Saturday, September 12, 2009

Support the U.N. 'Super-Agency' for Women

This article came to me by e-mail today. Please join me in holding this initiative in your prayers over the weekend.

Canada Pushes UN on Women's SuperAgency

By Steven Edwards, Canwest News ServiceSeptember 12, 2009

Plans to announce the green light for a United Nations "super-agency" for women as early as Monday are in doubt because of opposition from three Muslim countries and Cuba.
Canada is at the heart of a frantic diplomatic effort this weekend to convince developing countries in the anachronistically named Group of 77 to break with the "Gang of Four" opponents and ensure passage of the new entity.

Support of the vast majority of the 130-member group is essential if the super-agency -- which would aim to do for women what UNICEF does for children -- is to be endorsed by the 192-member General Assembly. But the G-77, like many other blocs at the world body, likes to act by consensus. This means that the opponents -- Egypt, Iran and Sudan plus ostensibly socialist Cuba -- can hold up the measure even if it is supported by the rest of the UN's core voting body.

"Organizational structure and practices at the UN should not get in the way of delivering on vital women's issues," Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon said Friday. "Canada has long been a strong advocate for strengthening the United Nations' capacity to deliver on women's issues, and Monday's vote is a chance for the world body to show that it is moving in that direction."

UN reform ideas floated at the 2005 World Summit embraced the idea that more is needed to be done to tackle such gender-related issues as violence against women, women's property rights and HIV/AIDS among women. A panel subsequently recommended that the work of four smaller UN women's agencies needed to be brought together under a bigger agency, and a budget of around $1 billion US is envisioned for the new entity. But though the proposal has been before the General Assembly since 2006, Cuba, Egypt, Iran and Sudan have decided they can now use it to press for other changes they seek at the UN.

Insiders say these four have tied their support for the new agency to their demand that the UN General Assembly be given increased power over funds it collects from donor countries.
While rich countries fund the overwhelming majority of all UN activities, they currently retain power over how a significant portion of the money is spent. Canada's Stephen Lewis is among longtime proponents of the new agency who say the tactic is unacceptable because it is holding up creation of a body he and other supporters say is long overdue.

"I am deeply agitated by the effort to delay the women's agency, and to use women as a foil for other issues," said Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, a U.S.-based Aids-advocacy organization.

"Women are always expendable in the minds of some countries, but we will keep fighting. Women must have the agency that was recommended by the special panel."

The delaying tactics have outraged women's rights groups, who say postponement past Monday -- the last day of the current UN session -- could lead to the idea being shelved indefinitely.

© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

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