UN Gender Network (HN)

Lead Research Organisation: Durham University
Department Name: Law

Abstract

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.
 
Description There are complex reasons for the UN's failure to achieve gender parity and equality. These include the focus on a narrow interpretation of geographic representation that does not embrace gender, economics or other factors as aspects of geographic representation. It may also stem from a perception that to work for the UN is to work for a higher cause and so other factors, that ought to be expected that ensure workplaces are places where individuals thrive, are considered less significant. Another factor may be the absences of employment law that is applicable to staff. The absence of such fail-safes means that it is incumbent on the UN to create specific policies around accountability and anti-harassment as the lack of such policies leave a vacuum where staff have nowhere to turn. The UN, like all other global organisations are also influenced by their geographic context
and the policies of states. Yet, the exceptionalism of the UN is no longer a basis for failure. The Organisation has set many targets on gender and missed them all repeatedly. With regard to Gender Equality and Parity polices there is huge variance across the Organisation as to the content and presence of such policies. Together with The Advocates for Rights the Network conducted a mapping exercise of the UN employment policies which revealed a large amount of variance, with some very good practice at some bodies and complete absences of policies within other bodies. The UN's own statistics suggest that as of 2015 11% of bodies did not have any sexual harassment, assault or exploitation policies. 30% of bodies did not have a discrimination policy while 33% had no anti-retaliation policy. These absences are particularly acute where there is no employment or anti-discrimination law that underpins the system providing a safety net for employees beyond Organisation policy. This places UN staff in particularly vulnerable position. Following our workshops Prof O'Donoghue and Freedman have put forward Policy Proposals to attempt real change at the UN.
The proposals below are based upon five premises that were the outcomes of the workshops and research.
1. Gender equality requires change in organisational culture. This necessitates attitudinal, practice and purpose change. The idea that working at the UN is a 'calling' ought not to be the basis for forestalling change in the workplace.
2. Gender parity requires representation of women across the Organisation as a whole and at all levels of seniority. Parity is not simply measured by a snapshot of a particular date but rather a longitudinal understanding of women's presence or absence.
3. The UN, as a global leader, must undertake the best practices that have emerged from state-based activity. A culture of exceptionalism for the 'special' nature of employment at the UN cannot be a basis for intransigence.
4. Partial change and numerical targets, thus far, have not succeeded, more radical steps are required.
5. The aim of gender equality and parity is to assist in making a workplace a space where all can flourish and develop.
Exploitation Route The Policy Proposals that we have put the Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General, UN may partially be taken forward within the UN. These policy proposals would also be of value to other global inter-governmental organisations that do not apply the employment law or policies of any one state.
Sectors Government, Democracy and Justice

URL https://blogs.reading.ac.uk/united-nations-gender-network/
 
Description The findings from the Network activities so far have provided evidence and analysis of the need for reform to address the significant gaps and weaknesses in the UN Gender question. That analysis and evidence shows that there are ad hoc approaches across the UN Secretariat, Funds, Programmes and Agencies, and that there is a need for a streamlined approach by UN staff as well as its member states. The findings so far include mapping exercises, workshop reports, and initial proposals for policy changes. Those materials are being used by the UN Executive Office of the Secretary General and by UN funds, programmes and agencies. If we secure Follow of Funding we will have launch events for those policy proposals in New York and in Geneva, as well as taking the findings forward through workshops and training sessions in ministries of foreign affairs in all continents. The research has also reached a broader audience, including practitioners, media and members of the public through a series of events during the lifetime of the grant. We have also began a dialogue with the United Nations: Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General where we potentially be able to directly influence and impact upon the future strategy of the UN on achieving gender equality and parity.
First Year Of Impact 2017
Sector Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Policy & public services

 
Description UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and other national ministries of foreign affairs
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description United Nations Senior Gender Adviser and UN Women
Geographic Reach Multiple continents/international 
Policy Influence Type Influenced training of practitioners or researchers
 
Description UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office 
Organisation Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO)
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution Ongoing formal partnership, including events co-organised and co-hosted with the project partner
Collaborator Contribution Co-organising events in November 2016 and co-hosting event in May 2017
Impact Report from workshop at UK FCO: https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2990393
Start Year 2016
 
Description United Nations: Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General 
Organisation United Nations (UN)
Country Global 
Sector Public 
PI Contribution We co-ordinated and led a workshop with the Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nations in UN Headquarters in New York on 09/02/2018. We presented our research findings and our policy paper to the UN.
Collaborator Contribution The Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General at the United Nation hosted us at the UN, provided us with a list of key invitees from the Secretariat and facilitated our discussion and debate.
Impact The outcome is direct debate within the UN of our policy proposals for change within the Secretariat and Agencies on gender equality and parity.
Start Year 2017
 
Description France24 
Form Of Engagement Activity A press release, press conference or response to a media enquiry/interview
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Media (as a channel to the public)
Results and Impact The Co-I was on an hour-long expert panel discussion about the new UN Secretary General, with the Co-I specifically talking to the issue of gender, expertise, and legitimacy of the Organisation. There are two parts to the interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZPQrOER5lQ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fev2Z8hdU4w
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2016
URL https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nZPQrOER5lQ
 
Description Gender Equality: Can the UN Lead? 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach National
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact High-level panel event at LSE Women Peace and Security Centre. Speakers included Network members and UN experts.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2012,2017
URL http://www.lse.ac.uk/women-peace-security/upcoming-events/11-07-2017
 
Description Participation in UN Gender Network Workshop 4 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Workshop at UN Headquarters in New York in collaboration with United Nations: Senior Gender Adviser, Executive Office of the Secretary-General. Invitees included representatives from a range of UN Agencies, Funds and programmes involved with gender equality and parity strategies within the Organisation.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description UN Gender Network Workshop 1 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact First Network workshop
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2990391
 
Description UN Gender Network Workshop 2 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Network workshop at UK FCO
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017
URL https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2990393
 
Description UN Gender Network Workshop 3 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Other audiences
Results and Impact Network workshop at Durham University
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2017