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.


[Check against delivery]

Mr. President, distinguished delegates, ladiesand gentlemen,

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

In 1997, the Economic and SocialCouncil (ECOSOC) agreed conclusions defined gender mainstreaming as the processof assessing the implications for women and men of any planned action, includinglegislation, policies or programmes, in all areas and at all levels. In doingso, Member States agreed that gender mainstreaming is required to integratewomen’s specific concerns and experiences into all policies and programmes inall sectors so that women and men benefit equally and inequality is notperpetuated. In its conclusions, the Council clearly stated that the ultimategoal of gender mainstreaming is to achieve gender equality.

Importantintergovernmental bodies and major global events since 1997 have also providedimportant mandates for gender mainstreaming in specific areas of the work of theUnited Nations, including the 23rd special session of the General Assembly (June2000) to follow-up on the implementation of the Beijing Declaration and Platformfor Action, as well as Security Council through its major breakthroughresolution 1325 (October 2000) on ‘Women and peace and security’ whichhighlighted the role of women as vital to lasting peace and justice.

ECOSOChas consistently strengthened the ability of the United Nations system toprovide coherent, timely and demand-driven support to Member States in the areaof gender equality and women’s empowerment. Also, through its annual resolutionon gender mainstreaming, the council has clearly pointed to the reaffirmation ofconfidence in the strategy as a transformative and practical means to advancethe gender equality goal.

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

These efforts have resulted in tangible and significantcontributions to our collective efforts to advance human rights, social andeconomic progress as well as peace and security. Gender equality and womenempowerment are not only principle-driven goals but crucial mechanisms forsustainable development. For example, in the food and agriculture sector, womenare now viewed as critical players to the achievement of food security. In thelabour sector, the needs of both women and men are integrated into internationalconventions and policies on decent work, social protection, migration, domesticworkers. In public health, gender inequality is understood as a key factor inaddressing the challenges of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

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

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

Thereport before you provides an assessment of progress made in promoting genderequality and the empowerment of women within the United Nations system since theadoption of the aforementioned resolution on 24 July 2013. 

The report isbased 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 intheir annual reports for 2013 and other secondary sources. For 2013, 62 UNentities, departments and offices reported under the UN-SWAP compared to 55 in2012. This is an impressive undertaking since almost the totality of UN entitieshave participated in this reporting exercise over two consecutive years on thecommon set of performance indicators that are included in the Action Plan.

The report highlights that the UN-SWAP process has resulted in substantialimprovement in the performance of the United Nations system on gendermainstreaming. In its second year of effective implementation progress has beenseen in 14 of the 15 performance indicators, including notable advances inparticular 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 ofsix entities over last year. An additional 13 policies are planned for 2014.This is significant – we know that institutional gender policies constitute akey driver for strengthened accountability.

The value of the UN-SWAP alsoresides in its ability to highlight in a systematic way the weaknesses of ourwork on gender, providing actionable findings. As a matter of fact, and despiterecognizing substantial areas of improvement, the report of theSecretary-General has also stressed that entities exceed requirements in only afew instances, demonstrating that much remains to be done for the United Nationssystem to lead by example in gender mainstreaming. Performance also remains pooroverall for many indicators, including evaluation, resource tracking, genderarchitecture and parity, capacity assessment and coherence. In addition, overallperformance remains relatively low for the Secretariat with only 38 per cent ofits offices and departments rated as meeting or exceeding requirements. 

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

The2014 UN-SWAP reporting has pointed out the need for continued, consistent andsystematic efforts to ensure that the United Nations system meets the UN-SWAPstandards. Now that system-wide constraints have been systematically identifiedfor the first time through the UN-SWAP, it becomes all the more vital to rendersubstantive technical assistance to formulate the policy where it is missing andto build the necessary capacity to then ensure effective implementation acrossthe entire System. Needless to say, UN Women will continue to support the UNsystem as best as its staffing capacity allows it.

