The United Nations General Assembly has voted unanimously to create a new body for accelerating gender equality and women's empowerment, bringing to a close four years of “tough negotiations,” according to a U.N. statement.

The body, to be known as “UN Women” (UNW), will bring the four existing U.N. bodies dealing with gender issues under a single umbrella. The resolution also called for the appointment of an Under-Secretary-General to head UNW, and the establishment of an executive board to provide intergovernmental support to and supervision of its operational activities.

Speaking on the occasion, Preneet Kaur, Minister of State for External Affairs, welcomed the creation of UNW as a significant victory for the cause of women worldwide and a step towards restoring the faith of the Member States, including India, which often regarded the United Nations as an “anachronistic body resistant to organisational reform and innovation.”

Ms. Kaur said India hoped the UNW would create momentum for much-needed reform in other areas as well, quoting Sonia Ghandi, Chairperson of the United Progressive Alliance, who had emphasised that complete gender equality, nothing less, must be India's overriding goal.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called the move “historic”, and praised Member States for creating a much stronger voice for women and for gender equality at the global level. He said it would now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls or to fail to take the necessary action.

Transition process

On the floor of the Assembly, Mr. Ban also named Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, to guide the transition process that would entail the dissolution of the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), and “merge their mandates and functions with those of the Division for the Advancement of Women and the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women,” to create the UNW.

Mr. Ban said the UNW would be operational by January 1, 2011.

RELATED NEWS

A turning point for gender equality March 8, 2010

More In: International | News