolution on 24 July 2013. 

The report is based on the reporting of nearly all United Nations entities under the UN-SWAP, as well as the analysis of information provided by 132 resident coordinators in their annual reports for 2013 and other secondary sources. For 2013, 62 UN entities, departments and offices reported under the UN-SWAP compared to 55 in 2012. This is an impressive undertaking since almost the totality of UN entities have participated in this reporting exercise over two consecutive years on the common set of performance indicators that are included in the Action Plan.

The report highlights that the UN-SWAP process has resulted in substantial improvement in the performance of the United Nations system on gender mainstreaming. In its second year of effective implementation progress has been seen in 14 of the 15 performance indicators, including notable advances in particular for performance standards in the areas of gender-responsive auditing, performance management, programme review and knowledge generation. In addition, 29 entities, departments and offices, now have gender policies, an increase of six entities over last year. An additional 13 policies are planned for 2014. This is significant – we know that institutional gender policies constitute a key driver for strengthened accountability.

The value of the UN-SWAP also resides in its ability to highlight in a systematic way the weaknesses of our work on gender, providing actionable findings. As a matter of fact, and despite recognizing substantial areas of improvement, the report of the Secretary-General has also stressed that entities exceed requirements in only a few instances, demonstrating that much remains to be done for the United Nations system to lead by example in gender mainstreaming. Performance also remains poor overall for many indicators, including evaluation, resource tracking, gender architecture and parity, capacity assessment and coherence. In addition, overall performance remains relatively low for the Secretariat with only 38 per cent of its offices and departments rated as meeting or exceeding requirements. 

It is clear that if the United Nations system is to meet the Action Plan performance standards, significantly greater capacity is needed in the Secretariat —which makes up almost 50 per cent of reporting entities. Greater capacity is also needed in entities with a technical focus: these entities meet or exceed requirements in only 18 per cent of UN-SWAP performance areas.

The 2014 UN-SWAP reporting has pointed out the need for continued, consistent and systematic efforts to ensure that the United Nations system meets the UN-SWAP standards. Now that system-wide constraints have been systematically identified for the first time through the UN-SWAP, it becomes all the more vital to render substantive technical assistance to formulate the policy where it is missing and to build the necessary capacity to then ensure effective implementation across the entire System. Needless to say, UN Women will continue to support the UN system as best as its staffing capacity allows it.

Distinguished delegates, as part of its mandate, UN Women has consistently played an important role in ensuring that gender equality and women’s empowerment are better incorporated in the entire intergovernmental process as well as in-country programmes, while linking the lessons learned and experiences gained from both the operational and normative sides. 

Strengthening the coordination and coherence of gender-responsive operational activities at the country level remains a key priority for the UN system. In order to assist Member States to effectively implement a new post-2015 development agenda and ensure that gender equality is adequately addressed in operational activities at the country level, UN Women finalized an “Issues brief: Gender Mainstreaming in Developing Programming.” This forward-looking guidance aimed at supporting gender mainstreaming in policy, planning and programme development in order to close the gap between global normative agreements on gender equality and their implementation at the national level. 

Other examples of effective UN system coordination where UN Women plays a central role for effective programme work include the following. 

• Accountability for gender equality at the programme level continues to be strengthened by the use of tools such as the UNDG gender scorecard, the gender audit and the gender marker to track resources applied towards gender equality results. Since 2008, 31 UNCTs have applied the gender scorecard, stimulating a constructive dialogue to identify remedial action and share good practices. 

• Last fall, the UNDG endorsed a UN System Standard and Principles for gender markers to guide the development of an effective and coherent UN system approach for tracking resources that support gender equality results. It is intended to provide direction for individual entities, including at the national level, instituting or improving their gender equality marker system. 

• The Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Gender Statistics (IAEG-GS) developed a 52 Minimum Set of Gender Indicators as a guide for the national production and international compilation of gender statistics. This set of indicators was endorsed by the UN Statistical Commission in February 2013 and made publicly available in March 2014 in a data platform developed by the UN Statistics Division (UNSD), in collaboration with 14 agencies, including UN Women 2014. In addition, following the agreement on the core indicators on violence against women by the UN Statistical Commission at its February 2013 Session, UNSD developed a set of guidelines on how to measure violence against women.

• Also, UN Women as Chair of the UNDG Task Team on Gender Equality, and in partnership with the UN System Staff College, developed a roster of UN gender experts following a training of trainers organized for 33 UN staff with expertise in gender. This gender roster is available to support UNCTs in their efforts to better integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women into their common programming at the country level, including in the formulation of UNDAFs. 

