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GEAR campaign calls for structured dialogue between UN Women and women’s NGOs

[Brussels, 08 June 2012] The GEAR Campaign, an international campaign coordinated in Europe by the EWL which led in 2010 to the establishment of UN Women, has issued a Statement praising the formation of UN Women’s Civil Society Advisory Group, of which EWL Secretary General, Cecile Greboval is a member. The Campaign Statement was delivered on 29 May 2012 by GEAR Campaign representative, Sharon Bhagwan-Rolls, Executive Director of femLINKpacific, at the annual UN Women Executive Board meeting. Ms. Bhagwan-Rolls also reminded the organisation of the need for further structures to ensure full civil society participation in its work. Please find the Statement below.

STATEMENT UN Women Executive Board Meeting 29 May – 1 June 2012 Mister Chairperson:

Thank you for the opportunity to speak on behalf of the Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign, a network of over 300 women’s rights, development, human rights and social justice groups around the world that worked for over four years with UN member states and the UN Secretariat to help create UN Women. The GEAR Campaign and its members pledge to continue to engage with the new entity in the effort to realize its potential and to implement UN promises made to women over many years.

The GEAR Campaign has advocated for strengthened civil society partnerships with UN Women at the global, regional and national levels. We are thrilled to acknowledge today that the members of the UN Women Executive Director’s Global Civil Society Advisory Group have been appointed and that regional and national groups are being formed. This demonstrates UN Women’s fulfillment of a key commitment made regarding civil society participation. As UN Women moves forward, we hope that it will actively engage with the global, regional and national advisory groups to address the many challenges that still inhibit the full realization of women’s human rights.

The GEAR Campaign has also recommended that UN Women establish Thematic Working Groups (TWGs) at the global and regional levels as implementation mechanisms to bring the expertise of women’s rights advocates to assist in shaping UN Women’s program development and implementation. Additionally, GEAR believes that UN Women could effectively utilize Independent Thematic Experts (ITEs) from civil society to act as advisors in examining specific issues and situations pertaining to women’s rights. Such Experts appointed by UN Women for specific tasks would need to be administratively supported by UN Women and can serve as a link between CSO Thematic Working Groups and the Executive Board.

UN Women’s new regional architecture report under item C (UNW/2012/5) notes the need for more effective communications between headquarters and regional and country offices to ensure that transitions occur simultaneously. GEAR agrees that this is urgent going forward and also urges UN Women to devise more effective and timely communications and engagement with civil society in all areas of its thematic and country work.
We thank all current donors and particularly those who have increased their contributions to UN Women this year. But we call on Member States, and especially on members of the Executive Board to raise their level of support and meet their commitments to the Entity. We note with surprise that some Bureau members have not pledged any money to UN Women for 2012.

We urge all donors to scale up their contributions, and we remind Member States that a substantial increase in financial support is vital to ensuring that UN Women is successful in building a solid foundation for the future. UN Women needs stronger commitments from all countries to fulfill its mandate and strengthen its regional architecture.

We also recognize the need to expand the funding sources for UN Women to include new donors such as regional development banks and the private sector. Regarding the private sector, it is important to: (1) ensure that the contributing entities do not infringe on human rights including women’s rights, and (2) that the funds they donate be received and administrated in full by UN Women, without the participation or influence of the private entity.
The GEAR Campaign welcomes the regional architecture review conducted by UN Women and notes the need to act on the key concerns identified in the review (para 14). We encourage UN Women to continue to strengthen its country and regional infrastructure and to move forward with the constitution of the regional and national advisory groups in order to promote effective dialogue between the state and civil society organizations at country and regional level as the new processes and programs are put in place.

We call on UN Women to be a strong advocate for women’s rights in important upcoming UN events, including the Rio +20 and Cairo +20 reviews as well as in 2015 on the 20th anniversary of the Beijing conference, the 15th anniversary of UNSCR1325, and when the UN holds its MDG Review Summit. UN Women should also help facilitate timely and structured civil society participation of women in UN consultations on the post-2015 development framework.

Women’s rights groups have also engaged in discussions with regard to proposals for a 5th World Conference on Women in 2015. We share a desire to mark the 20th anniversary of the Beijing conference in a way that makes a strong re-commitment to its goals and implementation of its agenda. However we also want to ensure that the Beijing Platform of Action remains the standard for achieving the human rights of women and that it is not replaced or re-negotiated. We are also concerned with the amount of resources – time and money that a World Conference requires at a time when UN Women is still under-funded and many women’s organizations are in duress from the recent economic downturn. Therefore, we suggest that the secretariat and UN Women convene informal discussions in consultation with civil society (at venues such as Rio +20 and Cairo +20) about what kinds of commemorations of Beijing would be most effective and would also provide the gender equality input into the post 2015 UN process.
Finally, we welcome the fact that UN Women requested to be a co-sponsor of UNAIDS, as advocated by women’s groups.

The GEAR Campaign will continue engaging with UN Women and the members of its Executive Board toward the achievement of its goals and the implementation of its strategic plan. We are particularly eager to engage at the national and regional level with expanding the UN Women presence on the ground and look forward to increased funding for this vital work.
Mister Chairperson, I thank you for your attention.

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