Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The United Nations must set a standard for the treatment of women

Stephen Lewis made a speech to the “conference on UN reform and Human Rights” at Harvard Law School at the end of last month.
You can read the full speech here – it will only take about 10 minutes and it is well worth a read.
Stephen is a leader of the UN special envoy for HIV/AIDS but his speech is predominantly about the role of Women at the UN.
The UN has appointed a High level panel on UN system wide coherence. Basically it’s a panel to restructure the UN and only three of the members are women.
Stephen argues that this systematic discrimination of women it rife within the UN and that the significance of UNIFEM (United National Development Fund for Women) compared to UNICEF (United Nationals fund for children) shows the stark difference in how the UN deals with women’s issues. UNIFEM is a small organisation underneath the UN development Fund where UNICEF is large fully funded organisation in its own right.
He relates this to HIV/AIDS is that women’s vulnerability is disproportionate and needs specific interest. Not to undermine the HIV/AIDS issue in New Zealand and the large proportion of men contracting, Women in heterosexual relationships are still the predominant carrier internationally.

This speech is a breath of fresh air for me and I feel that what Stephan has said is absolutely true. UNIFEM is under supported in NZ and internationally even though it does excellent work in predominantly the Pacific Islands for women.
New Zealand’s connection with the UN is vital I believe in the organisation. What I am concerned about is the discrimination that the UN rages against outside is also apparent inside and we must push for change. Luckily for Women we have the support of Stephen.