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One year on from the UK government’s announcement of £20 million in funding for the new UN Women agency over two years (6 July), international development charity VSO is warning that unless other nations step up and fund the agency it may struggle to succeed.

Last year the agency received less than half the funds it needed to operate. A minimum of US$500 million has been set as the annual operating budget for UN Women, yet total funding for 2011 was less than $250m, with only $130m unrestricted funds pledged by 62 donor countries for core operational costs (1).

Things are looking little better for 2012. Only $139m in unrestricted funds has been pledged for 2012 (2). Targets to scale-up the agency, with greater funding enabling it to work in more countries, have been abandoned. At the Annual Meeting of UN Women’s Executive Board in May, Executive Director Michelle Bachelet told members:

“We did not hit our ambitious targets for 2011...We have scaled back our targets for 2012 and ’13...taking it back to a bare minimum to carry out our mandate... If we fail to meet these reduced targets it will call into question our ability to deliver on the mandate and Strategic Plan our board has laid out for us.”(3)

VSO is calling on the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID), as a key funder of UN Women and a member of the agency’s Executive Board, to maintain its financial commitment and press other nations to support UN Women financially.

Jo Lofthouse, VSO’s Head of External Affairs, said:

“The UK has shown great leadership in its funding commitment to UN Women. For the agency to succeed it’s vital that this support is maintained.

“We’re worried that other countries may use the current financial climate as a pretext for cutting funding. The UK should use its diplomatic muscle to press other governments and ensure they don’t turn their backs on UN Women.

“The agency has been remarkably successful in its first year, despite a very tight budget. We need to see more countries, not fewer, stepping up and showing that they care about the world’s women and girls.”

The agency has made considerable progress in its first 12 months. In Executive Director Michelle Bachelet’s most recent report to UN Women’s Executive Board, she highlighted some of the achievements of the agency over the last year. In seven of the strategic goals set in 2011, the agency has already exceeded the target they set for 2013 and is on its way to achieving the others. Successes so far include:

- Supporting the institution of 176 new or strengthened policies and laws to advance gender equality in 50 countries.

- Supporting training for female political candidates in 23 countries. Women’s political representation has increased in 18 of these countries at national or local level. UN Women has also supported electoral law reform in 39 countries to facilitate the inclusion of women in elections.

- Following the revolution in Egypt, UN Women supported the establishment of the Egyptian Women’s Union, as association of 500 women’s groups, and facilitated the formulation of their demands in the Egyptian Women’s Charter.

Editor's notes

(1) Source:  http://www.unwomen.org/partnerships/?show=Donors
(2) Ibid
http://www.unwomen.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/04/Statement-USG-ED-Speech-to-Annual-Session-29-May-2012.pdf  Page 4
(4) VSO campaigned for the creation of UN Women and through its Godmothers campaign called for a strong UK financial commitment to the agency.

About UN Women:

UN Women was created by the UN General Assembly in July 2010. It aims to be a dynamic and strong champion for women and girls, providing them with a powerful voice at the global, regional and local levels. The agency works for the elimination of discrimination against women and girls, the empowerment of women and equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.

About VSO:

VSO is different from most organisations that fight poverty. Instead of sending money or food, we bring people together to share skills and knowledge. In doing so, we create lasting change. VSO volunteers work in whatever fields are necessary to address the forces that keep people in poverty – from education and health through helping people learn the skills they need to make a living. In doing so they invest in local people, so the impact they have endures long after their placement ends.  Visit
www.vso.org.uk for more information.
For more information and to arrange interviews contact:

Steve Ballinger, VSO Media Manager, 020 8780 7632 / 07500 918478.

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