The UN Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa says the deplorable state of so many women around the world calls for a multi-lateral UN Agency, especially designed to address their needs. Stephen Lewis recently addressed a high-level panel on UN reform in Geneva, outlining what he calls the UN’s failed effort so far to effectively address women’s issues.
From Maputo, Mozambique, he told English to Africa reporter Cole Mallard, “We have United Nations agencies for everything from children, to health, to food, to education. We do not have a United Nations Agency to represent, assist, liberate and enhance the lives of more than half the world’s people, and women are suffering grievously all over the world. And as I watch the carnage and ravages of AIDS in Africa and the toll it has taken on women, I know that finally, after 50 years of passivity and paralysis, it’s time to have an agency through which women can assert their rights.”
Dr. Lewis says, “Women are in terrible trouble” because of their exposure to gender inequity, sexual violence, HIV/AIDS, maternal mortality, armed conflict and a lack of economic empowerment. He says the way to make this agency effective is to include women around the world because, to date, they have not ”had anything to relate to within the UN.” Lewis says helping them design the governing structure of the new agency will “ensure proper representation, keep the governments in line, measure accountability, [and] have a whole new view of the way in which the world works within the United Nations.”
The U.N. envoy says this first new UN agency in the 21st century should be constructed differently. Lewis points out that he does not mean the agency would replace other UN groups that deal with women’s issues, such as the World Health Organization or the UN Population Fund. Specifically he says, “I’m advocating for a new, independent, full-fledged, operational United Nations Agency with country capacity on the ground, much like UNICEF. The time has come for this idea to take hold.”
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