UK Government

Government Equalities Office: Women - a new dimension in international relations

Press Release   •   Feb 10, 2010 10:12 GMT

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, will today host an unprecedented meeting of women Ambassadors to agree how to work together to improve women's lives, and to work to support the establishment of a new UN agency for women.

This is the first time such a meeting of women Ambassadors to London has been held. Up to 30 senior diplomats, including 13 Ambassadors, will attend, representing some 26 countries.

Tomorrow, Wednesday 10th February, Ms Harman and International Development Minister Gareth Thomas will co-host a further meeting with Non-Government Organisations concerned with women and development issues, to discuss the new UN agency for women.

Harriet Harman, Minister for Women and Equality, said:

"These meetings are an unprecedented opportunity for women Ambassadors, women in NGOs, and women Ministers, to work together to make a difference to women's lives in their own countries and internationally.

"There are now women ministers and diplomats in every continent and in most countries, and that is a trend which is only set to continue.  This offers the prospect that the agenda for women - equality, tackling poverty, ending violence against women, women's representation - can move beyond making demands of male dominated international structures.

"Now, women in Government, in the diplomatic services, and in the third sector, can work together: not just to ask men for change, but to make change happen. Women are stronger when we all work together."

Baroness Kinnock, who co-hosted the Ambassadors' meeting, said:

"The Foreign Office is pleased to have been part of a concerted cross government effort to garner interest and support for the proposal that there should be a new UN gender agency which will coordinate the essential task of bringing the rights of women to the forefront of UN business."

"Today's meeting provides an excellent opportunity to hear the views of senior women diplomats based in London."

International Development Minister Gareth Thomas, who will co-host the NGO meeting on Wednesday, said:
"The creation of a single agency for women would be a historic step for gender equality.

"Up until now, UN performance on gender has been disjointed, under-resourced and ineffective. 

"That is why the UK has been pushing the UN to take action and set up the new body.

"Events like today's meeting provide a unique opportunity for leading Ambassadors to come together to drive forward this work and make sure the women's agency becomes a reality."

These meetings are the latest in a series of events to build support for the agenda and new structure:

* On Wednesday 3rd February 2010, Ms Harman co-hosted European Women in Power summit in Cadiz, Spain.
* Today, Tuesday 9th February 2010, Ms Harman is hosting a meeting in London with women Ambassadors and senior diplomats to the UK to gain their support.
* Tomorrow, Wednesday 10th February 2010, Ms Harman is hosting a meeting with Non-Government Organisations concerned with women issues and development issues.
* Next month Ms Harman will attend the UN meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

At the Cadiz Summit Women Ministers from 23 countries across Europe agreed a Declaration pledging to meet routinely on a regular basis, as EU leaders and Finance Ministers do, to make progress on supporting women, both at a European and international level.

In addition to holding regular summits of Women Ministers, other commitments pledged in the Cadiz Declaration include: to get more women at all levels in political, public and economic decision making; to support men and women to share domestic and caring responsibilities; to assess how the downturn may affect women differently to men; to work to eradicate all forms of violence against women; and to support the establishment of a strong UN agency for women.

Next month Ms Harman will attend the UN meeting of the Commission on the Status of Women.

Ms Harman is working with Foreign Office Minister Baroness Kinnock and International Development Minister Gareth Thomas on the new UN agency for women.


Please contact the Government Equalities Office press office on 0207 276 1175, out of hours 07500 816 959. Photography is available.

* The Government Equalities Office is responsible for the Government's overall strategy, legislation, and priorities on equality issues. The Office also has direct responsibility for policy on gender equality, sexual orientation, and for integrating work on race. The Prime Minister announced the establishment of the Government Equalities Office (GEO) in July 2007 and it became a Department in its own right in October 2007.  It works to Ministers Harriet Harman, Maria Eagle, Vera Baird, and Michael Foster.

* The United Nations Commission on the Status of Women in New York on 1st March 2010.

* It is expected that the UN will take forward the establishment of the new UN agency for women, to be led by a new Under Secretary-General, by the close of the current General Assembly session (UNGA 64), following the UN resolution 63/311 of 14th September 2009.

* Countries represented at the Ambassadors meeting on Tuesday 9th February 2010 in Westminster include: Belize, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Egypt, France, Grenada, Hungary, Jordan, Lebanon, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Maldives, Morocco, Papua New Guinea, Peru, Poland, Rwanda, Spain, Sweden, Tanzania, The Gambia, Uganda, USA, Zambia.

* The Cadiz Summit was part of the Spanish presidency of the EU, and was co-hosted by Minister for Women and Equality Harriet Harman and Spanish Equalities Minister Bibiana Aido Almagro. Ms Harman's speech can be read in full here:

* The Cadiz Declaration commits Ministers to working towards getting more women in roles of high political responsibility; more women at the top of democratic structures; and a more equal balance between men and women holding elected office. The Declaration highlights the need to ensure that the improvements in women's educational achievement are reflected in the number of women in decision making roles. It can be read in full here:[1].pdf


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