When I listened to Stephen Lewis’ piece on the women of Africa that was part of Massey Lecture series on CBC’s Ideas I was moved to tears. It seems that others at the United Nations have also been moved and that Canadian women are behind this movement.
Women's Groups in Canada Applaud Call for New United Nations Agency on WomenOttawa, November 17th 2006 -- Today, a wide range of women's groups in Canada (see list below) endorsed the recommendation by a high level UN panel to establish a new independent women-specific agency at the United Nations. This and other recommendations on UN reform were released by the UN Secretary-General's High-Level Panel for UN System-wide Coherence last week. The recommendations on women respond to severe criticism from Stephen Lewis, UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and women's organizations from around the globe that the UN is sidelining women' rights and gender equality goals, and undermining its own effectiveness by not adequately addressing women's empowerment and human rights. Groups in Canada commended the contribution of Robert Greenhill, President of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), one of 15 members of the High-Level Panel. With Greenhill's support, the Reform Panel also proposed that a new Under-Secretary General should be established to oversee the agency, and that sufficient resources should be granted to it. "The time is long overdue for a women-specific agency at the UN. Now is the time to show commitment to the human rights of girls and women's everywhere," said Prabha Khosla, coordinator of the Canadian Committee on Women and UN Reform. Women's groups say that the leadership of a new Under-Secretary General will be essential to the success of a new agency as it will guarantee it the appropriate influence and provide a voice for women at the UN decision-making tables. Groups also support the Panel's recommendation for an open, transparent and global search for a candidate who has substantive expertise in gender equality. "It is now up to Canada and all member states at the United Nations to adopt these recommendations during the 61st session of the General Assembly and stick to a process and time frame for implementation," added Joanna Kerr, Executive Director, the Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID). Canada must be a key player in ensuring a reasonable budget for the agency. The Panel did not recommend one and Canada and other countries must work together to ensure that there is sufficient funding. "Through increasing our international development budget to 0.7% of GNP as we have promised to do many times, Canada has a unique opportunity to take leadership on women's equality," said Khosla. The dual mandate of the new entity, which will include both policy and country-level functions, will strengthen the effectiveness of the gender mainstreaming work of other UN agencies, as well as advance women's rights directly. For this entity to function as a driving force throughout the UN system, and for it to better address women's lives at the country level, the Canadian Committee recommends that every UN Country Team must include senior-level gender equality experts with adequate resources and support who can lead the team's efforts to fulfil and promote UN and government commitments to women's human rights. A strong and well-resourced institutional accountability mechanism that enables women's participation and addresses women's rights in the UN's activities throughout the globe was one of the critical needs presented to the Coherence Panel. Groups noted, however, that the recommendations come at a difficult time for women's groups in Canada. "The federal government has made very different choices regarding women in Canada. It has cut the operating budget of Status of Women Canada, the lead agency for gender equality by 40% and prohibited groups from using federal funds to advocate for gender equality goals," noted Charlotte Thibault with the Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action. ### For more information, please contact: Prabha Khosla, The Canadian Committee on Women and UN Reform Tel.: (416) 925-7414 Charlotte Thibault, FAFIA Tel.: (514) 849-6957 Nancy Peckford, FAFIA Cell.: (613) 292-7941 The Canadian Committee on Women and UN Reform Action Canada for Population and Development (ACPD) Association for Women's Rights in Development (AWID Canadian Association of Elizabeth Fry Societies (CAEFS) Canadian Feminist Alliance for International Action (FAFIA) Canadian Women's Health Network (CWHN) City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) Gays Lesbians of African Descent Grassroots Organizations Operating Together In Sisterhood Gender Equality Incorporated Harmony House - Ottawa Indigenous Women's Network Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) National Action Committee on the Status of Women (NAC-CCA) North York Women's Centre Older Women's Network Preston/Cherry Brook/Lake Loon/Westphal & Area Chapter Congress of Black Women of Canada - Nova Scotia Rights & Democracy Riverdale Immigrant Women's Centre -Toronto South Asian Women's Centre - Toronto Sudbury Sexual Assault Crisis Centre (SSAC) Temiksaming Native Women's Support Group The Women's Coordinating Committee Chile-Canada - Toronto Toronto Women's Call to Action Transition House Association of Nova Scotia Women and Environments International Magazine -Editorial Board Women's Counselling Referral and Education Centre Working Women Community Centre -Toronto Yellowknife Women's Society Yukon Status of Women Council NOTE: You can access The Canadian Committee on Women and the UN Reform (Web site) at www.twca.ca