General Articles

After 65 Years, United Nations Establishes Central Agency for Women

The United Nations cast a historic unanimous vote on July 2, 2010, creating a single agency to lead the global initiative for women’s equity and rights. Officially named the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, the new “UN Women” agency will be fully functional by January of 2011.[1] The new agency aims to fulfill its twin goals of supporting member states in implementing positive policies and holding the UN itself to task on issues of gender and women’s rights.
UN Women is a merger of the Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Advisor on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and the United Nations Development Fund for Women. With a minimum budget of $500 million, double the budget of the four former organizations combined, the agency will work to provide a powerful and internally consistent voice for social justice. Functioning at the global, regional, and country levels, it will provide not only substantive technical and financial support to advance gender equality but also a leading voice in the United Nations and elsewhere as an advocate for women and girls. [2] The organization will be stationed in New York and controlled by an undersecretary-general, who will be appointed shortly by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. According to a New York Times editorial on the organization, the former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, appears to be the front runner for the position.[3]
In an official statement, UN Secretary-General Ki-moon declared that “UN Women is a recognition of a simple truth: Equality for women and girls is not only a basic human right, it is a social and economic imperative.”[4] He went on to state that he saw the agency as an important part of the consolidation of the United Nations in order to face the manifold challenges of the 21st century, and commended the members and leaders of all four merged entities for their previous and future work. Creating the agency itself has taken four years, due to disagreements among nations, as some member states simply did not understand why a separate independent agency for women was needed.[5]
The creation of UN Women will hopefully prove to be a powerful stride forward for all women’s issues, particularly in regard to sexual health and reproductive rights. Most important, progress on Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5, Maternal and Child Health, may be sparked. Of the eight Millennium Development Goals, the least progress has been made on MDG 5, which aims to lower maternal and child death rates by 75%. With new promises such as the Reproductive Health Action Plan, UN Women will be able to dedicate funds and energy toward the achievement of this important goal for women and humanity.
“We applaud the rising dedication at the United Nations to women’s health and livelihood.” comments Jen Heitel Yakush, director of public policy at the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States. “Hopefully with the new UN Women organization in place, advancement across the board for women will be achieved and real progress on the Millennium Development Goal dedicated to maternal and child health will be made.”

[1] “Unanimous Vote Creates ‘UN Women,’” Ms. Magazine—Feminist Wire Newsbriefs, 7 July 2010, accessed 13 July 2010, <>.

[2] “Frequently Asked Questions,” UN Women, July 2010, accessed 12 July 2010, <>.

[3] Neil MacFarquhar, “A U.N. Agency for Women? Yes! But Those Names . . . ,” New York Times (2 July 2010), accessed 7 July 2010, <>.

[4] “Statement by the UN Secretary-General on the Creation of UN Women,” UN Women, 2 July 2010, accessed 12 July 2010, <>.

[5] MacFarquhar, “A U.N. Agency for Women? Yes! But Those Names . . .”