UN Women Faces Greatest Challenge From Within, NGO Officials Say

Broadcast journalist JuJu Chang, U.N. Women chief Michelle Bachelet and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon attend the annual commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on Nov. 25 at the U.N.'s New York headquarters. Photo by: Mark Garten / United Nations

One of the first challenges that the newly launched U.N. Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women, or U.N. Women, could be getting the world body’s officials, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, onboard the fight to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment, the co-heads of a non-governmental organization dedicated to combating HIV/AIDS observe.

“Dr. Bachelet, you have your work cut out for you. And your work starts at the top,” Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis of AIDS-Free World write in an open letter to U.N. Undersecretary-General Michelle Bachelet, head of U.N. Women.

Donovan and Lewis explain that in a Dec. 31 opinion piece written by Ban, he neglected to highlight the significance of U.N. Women’s launch. In summarizing the Millennium Development Goals, he listed seven of the eight goals and left out gender equality. The opinion piece was published in the Australia-based Sydney Morning Herald.

“The Secretary-General speaks of the challenges and struggles of the United Nations as it enters the New Year. It would have been a tremendous opportunity to draw attention to UN Women … after all, the creation of an entirely new agency devoted to half the world’s population is something to be noted and celebrated,” the two NGO officials say.

In response to Donovan and Lewis’ claim, deputy U.N. spokesperson Farhn Haq explained that Ban has “made clear his commitment to women’s issues and he pushed strongly for the establishment of U.N. Women.”“He has spoken extensively on women’s issues, and its absence from one op-ed does not imply any lessening of his commitment on this crucial issue,” Haq told IPS News.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.