#UnitedNations; #genderparity; #AgendaforSustainableDevelopment; #EconomicandSocialCommissionforWesternAsia;
United Nations, Apr 28 (Canadian-Media/UN): Although United Nations Regional Commissions have been in existence for more than 70 years, for the first time ever, each one is currently headed by a woman designated by Secretary-General António Guterres. This accomplishment underscores that, since the day he took office, the UN chief has been determined to achieve gender parity by 2030 as part of the Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Image Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
UN Secretary-General António Guterres is flanked by the Heads of Regional Commissions, from left to right: Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary of Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA); Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); Oľga Algayerová, Executive Secretary for the Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE); and Armida Alisjahbana, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), February 2019.
ECLCA detailed some of the battles region faces, such as slow economic growth, high debt, a deterioration in quality employment and increased poverty.
She sees these “long-term challenges” as threats to gender equality, such as “gender gaps in labor markets, the overload of women's unpaid work, their limited access to credit and productive assets, and women lacking their own income”.
At the same time, incorporating technological change “raises new questions about its disruptive effects on societies and especially on gender equality”.
Ms. Bárcena pointed out that although their political participation across the region has risen steadily over the past few decades, women only hold 30 per cent of seats in the region’s parliaments, which is far below the parity-based target.
“There is an urgent need to remove the key barriers hindering women’s participation in order to generate the conditions for the full exercise of women's citizenship and autonomy in decision-making”, she stated. “To do so, it is important to achieve parity in the distribution of power, resources and time”.
Proudly, she said that under her leadership, ECLAC has achieved gender balance among in senior management, adding “and I am now progressively pushing forward for achieving a similar balance at other levels”.
Commission for Europe, called UNECE, told UN News that by appointing women as UN Regional Commission heads, the Secretary-General is making “a clear call” to ensure that gender parity is “a reality in our regional organizations”.
“In the UNECE region, the political and economic landscape now looks far more balanced than it did some decades ago”, she asserted.
Ms. Algayerová explained that as a women leader, she is especially sensitive to women’s situations and needs. And as such, she can be more persistent in searching for gender-responsive solutions and broad-based decisions “in consultations with women’s groups” and others.
“I am often approached by women of different ages from civil societies, academia and governments, and I listen to their concerns”, she said.
“Gender equality and the empowerment of women has always been very dear to my heart”, she continued. “In all my previous positions which I have held both in my country, Slovakia, and abroad, I have been a strong advocate for gender equality”.
According to the ECE chief, meeting SDG5 means: ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls; valuing unpaid care and domestic work; and ensuring decent work for all.
“It is a gigantic task, requiring urgent action and pooling all resources to eliminate the root causes of gender inequalities”, she argued. To address this, Ms. Algayerová flagged the need to measure inequalities and provide data to identify what drives gender gaps and why imbalances persist in all spheres of life at country, regional and community levels.
“Only policies based on empirical evidences can be effective instruments to tackle the multifaceted forms of gender inequalities” she concluded.
Commission for Asia and the Pacific, or ESCAP, told UN News that while “significant progress” has been made in her region, economic and social inequalities persist.
“Growing disparities in income and wealth disproportionately affect women, especially those in vulnerable situations”, she said, pointing out that “for every 10 men who are in employment, there are only six women working”.
What’s more, she lamented, “women are overrepresented in low-paying jobs, with little social protection provisions” and “have less access than men to financial services and productive assets, including land, capital, and information technologies”.
On the political front, Ms. Alisjahbana said that women’s representation in Asia and the Pacific continues to be low in comparison with other regions of the world.
“As of 2018, the proportion of seats held by women in the national parliaments is 18 per cent, while the global average is 24 per cent”, she stated.
“Addressing such gaps is not only a matter of attaining fundamental rights for women, but also critical to the inclusive economic growth and sustainable development of the region as a whole” Ms. Alisjahbana stressed.
Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), shared with UN News her view that leadership is “not a privilege” but a “responsibility with accountability”.
Woman or man, an “all-weather leader” must work “in a responsible, efficient and effective manner to achieve the desirable goals”, she believes.
Ms. Dashti expressed pride in that she could be “a good example” of women’s ability to “carry out substantive tasks and achieve the mission assigned”.
Against the backdrop of an Arab region embroiled in conflicts, war, displacement and grave economic and environment crises, the ESCWA chief said this situation aggravates the already “complicated task” of meeting SDG5.
She painted a picture of the existing problems facing women, “such as domestic and sexual violence; unemployment; and discrimination in public office” and recommended, “within the few years remaining until 2030”, as “the best course of action”, to “identify common priority areas” across Arab countries to help implement responses at the regional level that would “benefit all”.
She assured that ESCWA places women's issues “at the forefront of its work” and underlined that “despite gender stereotypes and cultural barriers”, the aspirations of women and girls “are attainable” with “self-recognition, confidence and perseverance”.
“To every woman and girl, she concluded by saying: “Your horizon is your dream!”
Although UN News was unable to arrange an interview with Vera Songwe, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), prior to publication, it is clear that she too is committed to the Secretary-General’s 2030 Agenda and working tirelessly in support of gender equality on the continent.
