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The Secretariat is the main organ primarily responsible for the administration of the UN specialised agencies and bodies. It consists of the Secretary-General and numerous offices and departments supported by thousands of staff members around the world.

The 1945 UN Charter broadly defines the Secretary-General as “chief administrative officer” of the UN; however, the role often expands beyond administrative functions. The post-holder serves a five-year renewable term.

How does it help tackle violence against women?

The work of the office of the Secretary-General in tackling VAW is determined by recommendations issued by the General Assembly and Security Council, as well as on the initiative of the post-holder. For example, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon identified “deepening the UN campaign to end violence against women” as one of the ‘generational imperatives and opportunities’ laid out in his Five Year Action Agenda.

The Secretary-General’s study on violence against women

In 2003, the General Assembly requested the Secretary-General prepare an in-depth study on all causes and forms of violence against women. The report focused on five key areas:

  • Statistic overview on all forms of violence against women, in order to evaluate and better the scale of such violence, while identifying gaps in data collection and formulating proposals for assessing the extent of the problem
  • The causes of violence against women, including its root causes and other contributing factors
  • The medium and long-term consequences of violence against women
  • The health, social and economic costs of violence against women
  • The identification of best practice examples in areas including legislation, policies, programmes and effective remedies and the efficiency of such mechanisms to the end of combating and eliminating violence against women.

The final launch the Secretary-General’s in-depth study on all forms of violence against women represented 3 years of research, consultations and input from Governments, UN bodies and NGOs/CSOs.

iconLockWant more? Read the Secretary-General’s in-depth study

UNiTE to End Violence against Women

In 2008 the Secretary-General launched UNiTE to End Violence against Women, a worldwide campaign to raise public awareness and increase political will for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls. It calls on all governments, civil society, women’s organisations, men, young people, the private sector, the media and entire UN system to work together in ending the “global pandemic” of VAW.

UNiTE has 5 core goals:

  • Adoption and enforcement of national laws to address and punish all forms of violence against women and girls, in line with international human rights standards.
  • Adoption and implementation of multi-sectoral national action plans that emphasise prevention and that are adequately resourced.
  • Establishment of data collection and analysis systems on the prevalence of various forms of violence against women and girls.
  • Establishment of national and/or local campaigns and the engagement of a diverse range of civil society actors in preventing violence and in supporting women and girls who have been abused.
  • Systematic efforts to address sexual violence in conflict situations and to protect women and girls from rape as a tactic of war and full implementation of related laws and policies.

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Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights

Under the Secretariat, the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) is the principal United Nations office mandated to promote and protect human rights. OHCHR provides “…a forum for identifying, highlighting and developing responses to today’s human rights challenges, and act as the principal focal point of human rights research, education, public information, and advocacy activities in the United Nations system.”

OHCHR supports member states to respect, protect and fulfil their international human rights obligations. It also provides support to the UN human rights treaty bodies and publishes information on their work online.

OHCHR’s thematic priorities are:

  • Strengthening international human rights mechanisms
  • Enhancing equality and countering discrimination
  • Combating impunity and strengthening accountability and the rule of law
  • Integrating human rights in development and in the economic sphere
  • Widening the democratic space; and early warning and protection of human rights in situations of conflict, violence and insecurity

iconLockWant more? Visit the OHCHR’s webpage on women’s human rights and gender equality

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