By Amy Lieberman
Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Iran and Saudi Arabia are among the countries on the list for today's elections to the 41-member executive board of the U.N.'s new super agency for women. Some critics say countries that allow death by stoning should be disqualified.
The election is one of the most visible steps forward for U.N. Women since September, when Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed Michelle Bachelet, former president of Chile, to lead the agency.
Bachelet has since been in New York working to jumpstart U.N. Women, which officially starts work in January.
A U.N. official told Women's eNews that country donations so far total around $200 million for the first year of the agency's operations, far short of a $500 million annual budget that had been projected.
Gretchen Luschinger, a spokesperson for U.N. Women, could not confirm those figures with fundraising ongoing during the next two months.
Luschinger said U.N. Women is not involved in the nomination or election process of the executive board and she declined to comment on the potential membership of Iran and Saudi Arabia.
The 41-member board is charged with overseeing priorities and implementing overall policy. Countries do not have to appoint gender specialists to sit on the board. It is not expected to affect day-to-day programming.
Regional representation rules require the board have representatives from 10 African countries, 10 Asian countries, four Eastern European countries, six Latin American and Caribbean countries and five countries from Western Europe.
The Asian group--which encompasses the Middle East --initially submitted a "clean slate," or 10 countries for 10 openings, Iran among them.
It has since expanded its slate, leaving it up to the vote by the Economic and Social Council to decide whether a representative of Iran will be on the board.
Saudi Arabia and Mexico are running uncontested for the two slots reserved for so-called emerging donor nations.
The last four slots will be filled by "traditional" donors: the United States, the United Kingdom, Norway and Spain.
U.N. Women will combine four existing U.N. gender offices. In the next two months those offices will be moving from quarters scattered around the headquarters building to a central office on East 42nd Street, a block away from U.N. Secretariat. Job posts will be reassigned under U.N. Women and openings will be publicly advertised.
In her first meeting with leaders of civil-society groups in October, Bachelet identified peace and security, gender mainstreaming within the U.N. system and governments and economic empowerment as priorities, Dugal said. Bachelet also mentioned the need for "quick wins" that can be achieved within the first 100 days so the new agency makes an early mark.
Longer-term initiatives may include advancing reparations programs for victims of sexual violence and a new international research center on gender, peace and security in Africa, said Anne Marie Goetz, chief advisor of governance, peace and security for UNIFEM, one of the offices involved in the merger.
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Amy Lieberman is a correspondent at the United Nations Secretariat.
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