represented by Nicola Shiels
The United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) and is a separate entity within the UN Development Programme . At NMUN, the topics up for discussion were:
- Women’s Role in Peacebuilding:
- Preventing Sexual Violence against Women in Post-Conflict Situations; and
- Financing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women During Times of Conflict.
At the first meeting, the initial topic of discussion was the agenda setting. Most delegations were prepared to negotiate but it seemed to be a broad consensus that topic 2 should be first on the agenda. With such a range of agreement, Australia also supported topic 2’s being first. In fact, the entire agenda was set at that point: firstly, the issue of sexual violence; next, women’s role in peacebuilding and thirdly, financing gender equality. That finance came third on the agenda (and therefore was not ultimately discussed) was a little disappointing for Australia, whose government was the first to introduce gender-responsive budgeting, which has been adopted by many other governments and is endorsed by the United Nations. Nonetheless, discussion of the agenda concluded quickly, particularly in comparison to other committees. With this, UNIFEM began working.
After a few speakers had had their say – Australia being one – it was time for informal caucusing. It is in informal caucuses that most of the work at NMUN is actually done. Very quickly, the geographical reality of Australia hit home: the representatives of European Union countries got together, as did the North Americans and the Africans, respectively. While Australia has much to offer in all three topics on the agenda, it works in Pacific Island nations that were not represented either at NMUN in general, or in UNIFEM in particular. Because of this, while other countries automatically sat down together, Australia spent a lot more time finding out what each group was doing. In fact, Australia and the Asian countries formed a group and produced a working paper which was later merged with that of the European Union.
The first day was a success and the hard work continued on the second day, during which there were further speeches on the same topic as well as a large amount of informal caucusing. In general, there was a lot of consensus in UNIFEM as the topics are largely uncontroversial and are something which is important for governments to stand behind – and be seen to be standing behind. The second day resulted in a few working papers on the first topic, including one which Australia had worked on together with China, Laos and Bangladesh as the main partners. After editing by the Chair, the working papers became draft resolutions, which then had to gradually be merged in a process which took a lot more work (and negotiation) than had previously been anticipated.
Finally, towards the very end of the day, two draft resolutions were produced and put aside to be voted upon. With very little time left, discussions began on the second agenda topic, i.e. the role of women in peacebuilding. This continued into the third day. On the third – and final – day, the committee voted on the two draft resolutions in relation to the first topic. Each draft related to different areas and both were passed by acclamation.
In general, Australia’s experience in UNIFEM was a positive one, which served to reinforce the message that Australia has a fascinating role to play in international politics, based on a combination of its geography, history and strategic partners.