Aims to spread awareness to faculty and students on human rights, gender equality, and other global issues
In December 2015, Balakrishnan received a prestigious appointment to co-chair of the United Nations (UN) Civil Society Advisory Committee. The committee is both “a stakeholder and a partner” to the UN, and advises on policy and strategy to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)—the program that works with community groups in host countries to implement key development hat address issues related to crisis prevention, environmental sustainability, gender rights, and economic vitality.
The advisory committee is absolutely critical to UN operations, specifically with regard to creating the global-level policies and strategies that govern the way sponsored programs are implemented in the countries that need them.
"One of the main roles of the committee is to advise the UNDP from a civil society standpoint,” Balakrishnan said. “There’s an entire range of issues—including the role of civil society UNDP’s next strategic plan.”
Though she only recently joined the advisory committee, Balakrishnan and CWGL have been active in the UN for more than 20 years. The center has organized a global campaign called 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence since the early 1990s and has played a leadership role in the effort to establish the United Nations Entity for Gender Equity and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women)—a group dedicated to the global empowerment of women—in 2011.
Global advocacy is “what a lot of us do and a big thing of what Rutgers is known for,” Balakrishnan said, and her work at the UN and other places includes a feminist and human rights agenda, particularly with an emphasis on economic policy. Her efforts have paid off: Balakrishnan’s contributions are well known in international policy arenas like the Human Rights Council and the UN.
Balakrishnan ensures that the up-and-coming generation of students are exposed to the UN and the various avenues for women’s advocacy through UN trips, internships, and CWGL courses like “Feminist Advocacy at the UN.” However, Balakrishnan says that this exposure doesn’t always cross over to the university faculty and administration.
"One-hundred and eight-seven countries participated in the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence campaign in 2014. Everywhere around the world, people know about it—but at Rutgers, no one is talking about it,” Balakrishnan said.
The center also coordinates the post-2015 UN Women’s Coalition, a task force comprised of feminist, women’s rights, women’s development, grassroots, and social justice organizations to influence the role of gender equality, women’s rights, and women’s empowerment in global development agendas. The coalition evaluated and responded to the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its 17 goals, calling for “stronger language on human rights and discrimination” among others.
These activities and others help to promote UN advocacy throughout the university and connect Rutgers to the UN system.
"CWGL is a Rutgers institution, and it’s important for Rutgers to recognize that we have a huge amount of work with the UN through the CWGL that is a good thing for the university in terms of visibility and access to UN resources.”
Watch Balakrishnan's recent intervention as co-chair (at 38:51) at http://webtv.un.org/watch/undp-towards-2030-how-can-undp-assist-countries-and-partners-to-implement-the-new-agenda-undp-50th-anniversary-ministerial-meeting/4773737562001.