Ratification Of U.N. Agency For Women Could Be Delayed

Cuba, Egypt, Iran and Sudan “have mounted a last-minute campaign to delay ratification” by the U.N. general assembly of a new agency, “which would have a budget of around $1 billion and consolidate four existing bodies that deal with women’s issues,” the Guardian reports. “If a U.N. resolution goes through by Monday, the four under-powered agencies dealing with gender issues – 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 U.N. International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women (Instraw) – would be consolidated into a fully fledged U.N. agency,” the newspaper writes.

Though a 2006 panel “endorsed an agency for women headed by an under-secretary general,” Egypt is arguing that other issues addressed by the panel – “the U.N.’s governance and finance – have taken a back seat in favour of the women’s agency,” according to the Guardian. The four countries opposing the new agency “are in a position to block the will of the majority as the U.N. general assembly’s 192 members – especially the G77 group of developing countries – are notoriously reluctant to hold a vote when a consensus is lacking. The last-minute delaying tactics have sparked outrage from non-governmental groups, who fear that yet another delay will shelve the idea indefinitely.”

Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., has said that an agency focusing on women is necessary to handle violence against women and other issues. Stephen Lewis, co-director of AIDS-Free World, said, “There is tremendous anger at the potential sabotage from these malcontents.” He added that if ratification is delayed, “it will be a terrible slap in the face of the secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, and the deputy secretary general (Asha-Rose Migiro) who have campaigned hard for the agency.” According to Lewis, 60 percent of the 23 million people with HIV in sub-Saharan Africa are women. That percentage is between 75 percent and 80 percent among women ages 15-24 (Tran, 9/11).

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