Opening remarks by H. E. U. Joy Ogwu, President, Executive Board of UN Women

Today is significant in the annals of UN history and indeed, in the annals of global history. We are assembled here on this momentous occasion, at this first meeting of the newly established Executive Board of the newest entity in the United Nations family – the United Nations Entity for Gender equality and the Empowerment of women (UN Women), under the distinguished leadership and Executive Direction of the newest Under-Secretary-General in the United Nations family – Madame Michelle Bachelet, former President of Chile. Ms Bachelet brings to the job a formidable asset, an immeasurable passion, profound and varied experience as well as influence, respect and admiration around the world.

2.       Allow me, Madame Bachelet, to congratulate you again on your appointment to this crucial responsibility.  As we formally begin this journey together, my colleagues and I on the Executive Board are determined to work closely with you in a most creative and positive spirit to ensure that UN Women delivers and indeed, delivers as one; that UN Women excels; and that UN women sets an example in institutional governance that others will seek to emulate in the future. I see clearly the evidence of such determination and commitment in the work that the board has already done leading up to this first regular session. Indeed, I believe that the combination of a reputable leader at the helm of affairs of UN Women and a strong, focused and Constructive Executive Board can bode well for the future of UN Women.

3.       As we welcome this day of new beginnings, I want to convey our deep appreciation to all those who worked assiduously hard towards the merger of the four constituent entities that make establishment of UN Women possible.

4.       First, I commend the great wisdom of the Secretary General and also applaud the leadership of the Deputy Secretary-General through this long process.  I also recognize the day to day guidance and work of the former Assistant Secretary-General, and Special Adviser to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women, Ms. Rachel Mayanja, who steered the difficult process of consultations and discussions leading to the adoption of resolution A/63/311.

5.       Although today is a day of many new beginnings, most of the problems of UN Women was established to address are by no means new. Women everywhere continue to face major challenges in accessing and indeed, enjoying their human rights despite years and decades of effort. Limited opportunities for participation in society, poor access to resources, gender-based violence, trafficking in girls and young women, sexual violence especially in situations of armed conflict, as well as lack of access to basic social services such as health, education, food, and water leave many women the world over in conditions of deprivation. The establishment of the UN Women calls us to a new level of responsibility and accountability. In a sense, a new world order in addressing the issues affecting not only the empowerment of women but also the advancement of women and their effective participation in their systems. There are many so questions that will arise over the next three days and we are going to be addressing those questions especially in normative and operational ways.

6.       Madam we look to you to steer the entity creatively to address age-old challenges and stereotypes that continue to deny women not only of their rights but especially opportunities to contribute to development.  We look forward to your vision and the plans you have to make UN Women not only operational but truly functional to ensure that the high expectations of the world and the UN Community will be met as effectively and as swiftly as possible.

7.       Yes indeed, expectations are high, as they should be, given the many years of negotiations and the engagement of a broad range of actors, including civil society to support the establishment of UN Women.  Meeting these expectations will require unique and creative approaches particularly with the challenge of limited resources (both human and financial).

8.       As we look to the work ahead it will be important to accelerate efforts to complete the human resource processes to ensure that the requisite staff are in place and ready to take on the important tasks ahead.

9.       I look to your experienced leadership to find new ways to extend the discourse that gender equality is not only a matter of ‘basic human right’ and to bring more to the realization that it is the quintessence of sustainable development.   Empowering women is the other half of the ‘development equation’. Perhaps the last piece of the puzzle to fall in place is the concrete demonstration by the international community of the determination to fulfill its own commitments to UN Women. The support of traditional and new donors alike would be crucial to the achievement of the noble objectives of UN Women in the months and years ahead.

10.     Let me once again; reaffirm the unflinching support and cooperation of the Executive Board so that the eagle can fly.

11.     I thank you.