The newly announced head of United Nations Women (UN Women) said today that she would bring all of her experience and good relations with heads of State and government to help fight discrimination and boost opportunities for women and girls worldwide.
Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, told UN Radio that she would deploy her skills and experience “to produce all the agreements [and] all the synergies” within the UN system and with Member States to run the new entity, tasked with accelerating the progress of women and girls.
“Even though there are some countries where women's rights are in excellent condition, in many parts of the world… women have a very difficult situation,” she said.
“They don't have the same opportunities as men regarding the most essential human rights. Women are discriminated [against]. Their rights are violated. There are still some places where women are mutilated. There are places where women can receive terrible punishments.”
She also noted that, of all the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), those relating to women had shown the worst performance to date.
Addressing this issue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said yesterday that women and children would be “at the very core of our final push” to realize those goals during next week's UN Summit on the MDGs, to be held at UN Headquarters in New York.
Ms. Bachelet said she saw cause for optimism about the new entity's prospects for success. In establishing UN Women by a unanimous vote earlier this year, Member States were affirming the necessity of meeting the needs of the world's women.
“When they voted, they were making a commitment,” she said, adding they were supporting the idea that women's issues were relevant and belonged on the political agenda.
UN Women is the merger of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW), the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues, and the UN International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (UN-INSTRAW).
UN Women was established on 2 July by a unanimous vote of the General Assembly to oversee all of the world body's programmes aimed at promoting women's rights and their full participation in global affairs. One of its goals will be to support the Commission on the Status of Women and other inter-governmental bodies in devising policies.
It will also aim to help Member States implement standards, provide technical and financial support to countries which request it, and forge partnerships with civil society. Within the UN, it will hold the world body accountable for its own commitments on gender equality.
In carrying out its functions, UN Women will be working with an annual budget of at least $500 million – double the current combined resources of the four agencies it comprises.
In announcing her appointment, Mr. Ban said yesterday that “Ms. Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic global leadership, highly honed political skills and uncommon ability to create consensus and focus among UN agencies and many partners in both the public and private sector.”
As Chile's first female president, Ms. Bachelet gave priority to women's issues throughout her tenure. Since leaving office, she has been working with UNIFEM to advocate for the needs of Haitian women following January's devastating earthquake.
Many voices have praised her appointment to the post, including Thoraya Ahmed Obaid, Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA).
“Her integrity, exceptional leadership and political skills will guide UN Women to become a global force for gender equality and women's rights worldwide,” Ms. Obaid said. “All of us in UNFPA look forward to working with her and her team to advance women's health and rights and to achieve the Millennium Development Goals.”