New York, May 26–A lot has happened since we last posted an update on the GEAR process to establish a new women’s entity at the United Nations–both on the process and content/substance of the discussions. Read on to find out the latest

Early last month, the President of the General Assembly, Miguel d’Escoto Brockmann appointed Ambassadors Kaire Mbuende of Namibia and Juan Antonio Yáñez-Barnuevo of Spain to facilitate the GA discussions on System-wide Coherence (including the gender equality architecture reform) during this 63rd session of the Assembly. You will remember that at the closing of the GA in September 2008, the GA requested the Secretary-General to produce a paper presenting details on institutional options for strengthening the gender equality architecture at the United Nations, with focus on the fourth option outlined in previous Deputy Secretary-General papers (of August 1, 2007; July 23, 2008 – Option D) –the Composite entity. That modalities paper was presented to GA member states on March 13, 2009 -the last day of the Commission on the Status of Women. As you probably know, the paper endorses the Composite option -GEAR Campaign’s preferred option, stating that it has the greatest potential to consolidate the strengths of the existing four gender-specific entities, address the gaps and challenges previously identified and create synergy between operational and normative and policy development functions.
Since the release of the modalities paper on gender, the two Co-chairs held a series of informal consultations (March 13 and 30, and April 15, 2009) to further discuss the structural details of the proposed entity as outlined in the paper. Key issues being discussed include governance, field presence, funding, relationship with other bodies, staffing, etc. At these consultations, many countries welcomed the Secretariat paper and specifically expressed support for the Composite model. It is important to note that while there is strong support for this option, a significant number of countries still expressed the need to provide substantive details on and analysis of many of the issues involved including how the entity would look like on the ground, what would be the best governing board for the entity, financial implications of the options, staffing in numeral terms, how specifically would the new entity be different from the existing mechanisms, etc. Also, a few criticisms of the composite entity (not new) were voiced and rested on what we have heard before: the request for an integrated process dealing with all issues of the system-wide coherence together, review of whether what currently exists could be strengthened; the financial crisis and the climate of limited funding.

On April 15, a meeting in the form of an Expert Working group discussion on gender gathered the Secretariat, member states, and representatives of various funds and programmes to answer questions/concerns raised earlier by member states and to provide further details on outstanding issues. While some answers were given at that meeting, the Secretariat Working group (represented by the Special adviser to the Secretary-general on gender issues -Rachel Mayanja) is now working on a formal document that would hopefully provide sufficient details and allow the process to move forward. 

Content/substance of the discussions
The GEAR Campaign contributed to the consultations by meeting with the key principals including member states, sharing talking points and position papers on many of the issues raised. We provided inputs into the DSG modalities paper specifically our preferred institutional model –the Composite entity. Below is a summary of our key recommendations related to the Composite entity option that we are proposing to facilitate your discussions with government representatives:

Governance structure: The DSG paper proposes a new Executive Board, but there is ongoing discussion among governments over whether the entity should have its own board, or report to an expanded UNDP/UNFPA board. GEAR Campaign: favors the creation of a new Executive Board to emphasize the broad mandate and universal coverage of the new women’s entity.

Civil society participation: Paper does not mention civil society representation on the Executive Board but calls on the head of the entity to “establish a mechanism for periodic consultations” with civil society.  GEAR has called for full participation of five representatives of civil society, especially women’s groups (1 from each region) on the Governing Board.  This follows the HIV/AIDS Programme Committee Board model. 

Leadership: Entity would be led by an Under-Secretary General, assisted by two Assistant Secretaries-General (ASG).

Country presence:  GEAR: A universal country presence must remain the goal to be achieved with a fixed timetable and adequate resources for it to happen.

Funding: Paper proposes that the composite entity be funded by both voluntary and assessed contributions, without mention of any amounts. GEAR:  In addition, the composite entity should be ambitiously funded at a minimum of $1billion to effectively carry out its mandate. 

Delegation of authority on financial matters and human resources is a bottom line requirement for the composite entity. 

We will be sure to send updates as we hear/learn more.

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