• UN entities continue to invest in increasing their capacity to ensure the mainstreaming of gender into their programmes of work and operational activities. The recruitment processes for the resident coordinators has been strengthened, and their geographic, gender and agency diversity continues to improve. As October 2013, 40 per cent of resident coordinators were women.

• In order to enhance staff capacity on gender mainstreaming, the course “I Know Gender: An Introduction to Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment for UN Staff” was launched by UN Women as a means to develop and/or strengthen understanding and awareness of basic concepts of gender equality and women’s empowerment for all staff of the United Nations System and promote behavioural change and the integration of a gender perspective in everyday work.

• Based on lessons learned from the Delivering as One (DaO) pilot phase, the UNDG endorsed in 2013 the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that serve as overarching guiding principles to ensure that the second generation of DaO is firmly focused on increased results, strengthened accountability, monitoring and evaluation, and improved outcomes. In carrying out its mandate, UN Women’s strategic approaches include promotion of joint action and interagency collaboration. Through its presence in DaO countries, UN Women promotes accountability, strategic advocacy and communications in ‘one voice’ on gender equality issues within the UNCTs. 

I would like to highlight that for UN Women, working closely within the Resident Coordinator System is of paramount importance in its efforts to coordinate gender-responsive operational activities. The entity supports the fielding of gender advisors within RC offices in countries where it does not have a full-fledged country office. Where there is a UN Women Country presence, the office provides technical support to UNCTs on gender mainstreaming in programme areas and to build national capacities.

Currently, there are 105 Gender Theme Groups (GTG) around the world out of which 62 are led or co-led by UN Women which has contributed to strengthening leadership and work of UNCTs in carrying out their mandate in terms of influencing the development agenda from a gender equality perspective.

No doubt all of this work has contributed to gender equality receiving increased attention by the UN system at the country level, with greater emphasis on results and impact. Improvement in the implementation of the gender mainstreaming strategy is increasingly reflected in improved programmes and investments to advance women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, there is real progress in gender mainstreaming. The gender mainstreaming strategy as well the institutionalization of the UN-SWAP has provided the foundation for the UN system to advance its commitments on gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

This has resulted in substantial improvement in its performance; nevertheless, there is still a ways to go in terms of evaluation of impact, resource tracking, gender architecture and parity, capacity assessment and coherence. Sustained efforts are needed to ensure that gender mainstreaming, effectively yields development results for women and girls worldwide. 

With the increasing recognition that gender equality is critical to the achievement of development goals, it is very important for the UN system to reinvigorate and revitalize gender mainstreaming. Experiences and lessons learnt over the last 18 years should guide future work on gender mainstreaming and should be the basis to ensure that the UN system is fit for the purpose of meeting the challenges for the full implementation of the post-2015 development framework. We need to provide stronger support to the incorporation of gender perspectives into the UN’s development work at country level, including in the United Nations Development Assistance Frameworks. 

Mr. President, in light of the conclusions and recommendations of the report of the Secretary-General, UN Women sees the Council’s resolution on gender mainstreaming as a means to strengthen the work of the UN system, and in this regard I look forward to the Council’s adoption of the resolution “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policies and programmes of the United Nations system”.

The resolution reinforces UN Women’s mandate to promote enhanced coordination, coherence and accountability of the system in its work on gender equality. Through enhancing partnerships across the United Nations system, UN Women seeks to create more opportunities for each UN organization to support gender equality from its area of comparative advantage. UN Women works to promote consistent and sustained coordination support and greater accountability across the UN system on gender equality. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Member States for your support to UN Women and to gender mainstreaming across the UN System. I am confident that your deliberations will galvanize the efforts of stakeholders to achieve greater progress towards gender equality and human rights and dignity. The post-2015 development agenda, together with other global development debates, offers a unique collective opportunity to advance the status of women. I assure you that UN Women will continue to do our utmost to mobilize the UN System to fully take this opportunity and promote enhanced coordination, coherence and accountability of the system in its work on gender equality and the empowerment of women. 

We look forward to working with all development partners to ensure that all policies and programmes benefit men and women equally and advance gender equality. We look forward to the day when Councils such as this one no longer have a need to take up items such as gender mainstreaming, to the day when all human beings are equal in worth, in dignity and in rights that are realized and protected.

Thank you.