Laws and policies

UN General Assembly resolutions agreed by UN Member States help shape UN policies and practices to advance the status of women.

Broader legislative framework

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Articles 2 and 23 state that there can be no distinction or discrimination on the basis of gender, including the right to equal pay for work. See the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

UN Charter

The concept of gender equality has been established within the core guiding principles of the United Nations, and unequivocally reflects a commitment to the equality of men and women in all aspects of the human endeavour. More specifically, the Charter of the United Nations (Articles 8 and 101) stipulates that there shall be no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in every capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs. See the Charter of the United Nations.

Beijing Platform for Action

Strategic Objective G.1 (in the section on “Women in power and decision-making”), presented at the 1995 United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, states that the United Nations must take measures to ensure women's equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making.

The UN-specific objective states the following:

  1. Implement existing and adopt new employment policies and measures in order to achieve overall gender equality, particularly at the Professional level and above, by the year 2000, with due regard to the importance of recruiting staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible, in conformity with Article 101, paragraph 3, of the Charter of the United Nations;
  2. Develop mechanisms to nominate women candidates for appointment to senior posts in the United Nations, the specialized agencies and other organizations and bodies of the United Nations system;
  3. Continue to collect and disseminate quantitative and qualitative data on women and men in decision-making and analyse their differential impact on decision-making and monitor progress towards achieving the Secretary-General's target of having women hold 50 per cent of managerial and decision-making positions by the year 2000.

Action must be taken by the United Nations and other international organizations to eliminate barriers to the advancement of women within their organizations in accordance with the Platform for Action.

The Secretary-General is requested to assume responsibility for coordination of policy within the United Nations for the implementation of the Platform for Action and for the mainstreaming of a system-wide gender perspective in all activities of the United Nations, taking into account the mandates of the bodies concerned. The Secretary-General should consider specific measures for ensuring effective coordination in the implementation of these objectives. To this end, the Secretary-General is invited to establish a high-level post in the office of the Secretary-General, using existing human and financial resources, to act as the Secretary-General's adviser on gender issues and to help ensure system-wide implementation of the Platform for Action in close cooperation with the Division for the Advancement of Women.

See a summary of the 12 critical areas of action in the 1995 Beijing Platform for Action.

The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women – UN Women

UN General Assembly resolution A/RES/64/289 (ar, en, es, fr, ru, zh) on System wide Coherence created a new UN entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women. It states:

Strengthening the institutional arrangements for support of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

53. Further decidesthat the mandate and functions of the Entity (UN Women) shall consist of the consolidated mandates and functions of the [former] Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, with the additional role of leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the United Nations system in its work on gender equality and the empowerment of women, and that any new mandates shall be subject to approval by intergovernmental process (page 9 of A/RES/289).

Report of the Secretary-General A/64/588 (ar, en, es, fr, ru, zh): Comprehensive proposal for the Composite Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women

The functions of the entity with regard to the improvement of the status of women are described in the Secretary-General’s Report A/64/588, on which the Resolution A/RES/64/289 relied in creating the new entity. It states:

III. Functions and structure

6. The composite entity, as outlined in the Deputy Secretary-General’s papers of August 2007 and July 2008, shall have the following functions:

(h) Monitor and report on system-wide compliance with intergovernmental mandates on gender balance, including at the senior and decision-making levels (page 6 of A/64/588).

C. Headquarters-level functions

11. At Headquarters, the composite entity will provide substantive support to inter-governmental processes. In addition to other global functions, it will support regional and country-level activities. For its key Headquarters functions, the composite entity will:

(e) Monitor and report on United Nations system compliance and efforts to develop and apply internal United Nations gender equality policies, including achieving gender balance, eliminating harassment and promoting work-life balance (page 10 of A/64/588).