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U.N. Member States Elect Countries To Serve On U.N. Women Board

U.N. Member States on Wednesday voted on the countries that would have a seat on the board of U.N. Women, the new agency tasked with promoting equality and women’s rights, Public Radio International’s The World reports.

“The elections, held in the 54-member Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), will enable the new board to come together prior to the official establishment on 1 January 2011 of” the agency, according to U.N. News Centre (11/10).

“The General Assembly resolution adopted in July that merged four U.N. bodies dealing with women’s issues into a single agency with greater clout to represent half the world’s population calls for a 41-member executive board, with 35 members chosen by regional groups and six representing donor nations,” the Canadian Press reports. “The resolution earmarks four seats from the 10 top donor nations and the United States, Britain, Spain and Norway won those seats. It allocated two seats to contributors from developing countries and diplomats and those winners were Saudi Arabia and Mexico,” according to the news service.

U.N. News Centre provides a breakdown of the states elected onto the board, including the African countries of Angola, Cape Verde, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Lesotho, Libya, Nigeria and Tanzania. Representing Asia, Bangladesh, China, India, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Republic of Korea and Timor-Leste were nominated onto the board.

Also, “Estonia, Hungary, Russia and Ukraine were elected from among the Eastern European States, while Denmark, France, Italy, Luxembourg and Sweden were elected from the Western European and Other States,” and “the Council elected Argentina, Brazil, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada and Peru from the group of Latin American and Caribbean States,” U.N. News Centre writes. The countries elected to the U.N. Women board will serve two- and three-year terms, “as determined by the drawing of lots,” the news service writes. (11/10).

Indian envoy to U.N. Hardeep Singh Puri said of his country’s election to the board, “India also has a tremendous and sui generis experience in nation building with women at the center and that is the experience we will bring to the executive board of U.N. Women,” Press Trust of India/Times of India reports. “At the same time, Puri noted that India had a long way to go to improve its women’s conditions,” the news service writes (11/11).

FoxNews.com reports that Iran was not elected to U.N. Women’s board “after fierce opposition from the United States and human rights groups to Tehran’s treatment of women” (11/10). “Iran got the lowest number of votes of the 11 Asian nations vying for 10 seats on U.N. Women’s board. Iran received just 19 votes compared to 36 for East Timor, which broke from 24 years of Indonesian occupation in 1999 and declared independence in 2002,” the Canadian Press adds.

“U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice welcomed the result, saying ‘we’ve made no secret that Iran joining the board of U.N. Women would have been an inauspicious start to that board … and we think it was a very good outcome today,’” according to the news service.

Canadian Press continues: “Some rights groups were also upset that Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive and are barred from many facilities used by men; Libya, where Moammar Gadhafi has been in power for more than 40 years; and Congo, where rape is widely used as a weapon of war, were on uncontested slates and won seats on the board” (11/10).

Unlike Iran, who was required to receive the votes of other U.N. Member States to receive a board seat, Saudi Arabia, “secured an automatic seat” as a donor country on the board, Agence France-Presse/Herald Sun reports (11/11).

PRI’s The World interviews Philippe Bolopion, U.N. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, who addresses the questions over how some of the countries who are known to have women’s rights issues received spots on the U.N. Women board (11/10).

U.N. News Centre describes the functions of U.N. Women, under the leadership of former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, noting the agency “will be working with an annual budget of at least $500 million – double the current combined resources of the four agencies it comprises” (11/10).