10 November 2010
Following a last-minute push by several Western countries, the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) of the United Nations has rejected Iran's bid for a seat to the Executive Board of the new UN agency to promote equality for women (UN Women). Iran, which has been criticized for its dismal record on women's rights, received only 19 votes, well short of the necessary 28 votes for approval. East Timor, a late entrant into the race, beat Iran for one of the Asian seats on the Executive, receiving 36 votes. However, the controversial bid of Saudi Arabia was accepted by ECOSOC.
In recent months, Tehran sparked an international outcry by sentencing to death by stoning a woman for allegedly committing adultery. In Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to drive and are barred from many facilities used by men. Many Western countries including Canada and the United States, and NGOs such as the World Jewish Congress, had campaigned against the candidacy of the two countries for the 41-member Executive of UN Women.
The agency was formed after the General Assembly in July merged four UN bodies dealing with women's issues into one. The Executive Board overseas the work of Executive Director Michelle Bachelet, the former president of Chile, and her staff. UN Women has an annual budget of US$ 500. Susan Rice, the US permanent representative to the United Nations, said Iran had "lost and they lost handily. We have made no secret of our concern that Iran joining the board of UN Women would have been an inauspicious start to that board."
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