UN Women joins International Geneva

Article, 06.10.2016

The UN Women's liaison office, which was opened in Geneva on 6 October, aims to make gender equality and women's empowerment more visible globally. Switzerland has supported the organisation since its creation in 2010. Interview with Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women.

UN Women Executive Director Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka with a group of young girls.
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN Women, believes that major efforts are needed to reach the gender equality target in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. © UN Women

Ms Mlambo-Ngcuka, what are the advantages for UN Women with its increased presence in Geneva?

Geneva is an important international hub and one that is central for the advancement of UN Women’s mandate to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment. A strong commitment by governments has been made in the new 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development to achieve gender equality by 2030. However, at the current pace of change, this deadline will not be met. It will be essential to see a greater concerted effort from all sectors and all stakeholders in order to meet this goal.

UN Women’s strengthened presence in Geneva will allow us to engage sectors and stakeholders that play a critical role in the achievement of gender equality. These include human rights, health, disarmament, humanitarian action, work, trade and economic development among others. It will also allow us to make sure that women’s participation in peacebuilding and peacemaking is enhanced, as many peace negotiations take place in Geneva.

Will the presence of UN Women in Geneva also help bolster gender equality on the ground?

Absolutely. UN Women’s composite nature bringing together normative support functions, UN coordination and operational activities allows us to make linkages between these different facets of the UN’s action around the world. A more systematic and sustained engagement with key operational actors based in Geneva will allow us to ensure that women and girls are prioritised in their work in specific countries. Similarly, the vast normative agenda that is shaped in Geneva will more directly feed into our operational activities. We will also be able to share valuable insights into the gender equality situation at the country and regional levels to better inform normative developments.

Ultimately, UN Women’s success is defined by the difference we can make in women’s lives in countries around the world. The Geneva Liaison Office will play an important role in making sure we achieve this objective.

Is UN Women planning to expand its activities into new areas?

UN Women is a small entity with a very large mandate. This requires us to work with and through others to implement the gender equality agenda. Our new presence in Geneva will certainly help us further expand and deepen our scope of action but we will have to do so in a very focused way. Our office will start very small, with just a couple of UN Women staff who will need to prioritise their work and engage strategically, drawing on UN Women’s global expertise.

What are the focus areas for the Geneva office?

Influencing Geneva-based intergovernmental processes, strengthening UN coordination and accountability for gender equality, and expanding the base of partners who support gender equality through their work will be key priorities. It will build on existing initiatives and processes, such as the Geneva Gender Champions, launched by the US Ambassador and the Director-General of the UN Office in Geneva.

Can you give us some other examples about what UN Women will be doing in Geneva?

We will leverage our presence in Geneva to strengthen our collaboration and partnership with ILO for the ratification of ILO Convention 189 on domestic workers. We will also use our physical presence to work more closely with the Inter-Parliamentary Union on mobilising parliamentarians to repeal discriminatory legislation. The overall objective for the office will be to support the implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the Beijing Platform for Action, and ultimately the achievement of gender equality by 2030.

What do you think about Switzerland's work to ensure gender equality and women's empowerment globally?

Switzerland has been a real champion for gender equality and the empowerment of women on the international stage. It has been one of the strongest supporters of a stand-alone goal for the achievement of gender equality. It has also consistently advocated for gender perspectives to be included in other intergovernmental processes.

Switzerland’s strong support of UN Women has allowed us to become a stronger organisation, delivering results for millions of women and girls around the world. By significantly increasing its contribution to UN Women and becoming one of our top donors, Switzerland has shown the importance it places on the creation of a new UN entity exclusively focused on the promotion of gender equality and women’s empowerment.