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

Strengthening the coordination and coherence ofgender-responsive operational activities at the country level remains a keypriority for the UN system. In order to assist Member States to effectivelyimplement a new post-2015 development agenda and ensure that gender equality isadequately addressed in operational activities at the country level, UN Womenfinalized an “Issues brief: Gender Mainstreaming in Developing Programming.”This forward-looking guidance aimed at supporting gender mainstreaming inpolicy, planning and programme development in order to close the gap betweenglobal normative agreements on gender equality and their implementation at thenational level. 

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

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

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

• TheInter-Agency and Expert Group on Gender Statistics (IAEG-GS) developed a 52Minimum Set of Gender Indicators as a guide for the national production andinternational compilation of gender statistics. This set of indicators wasendorsed by the UN Statistical Commission in February 2013 and made publiclyavailable in March 2014 in a data platform developed by the UN StatisticsDivision (UNSD), in collaboration with 14 agencies, including UN Women 2014. Inaddition, following the agreement on the core indicators on violence againstwomen by the UN Statistical Commission at its February 2013 Session, UNSDdeveloped 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 inpartnership with the UN System Staff College, developed a roster of UN genderexperts following a training of trainers organized for 33 UN staff withexpertise in gender. This gender roster is available to support UNCTs in theirefforts to better integrate gender equality and the empowerment of women intotheir common programming at the country level, including in the formulation ofUNDAFs. 

• UN entities continue to invest in increasing their capacity toensure the mainstreaming of gender into their programmes of work and operationalactivities. The recruitment processes for the resident coordinators has beenstrengthened, and their geographic, gender and agency diversity continues toimprove. As October 2013, 40 per cent of resident coordinators were women.

•In order to enhance staff capacity on gender mainstreaming, the course “I KnowGender: 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 understandingand awareness of basic concepts of gender equality and women’s empowerment forall staff of the United Nations System and promote behavioural change and theintegration of a gender perspective in everyday work.

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

I would like to highlight that for UN Women, working closely within theResident Coordinator System is of paramount importance in its efforts tocoordinate gender-responsive operational activities. The entity supports thefielding of gender advisors within RC offices in countries where it does nothave a full-fledged country office. Where there is a UN Women Country presence,the office provides technical support to UNCTs on gender mainstreaming inprogramme areas and to build national capacities.

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

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

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

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 andcoherence. Sustained efforts are needed to ensure that gender mainstreaming,effectively yields development results for women and girls worldwide. 

Withthe increasing recognition that gender equality is critical to the achievementof development goals, it is very important for the UN system to reinvigorate andrevitalize gender mainstreaming. Experiences and lessons learnt over the last 18years should guide future work on gender mainstreaming and should be the basisto ensure that the UN system is fit for the purpose of meeting the challengesfor the full implementation of the post-2015 development framework. We need toprovide stronger support to the incorporation of gender perspectives into theUN’s development work at country level, including in the United NationsDevelopment Assistance Frameworks. 

Mr. President, in light of theconclusions and recommendations of the report of the Secretary-General, UN Womensees the Council’s resolution on gender mainstreaming as a means to strengthenthe work of the UN system, and in this regard I look forward to the Council’sadoption of the resolution “Mainstreaming a gender perspective into all policiesand programmes of the United Nations system”.

The resolution reinforces UNWomen’s mandate to promote enhanced coordination, coherence and accountabilityof the system in its work on gender equality. Through enhancing partnershipsacross the United Nations system, UN Women seeks to create more opportunitiesfor each UN organization to support gender equality from its area of comparativeadvantage. UN Women works to promote consistent and sustained coordinationsupport and greater accountability across the UN system on gender equality. 

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Member States for your support toUN Women and to gender mainstreaming across the UN System. I am confident thatyour deliberations will galvanize the efforts of stakeholders to achieve greaterprogress towards gender equality and human rights and dignity. The post-2015development agenda, together with other global development debates, offers aunique collective opportunity to advance the status of women. I assure you thatUN Women will continue to do our utmost to mobilize the UN System to fully takethis opportunity and promote enhanced coordination, coherence and accountabilityof 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 allpolicies and programmes benefit men and women equally and advance genderequality. We look forward to the day when Councils such as this one no longerhave a need to take up items such as gender mainstreaming, to the day when allhuman beings are equal in worth, in dignity and in rights that are realized andprotected.

Thank you.