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PM called to step in on new UN women's agency

Aid agencies have asked British Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene in talks to set up a new United Nations agency for women.Talks over setting up the agency have stalled as members argued about its remit and how it will be run. With saving women’s  and their babies lives in pregnancy and childbirth a key part of the weekend’s G8/G20 talks among world leaders, many want to see the new UN women's agency get off the ground.

The United Nations General Assembly approved in September Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s plan for a new UN organisation to promote women's rights and equality on a global scale. But talks to get it started have floundered. In a desperate bid to see the agency come to fruition, international development groups, Voluntary Service Overseas, (The VSO) and the UK Gender and Development Network wrote to the Prime Minister, asking him to press the G8 members and the other UN states to reach an agreement on an agency that has the power and drive to get things done. “We believe a new women's agency has the potential to make a lasting difference to the lives of millions around the world by helping women give birth safely, stay in school longer, live free from violence, and earn an income,” say Kathy Peach, of the VSO and the UK Gender and Development Network 's Jessica Woodroffe. “With just five years until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals, a new women's agency is desperately needed to overcome the entrenched apathy among many governments and UN agencies to making progress on women's equality. Greater efforts to empower women and improve their status will drive reductions in maternal mortality, improve women's sexual and reproductive health, and help advance many other key development goals.”

The VSO says on its website that David Cameron’s office had confirmed he planned to raise the issue at the weekend talks.Although the UN has poured billions of pounds into agencies for refugees (UNHCR) and for children (Unicef), it has no equivalent for women. At the moment women's issues are dealt with by several small departments that don’t have the money and clout of a dedicated agency.

On Saturday, police arrested more than 400 people at the G20 talks in Toronto when peaceful anti-globalisation protests turned violent. The G20 meeting includes the world's most advanced economies and the leading developing nations, such as Brazil, Russia, India and China.

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