UN Women leads efforts to improve gender equality across the UN system


Gender Focal Points from around the UN System gather for the annual meeting on 13 September in New  York. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown
Gender Focal Points from around the UN System gather for the annual meeting on 13 September in New York. Photo: UN Women/Ryan Brown

It has been two years since the  System-wide Strategy on Gender Parity was launched by UN Secretary-General António Guterres in order to reach parity at the most senior levels by 2021, and across the board by 2028.

To coincide with the anniversary of the Strategy, UN Women hosted the Global Gender Focal Point (GFPs) Meeting. Each UN department, office, regional commission or mission appoints at least one GFP whose overarching role is to support the head of department in fulfilling their responsibilities for the achievement of gender parity. While UN Women works for gender equality and the empowerment of women across the world, the network of GFPs works towards gender equality within the UN system.

Over 90 GFPs from 25 duty stations joined for the meeting entitled “Enabling Environment: Flexible Working Arrangements and Increased Engagement with Men” with the powerful tagline “inform, inspire, implement.” Katja Pehrman, UN Women’s Senior Advisor and Focal Point for Women in the UN System praised the Gender Focal Points for “making change happen on the ground every day, all around the UN.”

The GFPs participated in a session about engaging men in the promotion of gender parity facilitated by Michael Kaufman, co-founder of the White Ribbon campaign, and Laxman Belbase, Global Networks Manager, MenEngage Alliance. Moreover, the GFPs focused on implementing flexible working arrangements, facilitated by Agnes Uhereczky and Zoltan Vadkerti, Executive Directors at the WorkLife HUB. In addition, there was a briefing from Purna Sen, UN Women’s Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Addressing Sexual Harassment and other forms of discrimination.

At the end of the global meeting, the Executive Director of UN Women, Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka presented certificates of recognitions of good practices to GFPs and entities that had made significant progress in implementing Enabling environment guidelines for the United Nations system and UN Women’s Supplementary guidance to create an equal and inclusive working environment to expedite gender parity.

 “Without this network, the status quo would remain. This network makes a difference,” said Ms. Mlambo-Ngcuka. “Lack of equality harms human rights and organizations’ effectiveness and together, through this group of connected allies, we are able to ensure we make positive progress.”

The work and efforts of GFPs are of utmost importance to move forward with the SG’s Strategy. The recently published Secretary-General’s Report on Improvement in the Status of Women (2019) shows that the representation of women in the Professional and higher categories in the United Nations system remains lower than that of men. The representation of women continues to be highest at the entry levels, decreasing progressively with higher grade levels. The gap is greatest and the rate of change slowest at non-headquarters locations, including peace operations. Historic achievements have now been achieved at the most senior level, including among resident coordinators, Under-Secretaries-Generals and Assistant Secretaries-General.

UN Women and all UN entities continue to work together to inform, implement and inspire change towards equality in the UN System.