The UN has, over many decades, taken steps and established mechanisms to promote gender justice and equality and women’s empowerment, both in terms of human rights and economic development. Despite some progress, socio-economic and political gender inequalities persist in every society and Pakistan is no exception. Global challenges faced by the UN’s efforts for women have included the absence of a single entity, adequately resourced and strongly mandated with directing the UN’s women focused activities.
As part of the UN’s initiative towards developing system-wide coherence and ‘bringing together resources and mandates for greater impact’, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) set up a High-Level Coherence Panel in May 2006, with three Co-Chairpersons – Pakistan, Norway and Mozambique. The Panel’s report of November 2006 recommended setting up a “One UN System” at the country level, with one leader, one joint programme, one budgetary framework, one management practice and joint premises. Subsequently, Pakistan was one of the 8 countries volunteering to Pilot the new approach and conceptual framework of the “Delivering As One UN System”. The Pakistan Pilot started in 2007 and is due to end in 2010.
While the SG’s High-Level Panel was carrying out its fact-finding and report-writing, and while there was an ongoing debate within and beyond the UN on the need to review and change the manner in which the UN System was addressing gender justice and equality and women’s empowerment, a number of INGOs and NNGOs worldwide also started discussing, amongst themselves and with the UN System, the existing architecture and mechanisms for addressing women’s issues in the UN, and of how to bring about the much-needed coherence and reforms. This resulted in the global Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign.
The GEAR Campaign provided the empirical base, facts, motivation and women’s voices to the UN System and to the Member States through the General Assembly (UNGA), to change both the architecture and the mechanisms. To this end, in 2009 GEAR carried out reviews in the One UN System Pilot countries (including Pakistan), to assess the vision, policy and programme focus, strategic approach, concrete mechanisms, processes, and, wherever possible, the actual or potential impact of the Pilot on women’s issues, gender justice and equality, as well as to convey recommendations for the UN System to restructure and reform its gender equality architecture. Eventually, in July 2010, through UNGA Resolution 64/289, UN member States have committed to establishing a composite UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women namely, ‘UN Women’, to be headed by an Under-Secretary-General (USG), reporting directly to the UNSG.
The creation of UN Women involves merging and building upon the work of the four existing units of the UN dealing exclusively with women’s rights promotion, namely the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women (OSAGI), and the United Nations Fund for Women (UNIFEM).