UN Department will unite four existing UN bodies handling women's affairs
September 14, 2010
Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet was named by the secretary general on Tuesday to head a new UN super agency aiming to step up the campaign to advance women's rights.
UN Women will unite four existing UN bodies handling women's affairs in a move to bring new urgency and powers to international gender equality efforts.
Bachelet, a 58-year-old moderate socialist, left the Chilean presidency in March after four years as one of the most popular leaders in the country's history.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said she brought "global leadership and global stature" to the new post.
Ban Ki-moon said in announcing Bachelet's appointment that he wanted the new agency to be a "powerful, dynamic and effective entity."
He said Bachelet could make the agency a "real force." "I am confident that under her strong leadership we can improve the lives of millions of women and girls across the world."
The new body will carry the official title, the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women -- but will be known as UN Women.
It will bring together the UN Division for the Advancement of Women, the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women and the UN Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).
The UN chief said that creating UN Women had been one of his top priorities since taking office in 2007.
"Miss Bachelet brings to this critical position a history of dynamic and global leadership, political skills and an uncommon ability to create consensus."
Twenty six candidates were cut to a short-list of three, each of which were interviewed by Ban. He said the final appointment was unanimously agreed by the selection panel.
The UN General Assembly set up the new UN Women agency in July and ordered it to be operational by January 1, 2011.
Ban highlighted that there was just three and a half months left to get UN Women running on time but insisted that all the necessary groundwork has been laid.
He said he would work closely with Bachelet to make sure the new agency meets the "growing expectations of so many millions and millions of women and girls around the world."
Diplomats said Bachelet was approached earlier this year to take over UN Women but she had been reluctant.
Her new post will be tough, as the United Nations regularly acknowledges that "gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society."
Bachelet is already a figurehead among women politicians, having become Chile's first female president. But the multitude of issues -- ranging from the mass rape of hundreds of women in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in early August to efforts to cut the huge numbers of deaths in child birth -- will require huge resources and political ability.
Improving women's health is one of the key targets set by the 2000 Millennium Development Goals which are to be the topic of a major new summit in New York next week.
Ban said women and children would be at the "core" of UN efforts to reach the goals by their target date of 2015.