AIDS-Free World Meets with the Director of UN Women, and Decries the Lack of Funding
July 15, 2011
AIDS-Free World’s Co-Directors met for the second time with Dr. Michelle Bachelet on July 14th, 2011, during a series of meetings in Geneva. We were keen to learn how UN Women plans to deal with the paucity of funds allocated to date to UN Women; UN Women reports that it has received pledges of $120 million for core funding. Additional funds have been pledged for earmarked projects, but the core funding remains well short of the annual budget of $500 million that was proposed when UN Women was launched in January, and even further behind the goal of more than $1 billion funding that AIDS-Free World, and other NGOs, have advocated.
Even taking the special earmarked funds into account, the commitment of members states to UN Women remains far from encouraging: member states have committed themselves in principle to the purpose and goals of UN Women, but have for the most part explained the reduced levels of funding as indicative of a pattern. In general, donors have cut their contributions to UN agencies, funds and programs across the board, citing the ongoing global financial crisis as the rationale. We expressed AIDS-Free World’s view that economic hard times do not seem to curtail spending on governments’ strategic interests, or “high priority” initiatives including defense, or on multinational corporations’ commitment to over-compensating those at the top echelons. We stressed, and Madame Bachelet agreed, that shortages of money are relative, and always most pronounced where women are concerned.
We also discussed with Madame Bachelet an imperative that AIDS-Free World considers non-negotiable: UN Women must become a fully functioning member of the UNAIDS committee of co-sponsoring organizations without any further delays.
"At the moment, UN Women is being strangled at birth by a coalition of the wealthy,"
Women and gender have been relegated to the backbenches of the UN system for long enough. The creation of UN Women should have been followed immediately by the new UN entity’s inclusion among the co-sponsoring organizations. Madame Bachelet felt that rules and regulations may mean that it takes a while for UN Women to be accepted among co-sponsors, but AIDS-Free World persisted: membership must be immediate, and unconditional.
AIDS-Free World, a pioneering advocate for the creation of UN Women, has been particularly vocal about the anemic funding for it. In an interview last month with IPS, Co-director Stephen Lewis said total funding raised so far — on the order of $120 million — is "hopelessly, pathetically below what's needed and was expected." (Read the IPS story here.) "I gather that UN Women has now lowered its sights to a target of 250 million dollars. That's a travesty ... barely more than the cumulative total of the four small entities that were rolled into UN Women at its formation," he said.
The four women's entities that were folded into UNW were: the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues; the U.N. Division for the Advancement of Women; and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (INSTRAW).
"At the moment, UN Women is being strangled at birth by a coalition of the wealthy," said Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations. "All the misogynist countries, from Pakistan to Sudan, must surely be laughing behind the scenes. They never wanted UN Women and now the Western donors are doing the dirty work for them," he said. "It's an ugly business and shows, yet again, that when it comes to women, the U.N. can never get its act together," declared Lewis.
"As always, we and others will give Michelle Bachelet the benefit of the doubt. She's quite superb as an under-secretary-general (USG, the rank she holds in the U.N. hierarchy)," he added. "But even Michelle Bachelet cannot change the world for women without the resources to do so."
What They Say... And What They Do
“We must declare with one voice that women’s progress is human progress, and human progress is women’s progress once and for all…. This isn’t window dressing, and it’s not just good politics. President Obama and I believe that the subjugation of women is a threat to the national security of the United States. It is also a threat to the common security of our world, because the suffering and denial of the rights of women and the instability of nations go hand in hand.” — Hillary Clinton, Secretary of State of the United States, March 12, 2010
“It is not enough simply to state our principles and our commitments. We must also implement them. UN Women must make tangible improvement in women’s lives, especially by helping to provide essential services in developing nations…. More can and should be done to ensure that UN Women has the resources it needs to meet its ambitious mandate.” — Ambassador Susan Rice, United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, June 27, 2011
"Gender equality and women’s empowerment are fundamental to the global mission of the United Nations to achieve equal rights and dignity for all... But equality for women and girls is also an economic and social imperative. Until women and girls are liberated from poverty and injustice, all our goals — peace, security, sustainable development — stand in jeopardy." — United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, March 8, 2010
“The UK has also played a leadership role in the establishment of UN Women, the new organisation dedicated to gender equality, which we will support once we see a copy of their strategic plan. We are deeply committed to help it become a powerful agency.” —Andrew Mitchell, United Kingdom's Secretary of State for International Development, March 8, 2011
UN Women funding: '2011 Pledges and Contributions to UN Women Core Resources as of 6 July.' http://www.unwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2011/01/2011_pledges_UN_Women_core_resources.pdf; UNICEF funding: UNICEF, 'Annual Report 2010.' http://www.unicef.org/publications/index_58840.html; U.S. Department of Defense Budget, Fiscal Year 2010: “Military personnel programs,” http://comptroller.defense.gov/budget2010.html; U.S. Department of Interior budget, 2012: “Youth in the Great Outdoors”, DH-79, 2011; U.S. Department of State budget, Fiscal Year 2010: “The budget in brief."; Cosmetic surgery: American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery, Statistics 2010.; EU parliament: “A parliament on the move” www.nytimes.com/2011/06/29/world/europe/29strasbourg.html; Cleveland municipal budget: City of Cleveland 2011 Budget Book.; Mattel profits: Los Angeles Times, “Mattel reports strong profits,” Feb 3, 2011, articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/03/business/la-fi-mattel-earnings-20110202;Chicago Cubs payroll: 'Chicago Cubs Salary/Payroll Information 2011.' http://espn.go.com/mlb/team/salaries/_/name/chc/chicago-cubs
©AIDS-Free World July 2011