ABSTRACT

Feminists and their allies in the United Nations (UN) have played critical roles in promoting gender equality at the global level. As an intergovernmental body, the UN provides unique opportunities to actively influence global norm and policy development and promote change at national levels. Working as delegates for their governments, as staff members within the organization, and as representatives of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), women and men have put new issues on the agenda, highlighted the gender perspectives in existing agenda items, and questioned and lobbied for change in the terms and procedures of negotiation processes. Sharing common values and goals, these three groups of feminists have worked closely together to develop strategies for positive norm and policy outcomes on gender equality and to strengthen monitoring and implementation of these norms/policies at the national level. Since the UN is an intergovernmental body, insiders can include

both feminists working within member state delegations and those working within the organization as bureaucrats-also known as “femocrats.”1

Initially there were very few women bureaucrats and much of the early advocacy and norm and policy work was carried out by delegates together with NGO allies. Gradually as the number of women in the UN grew, femocrats began to play an increasingly important role. Following the first World Conference on Women in 1975, women began to be employed as “women/gender specialists” to focus specifically on gender

equality. With the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action (BPA) and the establishment of the gender mainstreaming strategy in 1995, the number of experts within the UN increased significantly. This section presents some of the strategies developed by feminists working inside the UN bureaucracy over the past few decades, their relevance and impact, as well as enabling factors and persistent challenges to their full implementation.