International Policy/United Nations

UN Women Wraps Up Far-Flung Listening Tour

Thursday, June 2, 2011

For months, the U.N.'s new superagency for women has been tapping advocates and academics around the globe for advice about how to shape the group's first strategic plan, due out in June.



UNITED NATIONS (WOMENSENEWS)--The new U.N. superagency for women is preparing for a June vote by its country executive board on its strategic plan.

Preparations for this kick-off positioning statement have been long and global.

Under the guidance of Executive Director Michele Bachelet, the former president of Chile, the group has conducted about 70 consultative sessions in 71 countries from January to early April this year.

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One session--representing Mexico, Central America, the Dominican Republic and Cuba-- linked up with a meeting of indigenous women of the Americas at the beginning of March. Their message: keep the group financially accountable.

In her own information-gathering efforts, Bachelet has traveled to Liberia, Panama, El Salvador, Ethiopia, Kenya and several European countries.

Regional directors have surveyed 3,700 partner organizations. Among them, 31 percent were government representatives; 47 percent were civil-society and academic groups; and 22 percent were U.N. system members, including staffers from the four groups being combined under UN Women.

In a meeting for the Andean region, Bachelet made sure that indigenous women's views were sought out and prioritized, said Lucia Salamea-Palacios, UN Women's representative for Ecuador and Colombia.

"These women didn't see themselves in the initial structure of UN Women, but Bachelet is stressing that they need to be involved," Salamea-Palacios said in a phone interview.

Many participants saw a key role for UN Women in ensuring that gender equality is factored into national governments' policies and programs, said Salamea-Palacios. They also want UN Women to provide a "knowledge hub" for gender-equality efforts.

The strategic plan is likely to increase staff placements in high-priority countries, such as Colombia and Guatemala, which has a large population of indigenous women and the highest femicide rate in Latin America.

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