Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Ban Ki-Moon accused of ignoring gender equality issues

Accusations of not paying enough attention to gender equality is flying around the United Nations to begin the New Year. In an op-ed piece for the Sydney Morning Herald, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon summed up the year's activities at the UN. A new division of the UN was created to focus solely on gender equality, but Moon made no mention of it in his article.

From the Inter Press Service, writer Thalif Deen takes a look at the fall out from this controversial omission.

"It would have been a tremendous opportunity to draw attention to UN Women ... after all, the creation of an entirely new agency devoted to half the world's population is something to be noted and celebrated," said Paula Donovan, a co-director of AIDS-Free World, one of the early active campaigners for the new agency.

"But there's not a word on UN Women," she complained in a letter to Bachelet, jointly authored with Stephen Lewis, a former deputy executive director of the U.N. children's agency UNICEF.

"And that's only the half of it. The other half provokes disbelief," says the letter.

The agency was inaugurated Tuesday, the first working day at the U.N. since Monday was a New Year holiday.

In a paragraph that summarises the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the secretary‑general lists seven of the eight goals. "The only one left out is, astonishingly, the goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women. How is that possible?" the letter notes.

The creation of UN Women was hailed as a phenomenal success judging by the decades-old negotiations.

Asked to respond to the criticism, deputy U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq told IPS: "The secretary‑general has made clear his commitment to women's issues, and he pushed strongly for the establishment of UN Women."

His commitment to UN Women can be seen through his efforts to win approval for that entity and his search for a strong leader for UN Women, which he found in Michelle Bachelet, said Haq.

"He has spoken extensively on women's issues, and its absence from one op-ed does not imply any lessening of his commitment on this crucial issue," he declared.

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