Steven Edwards, Canwest News Service
Tuesday, Jun. 22, 2010
In a dispute that could spill over into the G20 and G8 summits in Canada this week, the U.S. has broken ranks with other western countries and proposed a board for the new agency that largely gives in to demands by Cuba, Egypt and other developing countries seeking maximum possible control of it.
Critics claim the makeup risks rendering the new agency as dysfunctional as the UN Human Rights Council, where states with poor human-rights records control much of the agenda and provide “cover” for one another.
At stake is management of hundreds of millions of dollars in field operations cash the UN would gather mainly from rich countries amid a planned New Year launch of the new agency, which is set to assume and dramatically expand the work of four much smaller existing UN offices dealing with women’s issues.
“The G8 meeting is perfect,” said Stephen Lewis, a former Canadian ambassador to the UN, who has been at the heart of lobbying for the new agency.
“Let Stephen Harper and Barack Obama spend 10 minutes together, and decide how it should be done,” he said of the U.S. and Canadian leaders.
In reality, however, the Obama administration may short-circuit its western allies by insisting on proceeding with a pencilled-in vote Friday in the UN General Assembly on a “reform” resolution that would include Washington’s compromised vision for the agency board.
Insiders say the U.S. is keen to push through approval of the agency’s management structure so that Melanne Verveer, Obama’s ambassador-at-large for global women’s issues, can tout U.S. backing for the project when she attends a ministerial-level meeting Monday of the UN’s Economic and Social Council — an annual gathering whose theme this year is “gender equality and women’s empowerment.”
The U.S. tabled its shock “undercutting” proposal behind closed doors Friday as diplomats for the 130 states of the anachronistically named Group of 77 developing countries plus China refused to budge on their formula for the new agency’s operational board.
The G77 plans call for the board to reflect the makeup of the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women, where western donor countries make up less than 20% of the 45 members.
The European Union, joined by Canada, Australia and New Zealand, want not only a smaller board to reduce the likelihood of political infighting — but also one where western donor countries have a greater say.
“Canada’s playing a really big role but the U.S., unfortunately, is breaking ranks, and the European Union and Canada are furious with the U.S.,” said one insider.
“Egypt is speaking for the G77 and is playing a really obstructionist role. But Melanne Verveer is coming, and [the U.S.] really want it.”
The EU, Canada, Australia and New Zealand favour a board reflecting those of the UN’s development agency or UNICEF, the children’s agency. Western donor countries make up a third of the 36 members on each of those boards.
But without consulting with its western allies, the United States “surprised” them with a proposal for the G77 to be given what it wants if it agrees to add just four more big donor countries to the tally, observers say.
“We’ve come such a long way, we’ve removed so many barriers, if you have to accommodate the [G77 and China] to get this done, just get it done, because of the women of the world are hanging in the balance,” said Lewis, who pointed out that donor countries retain a level of financial control because most financing will be voluntary — not a mandatory UN “assessment” based on ability to pay.
But Charlotte Bunch, another leading campaigner as executive director of the Centre for Women’s Global Leadership at Rutgers University, warned of rushing the board issue when an unfavourable outcome could hobble the new agency.
“We think that some kind of smaller technical board is a good idea because we want [the agency] to be functional,” she said.
“If you need two more weeks to get it right, you should take two more weeks to get it right.”
Diplomats meet Wednesday in another bid to try to break the deadlock after a meeting Tuesday and an ambassador-level gathering Monday failed to produce consensus.
What about Equality? Where is the Billion Dollar Fund for Men's Rights"?
Canadian men have no legal rights, the underbelly of the Ontario Superior Court Family court judges ensure that men are destroyed and their legal rights removed for ever.
Mr. Harper should be spending dollar for dollar on Mens Programs as Women's programs.
For every abused woman there is an abused man and for every dead beat dad, there is a dead beat Judge.
Real crime starts in Family court
(thanks to Stacy Robb)