Toronto Star Examines U.N. Envoy Lewis’ Campaign To Create New Women’s Agency Within U.N.
The Toronto Star on Saturday examined efforts by U.N. Special Envoy for AIDS in Africa Stephen Lewis' campaign to create a new agency within the United Nations to protect women's rights, health and security. According to Lewis, his experience working with people infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS has highlighted the need for a U.N. agency focused on women. Lewis plans to travel to Geneva next week to present his idea to a high-level U.N. panel that is investigating how to unify the agency's various sectors. If the panel endorses Lewis' idea, the agency would be on the agenda when the U.N. General Assembly opens in September. Lewis also has lobbied European, Latin American and African leaders to support his idea, and Graca Machel, a children's advocate and wife of former South African President Nelson Mandela, has traveled to the United Kingdom to discuss the initiative with Finance Minister Gordon Brown and ask for his support. Lewis said, "In the midst of this carnage of women -- who are losing their lives in such heartbreaking numbers -- there has to be something in the world that has a voice for them and an operational force on the ground that can respond." Other women's rights advocates think a women's agency within the U.N., is "not only desirable, but vital," the Star reports. "I think Stephen Lewis is right on target as to the dire and critical need for the U.N. to establish a fully fledged women's agency that has the same power and support as others have," Taina Bien-Aime, executive director of Equality Now, said, adding, "Development can't happen without women's equality. All over the world, women have brilliant plans but can't execute them. What we need is political will to make this happen." But Rachel Mayanja, special adviser on gender issues to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, expressed doubts about a women's agency, saying it could "create a ghetto for women's issues." Mayanja instead advocates that women's issues be given equal weight within existing U.N. agencies (Ward, Toronto Star, 7/1).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.