General Articles

Nations Balk at Billion Dollar Global Gender Policing Agency

Dr. Susan Yoshihara, C-FAM

(NEW YORK – C-FAM) At a meeting at United Nations (UN) headquarters last week, nations pushed back when UN staff insisted governments approve an enormous new gender-policing agency with scant details on its budget, staffing, or mandate. The UN Secretariat called the meeting to get nations to choose one of four models it proposed for a new UN "gender entity." It is estimated that the new entity will have a minimum one billion dollar annual budget, including non-voluntary funding by the United States (US) and other major UN donors, while giving the new agency free rein to set the UN’s "gender" agenda and broad authority to hold UN agencies and member States accountable for implementing it.

The UN Secretary General’s Advisor on Gender Issues, Rachel N. Mayanja of Kenya, resisted attempts to pin down the UN Secretariat on specifics, drawing strong objections from several national delegations. A delegate from Singapore complained that sovereign nations were pressed for a decision but were denied an estimated budget or even an outline of the new entity. The delegate pointed out that nations had been assured the new office was supposed to save resources but, as a representative from UNIFEM (the UN Development Fund for Women) had just admitted, the Secretariat’s preferred model would require significantly more funding than the status quo.

Mayanja insisted that such details would be provided but only after nations chose one of the four options. The options include: maintaining the status quo with "gender" affairs divided among various UN entities, establishing a fund or program, a department within the secretariat, or a “composite” fund/department.

Despite the apparent obfuscation, documents provided by the UN Secretariat reveal the sweeping scope of the Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s endorsed "composite" option. It calls for a "global presence" in some 150 countries, with an Under Secretary General at the helm given authority to appoint all "staff, consultants, and experts" of her choosing, set the "normative and policy" agenda, and "hold accountable" all other UN agencies such as UNICEF to promote it by linking it to their operations on the ground.

According to a Secretary General’s report dated March 5, the specific mandate would focus on "advocacy" to get "national attention" for "emerging issues, under-recognized, and under-resourced issues," and would "maximize the contribution of civil society" both at the UN and at the national level. Critics are concerned that this will further empower non-governmental (NGO) activists who use the UN to circumvent the democratic process in their countries in order to promote highly controversial social policies.

Along with the Secretary General, backers of the "composite" option include the European Union, whose representative called for immediate endorsement of the composite option, and powerful feminist NGOs under the umbrella group Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR).

In a recent interview, GEAR member Charlotte Bunch intimated that her NGO has been regularly consulted on an "acceptable" choice for the entity, long promoting a composite model. She explained that it is the only option that allows the entity to get non-voluntary funding from the US and other donors to reach a minimum of one billion dollars a year, while creating massive presence and influence on the ground to promote the "normative and policy functions" of the new entity.