IGC - The Year So Far (January – July 2017)   

At this juncture, we thought it would be useful to take stock of what the International Gender Champions network has accomplished in the first half of 2017.

We began the year with a meeting of the Group of Friends, a group of Champions from each of our tri-partite groups including co-founders Director-General Michael Møller of UN Geneva,  Ambassador Pamela Hamamoto of the US Permanent Mission, and CEO/Founder Caitlin Kraft-Buchman of Women@theTable, and Ambassador Veronika Bard of Sweden; Guy Ryder, Director-General of the International Labour Organization; Ambassador Yvette Stevens of Sierra Leone; Arancha González, Executive Director of the International Trade Centre; Scott Weber, Director-General of Interpeace; and Anne-Sophie Lois of Plan International to set the priorities of the IGC’s work and the way forward. Ambassador Hamamoto rotated off the Group as she was leaving Geneva, while Ambassador Bard of Sweden accepted to take on greater leadership responsibilities within the IGC network.

1 – Expansion

We launched 3 new IGC Hubs in New York , Vienna, and Bonn-Berlin.

The IGC-New York Launch, led by Ambassador Jurg Lauber and the Swiss Mission in New York, led to the joining of more than 40 new Champions on 20 March, among which Secretary-General António Guterres and several of his senior colleagues at Headquarters, including Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director of UN-Women. At the opening of the Committee on the Status of Women in New York, UN Secretary-General António Guterres also encouraged other senior leaders to join the International Gender Champions.

At the official launch of the IGC network in Vienna on 14 June, more than 30 leaders joined the IGC in Vienna. It was led by Ambassador Pilar Saborío de Rocafort of Costa Rica, Ambassador Andrej Benedejcic of Slovenia, Chargé d’Affaires Andrew Schofer of the United States, Yuri Fedotov, Director-General of the UN Office in Vienna, Yukiya Amano, Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Li Yong, Director-General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization, Lassina Zerbo, Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, Simonetta Di Pippo, Director of the UN Office of Outer Space Affairs, and Paul Bekkers of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

The Bonn-Berlin Hub had a soft launch with the UN’s top Climate Change official Patricia Espinosa, and will be officially launched this fall during COP 23. And more groups are willing to join the network in other multilateral hubs !

Also, on the occasion of several events with Switzerland and International Sports Federations for International Women’s Day, on 8 March 2017, the network expanded to a new category of actors : our first Sports Federation Gender Champions took the IGC pledge, including the Director-General of the International Olympic Committee, Christophe De Kepper, and heads of World Sailing, World Equestrian, University Sports and Archery.

2 – Substantive Focus

Four  Impact Groups led by Champions were created in Geneva, to generate mandate and movement. They were thematically chosen to maximize strategic opportunities on :

  • Representation   Co-Chaired by Ambassador Veronika Bard, Sweden; Director-General Guy Ryder, International Labour Organization; and Ambassador Suraya Dalil, Afghanistan. A side event of the Human Rights Council was organized  with Champions & Activists on “Ensuring Equal Representation”

  • Change Management   Co-Chaired by Ambassador Julian Braithwaite, UK; and former Deputy Executive Director Jan Beagle, UNAIDS. They organized  at UNAIDS two trainings  Towards Gender-Responsive Change Management for focal points and Human Resources staff with Tinna Nielsen, Anthropologist and Founder of Move the Elephant.  

  • Trade   Co-Chaired by Ambassador Hogni Kristjansson, Iceland; Executive Director Arancha González, International Trade Centre; and Ambassador Yvette Stevens, Sierra Leone.

  • Health   Co-Chaired by Ambassador Beatriz Londoño Soto, Colombia; and Anne-Sophie Lois, Plan International. A Call to Action for gender equality in global health was signed and published in The Lancet and meetings with the Executive Board and Director-general candidates organized.

3 – Delegations

We published our first book: a joint IGC – UN Women publication entitled "Shaping the International Agenda: Raising Women’s Voices in Intergovernmental Forums", which aims to build knowledge on women’s participation in national delegations to meetings of international organizations’ governing bodies and their leadership roles in these meetings. We tried to address how can women have a voice on the international stage and how can we ensure equal participation of women and men at the negotiating and decision-making table.

It was launched with several Gender Champions and other high officials in both, Geneva and New-York, among which Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, Martin Chungong, Secretary-General of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, Ambassador John Quinn, Australia, President of UN-Women’s Executive Board and Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates Lana Nusseibeh, President of the General Assembly Ambassador Peter Thomson, UN-Women Deputy Executive Director Ms. Lakshmi Puri,  Ambassador Jürg Lauber, Switzerland, and Ambassador Laura Elena Flores Herrera, Panama to the United Nations representing the Group of Friends for Gender Parity.

4 – Convening of Champions

By connecting institutions and individuals in this new constellation, the network enables a deeper level of engagement where gender equality and diversity become the norm. So we organized several meetings for the Champions to exchange experience and strategize on how to further advance and embed gender equality.

On 1 March, Foreign Minister of Sweden, H.E. Margot Wallstrom,  became our first Honorary Gender Champion when addressing the Gender Champions with her speech on “What Difference Does a Feminist Foreign Policy Make?”  at WIPO. The evening brought tougher the Champions and female judges, parliamentarians, ministers and Mayors attending the first Breakthrough Barriers Summit in Geneva. On 28 March, François Longchamp, President of the Canton de Genève hosted a reception in honor of President Michelle Bachelet of Chile who became our second Honorary Gender Champion for her tireless efforts in promoting full equality, inclusion and participation of women throughout her career.

As the first year Champions meeting on 30 May, the 2017 Champions Mid-term Review intended to take stock of the progress made and the remaining challenges for the rest of the year.

5 – Nurturing the community of practice

Since the Champions pledges need strong internal support, we also organized several Brown Bag and Roundtable Events with the community of focal points for the IGC – Geneva at the working level, on various areas of transformative work :

  • Gender-balanced Delegations : Using our new publication with UN-Women as a starting point we called on the power of the IGC focal points group to think through how we could leverage the publication’s findings into Geneva-based organizations and governing bodies.

  • Single Sex Panel Language : When a Champion is asked to sit on a panel how can they let organizers know that the Champion has taken the IGC Panel Parity Pledge, requesting that the organizers consider the gender balance of the panel. 

  • Strengthening Gender Responsive Language in International Fora :  We discussed how we could support our champions in advocating for strong gender responsive language aimed at promoting equality and women's empowerment in international fora in the context of numerous Governing Bodies meetings.

  • The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) : we organized an event with the CEDAW’s new Chairperson, Professor Dalia Leinarte, in order to strengthen ties and understanding of CEDAW's work with the IGC community of work.

We convened to all IGC-Geneva Focal Points Quarterly Meetings in February and in May. Other events and meetings were also organized by the focal points on specific issues such as :

  • Women in Science with Champions Ambassador Elisabeth Laurin, France, Pr. Fabiola Gianotti, Director-General of CERN, and Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General of the World Meteorological Organization.

  • Gender Responsive Standards by UNECE and ITC 

  • Women’s Economic Empowerment with Champion Ambassador Elisabeth Laurin

  • The Launch of the Global Gender & Environment Outlook with Champion Jan Dusik, Director of UN Environment Europe Office

  • The Launch of the Trade and Gender Toolbox with Trade and EU Affairs Minister of Sweden, H.E. Ann Linde and Champion Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary-General of UNCTAD on "What would happen to women if a given trade policy were implemented?"

There is still much work to be done, but we will continue to focus our efforts on concrete measures and transformative steps for the second half of the year!