UN Gender Network (HN)

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Law


Development, and in particular, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), are indelibly linked to questions of gender with gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls underpinning Goal 5. Despite the UN Charter clearly laying the basis for gender equality it is absent from the Organisation. This is a major issue for the UN as it depends upon its own legitimacy to lead across many global issues including on gender and development. Without gender equality too many of the UN's activities and too much of its work remains predominantly - if not entirely- informed and spearheaded by the male perspective. Centring on the Secretariat and SDG implementation, the Network is an innovative intervention in understanding how gender impacts on the UN's activities particularly its leadership of the SDGs and development. Through the SDGs the UN encourages states to uphold women's rights, eliminate gender discrimination, and to achieve gender equality. Yet, the UN fails to give effect to those principles within the Organisation. This has to change. In 2016 the UN admitted that 83% of its entities have failed to hit gender targets with no progress since 2012 and only 33% possessed a gender unit or equivalent to aid in achieving gender mainstreaming and equality. The UN Gender Network brings academics, civil society, member states and the UN Secretariat itself together in a spirit of conversation and collaboration. It will achieve a deep understanding of the causes and impact of gender inequality within the UN and the impact this has on its leadership of the SDGs and broader development policy. The collaboration of academics led by the PI and Co-I, its Network Partners AIDsFreeWorld, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) and civil society as well as Network participants will lead to the development of an agenda for UN policy reform that will directly impact upon the implementation of the SDGs in the Global South.
An emerging discourse within academia suggests that collaborative work around specific themes has much to offer in advancing understanding of gender inequality within the UN. State delegation support is a necessity if change is to occur and thus the role of the FCO is key to bringing a wider array of states, particularly those in the Global South, on board to push for UN reform. Collaboration enables all parties to offer cross-sectoral feedback to decision-makers; a process of joint advocacy that increases the likelihood of policy and organisational change. The impact of such collaborative activities can be seen with the steps already taken in the creation of UN Women and the Focal Point for Women by project partners.
The UN Gender network aims to: 1. establish a transnational UN Gender network that includes academics, civil society, the UN and state delegations through a series of workshops and an online community; 2. Explore how long-term collaborative activities can be fostered that can bring about effective policy change within the Organisation; 3. Harness expertise from the academic and civil society, state delegations and the UN itself in the co-production of a research project agenda to understand the cause and impact of gender inequality within the UN and its impact upon the UN's leadership and legitimacy in the operationalisation of the SDGs; 4. Use the network's activities as a platform from which to develop targeted policy proposals alongside specific research collaborations that make effective policy recommendations to the UN to ensure long term change and to underpin the implementation of the SDGs, particularly Goal 5 and; 5. Ensure the network's sustainability through the active participation of postgraduate and early career researchers alongside establishing effective collaboration amongst the transnational participants. Stakeholders will be able to utilise the Network's reform proposals and research to ensure the SDGs are better placed to achieve gender equality and other development goals.

Planned Impact

Reform of UN gender inequality demands an approach that is transnational and multi-stakeholder incorporating academia, state delegates and civil society from the outset. The UN Gender network will emphasise cross-stakeholder and transnational engagement to ensure that the impact strategy is suited to purpose, is sustainable, and includes from the outset those who will benefit from the research outcomes and tailors those outcomes to be of most utility to them. The involvement of AIDsFreeWorld and the FCO, both of whom will use the research outcomes in their policy discussions will enable the network to nurture long-term mutually beneficial collaboration between academics and sectoral stakeholders and ensures that the design of the impact pathway is appropriate. Impact outputs - 4 Briefing Documents, Policy Report, Interactive Website - are designed to translate the collaborative research that the Network will engender to the wider stakeholder audience including NGOs engaged in development and lobbying for gender equality at the UN, UN Policymakers -specifically UN Women, Focal Point for Women and Human Resources- and state delegations (FCO and others). Long-term commitment to change is required and our strategy is intended to involve major stakeholders to ensure this is the beginning of a reform agenda. Projects pre-dating this network, led by participants, collectively provided momentum for demands to effect fundamental changes to gender at the UN and thus the network is designed to co-ordinate and direct policy reform. Four key features enable us to achieve sustainable and wide-ranging impact beyond the academy. First, including stakeholders that represent a broad transnational coalition of interests and expertise and focusing on the co-production of outputs increases the likelihood of policy makers accessing and utilising outputs. Second, the ability to influence the key stakeholders - UN policymakers - is based upon the Network's transnational character and the involvement of the FCO and AIDsFreeWorld as Project Partners with direct access to the UN Secretariat. Third, the website responds to an identified need to provide accessible materials and resources for academics, UN staff, state delegates, and civil society. Fourth, the network's impact outputs will reinforce existing and new stakeholder links ensuring the broadest possible audience for its activities. The workshop programme will be sufficiently flexible to enable the development of additional thematic strands as identified during discussions. The research clusters on the network's website will help stakeholders and academics identify sources of expertise and potential research collaborators. The online activities will enable discussions and a platform for collaborative activities centred upon specific themes. The structure of the network's activities allows for maximum participation and tailors involvement to meet the sector's needs in bringing about change to the UN's policy on gender within the Organisation and how it regards its own legitimacy in leading the SDG's gender-related goals.
The Briefing Documents will speak to many of the concerns already outlined by civil society, including those in ODA states, and those raised in the course of the network's activities by stakeholders. They will outline the crisis of legitimacy created by gender inequality and suggest policy changes that could specifically result in change within the UN. The Policy Report will bring together the strands of the workshops and detail what policy changes are required for the UN to gain legitimacy. The emphasis on co-production of network outcomes will ensure that the impact pathway reflects the knowledge and experience of each participant, including those who will lead policy reform and debate on gender equality and legitimacy including the UN itself, state delegations such as the FCO and civil society working on SDGs.


10 25 50