Womenrights; #UnitedNations, #UN; #ActionforPeacekeeping; #A4P; #ElsieInitiative; #Gender-ResponsivePeacekeepingOperationsPolicy; #KristinLund; #UniformedGenderParityStrategy; PeaceMissionTrainingCenter;
#Ursula von der Leyen; #LisaButtenheim
United Nations, Apr 12 (Canadian-Media): Women’s rights, voices and participation must be at “the centre of peacekeeping decision-making”, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres told the Security Council on Thursday, describing them as “central to sustainable solutions” to challenges facing the Organization worldwide.
UN Photo/Manuel Elias | UN Secretary-General briefs the Security Council on women in peacekeeping operations, 11 April 2019.
Through its landmark resolution 1325 on women and peace and security, the Council reaffirmed the participation and involvement of women, which the UN chief hailed as “a key element in the maintenance of international peace and security”. He also noted the UN’s “essential system-wide effort” to enhance women’s representation at all levels and in all arenas, through his Strategy on Gender Parity.
“This is not just a question of numbers, but also of our effectiveness in fulfilling our mandates”, he stated, citing evidence that more women peacekeepers lead to more credible protection responses that meet the needs of all.
In patrol units women can better access intelligence to provide a holistic view of security challenges, and at checkpoints they promote a less confrontational atmosphere, he said.
Within troop contingents they lower incidences of sexual exploitation and abuse; yield greater reporting of sexual and gender-based violence; and can access local women’s networks, leading to more inclusive peace processes.
‘Step towards parity’
The Secretary-General thanked the more than 150 Member States who have signed on to his Action for Peacekeeping (A4P) initiative, which calls for women’s participation in every stage of peace operations, and integrates a gender perspective into all analysis, planning, implementation and reporting.
And he was grateful to the States who, at last week’s Ministerial on Peacekeeping, launched the Elsie Initiative to break down barriers to increasing women’s participation in peace operations.
In support of the UN’s commitments in these areas, Mr. Guterres noted a range of actions, including the Gender-Responsive Peacekeeping Operations Policy, which “commits us to promoting leadership and accountability both for gender equality and for the women, peace and security agenda”.
Flagging that since December 2015, the number of women in uniform has increased by only around one per cent, he spelled out that “this is clearly not enough”.
“This year”, he informed the Chamber, “we rolled out the Uniformed Gender Parity Strategy”, which, among other things, targets by 2028 a range of 15 to 35 per cent of women’s representation, including military, police and justice and corrections personnel.
While acknowledging that it “has been more challenging”, Mr. Guterres vowed “to press ahead”, adding that “keep on track, we need assistance from you, the Member States”.
He asked for a greater focus on women in battalions and formed police units and for the sustained recruitment and deployment of women within national services.
Noting that for the first time in UN history the senior leadership is close to achieving gender parity, Mr. Guterres reiterated his commitment to sustaining that progress:
“We need to bring the same spirit to our peace operations”, he stressed. “This is crucial for our effectiveness, credibility and reputation”.
‘Pushing gender equality’
The first female Force Commander and current Head of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) mission, Major General Kristin Lund told the Council that the “momentum of pushing gender equality must be kept”.
As Force Commander of the UN mission in Cyprus, she teamed up with Lisa Buttenheim, the Special Representative at the time. “For once I did not need to convince my boss that gender was important” she said. “Both of us had gender equality in our spine”.
The Major General enumerated some examples of her work in increasing the number of women, helping them in missions and reaching out to local communities.
Noting many reasons why the armed forces have a difficulty keeping women in the ranks, she outlined frequent obstacles thrown up by male culture in military settings, giving the example of how “posters with half naked women” hang in mission gyms.
“How many women do gym in bikinis?” Ms. Lund asked rhetorically, saying that under her command in Cyprus “womanized posters vanished”.
Troops at the Peace Mission Training Center in the Zambian capital, Lusaka, undergoing training provided courtesy of the United States ahead of their deployment to CAR.She also mandated that the all-male teams in military skills competitions had to have females.
“Gender is on the top of my agenda”, she said, adding that she initiated a female military network, engaged women to become more visible and increased the number of female observers.
Troop and police contributing countries “must do more” she said.
“We, out in the field, need to be able to reach out to the whole society. Only you can make that happen”, the Force Commander concluded.
Diversity is a strength
Chairing the meeting, German Federal Minister of Defense, Ursula von der Leyen said: “Women are no better peacekeepers than men, but they are different. And this diversity is a strength”.
Pointing out that Resolution 1325 has been in effect for almost 20 years, she maintained that it is “still far from full, effective and meaningful participation of women in peace operations”.
To change that, Ms. von der Leyen suggested, among other things, to have successful female mentors to share their stories to younger women; have more women in national forces for deployment to international peacekeeping missions; and assess national barriers that keeps more women from joining peace operations.
“The peacekeeper’s blue helmet symbolizes protection and security”, she said. “Let us make this helmet be worn by more women. For the sake of peace”.