New York, February 10–Our last report to you described the paper that the UN is developing on the institutional modalities of the new women’s entity. As you know, this paper was commissioned by the GA last September and will elaborate on the 4 proposed options previously laid out in a DSG document submitted to the GA, and discussed by the membership of the Assembly before the closing of the 62nd session. You will also remember that the GA welcomed that DSG paper and signaled that Option D, the 4th suggested model should receive particular attention.
For the past few months, a UN Working group chaired by the SG’s Special Adviser on Gender Issues (Rachel Mayanja) has been drafting the commissioned paper which is expected to be submitted by the DSG to governments sometime this month – February before the UN CSW meets.  It has gone through several drafts and is still not complete, but the GEAR Campaign has been collaborating with the Working group to provide inputs into it around various key issues including the field presence, funding, civil society participation and governance. Here is what we can report from conversations with several of the principals. Overall, we are optimistic that the paper will feature some of our key messages, but there is still a need to monitor and advocate around them as nothing is secure yet.

Generally, the paper does emphasize Option D as requested by the GA Resolution but the Working group has indicated that they will also assess the other options (A. Status quo, B. Fund/program and C. Department). The existing UN units being looked at as models for various aspects of the women’s agency include UNDP, UNICEF and UNFPA as funds and Habitat, OHCHR, UNODC and UNAIDS as secretariat based options.

The issue of governance appears to be the most challenging in seeking to create a composite.  There is an effort to create a new model for the governing body that would be an independent Executive board or Executive Committee.   UNDP/UNFPA offers a good model of an Executive Board that is smaller in size, less politicized and can oversee the budget and operational activities. Such a board would have around 36 members elected by ECOSOC with a set number of regional representatives. It is being suggested that the Chair of CSW participate in meetings of the Board, either as a voting member or observer to provide a link to CSW as the women’s policy setting body, and that reports of CSW and CEDAW be submitted to the Board for information. The Composite entity’s Executive director would be a USG and a full member of the Chief Executives Board (CEB) and its committees, as well as of the UNDG.

There has been considerable concern about the relationship of the entity to CSW – both how to relate them but still not have the entity’s actions overly politicized by the inter-governmental process, which is why many have rejected the idea of CSW as the governing body.  It would be good to gather some intelligence and find out what different groups, especially within the G77 countries, are thinking about the role of CSW in relation to the new entity in order to inform our advocacy strategy.

There are some important discussions related to civil society participation in the draft paper. One useful proposal is for a civil society advisory panel which would meet annually and provide advice to the new entity, but this is not in all drafts.  Another proposal is to have 5 regional representatives from NGOs who will participate in the Executive board or Committee deliberations.   Initially this was as non-voting members – similar to the UN AIDS model, but there is another position that these would only be observers.   We will need to advocate strongly for membership, even if non-voting, and not just observer status. 

Regarding staffing, it is suggested that to address the identified gaps and challenges, the Composite entity be staffed at 3 levels: HQ, regional/sub-regional and country levels. At least one draft states that “the expertise of civil society should be systematically and regularly tapped to enrich the work of the entity.”

On the field presence, the GEAR Campaign has consistently advocated for a “universal country presence”, a point we were sure to stress at every meeting. We recently heard that the paper calls for scaling up to a universal country presence with immediate presence in regional hubs. Depending upon the available resources, it may start small in scale but with clear goals and set deadlines.  This is an area we must continue to monitor as well as one that requires active efforts to get funding.

Finally on funding, the Composite will have both voluntary and assessed contributions, and member states will have to develop the balance between these two sources.

We see the upcoming CSW as an important time to re-energize our bases and continue to build-up the momentum for a strong new women’s entity. Assuming the paper will be finalized before the CSW, we will need to build support and advocate for positive action to strengthen the proposals and get action on this from the GA in the next few months.  

We will be in touch soon about the newest draft and with more on CSW-53 preparations related to GEAR.

Warmest regards,
Colette and Charlotte

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