UN Chief’s Cabinet Stacked With Men, Less than 30% of Posts Held by Women

Antonio Guterres takes the oath of office for his five-year term as UN Secretary-General. Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten.

April 18, 2017 – Antonio Guterres has done little so far to reverse the gender imbalance in terms of senior posts held by women in the United Nations.

The UN’s senior management group, which essentially acts as Guterres’ cabinet, consists of 42 high-level appointments, and of the 42, just 13, or less than 30 percent, are held by women, much the same as it was under Ban Ki-moon.

Immediately after his election as the ninth UN secretary-general, Guterres spoke of his commitment to a UN where 50 percent of senior posts would be held by women, which was also the goal of his predecessor, Ban Ki-moon.

His first appointments were encouraging in this regard, appointing Nigeria’s Amina Mohammed as his deputy and Brazil’s Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as his chef-de-cabinet.

Since then however, two of the top posts held by women, executive-director of the World Food Program and administrator of the UN Development Program have been given to men with David Beasley replacing Etharin Cousin as head of WFP, and Achim Steiner replacing Helen Clark as head of UNDP.

Guterres has to be mindful of the gender imbalance in the UN system given the widespread expectation that Ban would be succeeded by a female leader, which would have been the world body’s first ever.

But it seems as if it’s business as usual so far under Guterrres, with the permanent five members ruling the roost. Another Frenchman, Jean-Pierre Lacroix was appointed as head of peacekeeping while the other crucial and high visibility posts, such as heads of OCHA, UNICEF, Political Affairs – currently all held by men, will likely be divvied up among the P5.

It’s early days in Guterres’ reign and it has to be acknowledged that he is bound by the wishes of the P5, but advocates are closely watching his appointments with the expectation that he will hold firm on his promise made after his inauguration.

“In the appointments I’ll be making – and the first ones will be announced soon – you will see that gender parity will become a clear priority from top to bottom in the UN,” Guterres told journalists after the ceremony.

His first 100 days in office have passed and besides the the two early appointments, Guterres has so far failed to live up to his promise.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Women Still a Minority in Ban Ki-Moon’s Cabinet

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December 3, 2015 –  The announcement this week that Ban Ki-moon was replacing his chief of staff, Susana Malcora, with longtime UN diplomat Edmund Mulet put the spotlight on gender balance in Ban’s senior management group, which essentially acts as his cabinet.

Susana Malcora and her successor Edmund Mulet

Susana Malcora and her successor Edmund Mulet

With Malcora’s resignation – she was named foreign minister in the new Argentine government – the number of women in Ban’s 39-person senior management group is now down to twelve, less than 30 percent and far below the desired 50 percent which the UN chief himself has said is the goal.

Ban appointed Stephen O'Brien (r) to replace Valerie Amos as UN aid coordinator.

Ban appointed Stephen O’Brien (r) to replace Valerie Amos as UN aid coordinator.

Malcora is the most recent high-ranking female UN official to be replaced by a male counterpart. Earlier this year, Valerie Amos, the top UN humanitarian official and the first woman to hold the post, was replaced by Stephen O’Brien, also a UK native. Late last year, Navi Pillay, the South African judge who served as high commissioner for human rights, was replaced by Jordan’s Prince Zeid Hussein.

Navi Pillay (l) who was replaced as high commissioner for human rights by Zeid Husien

Navi Pillay (l) who was replaced as high commissioner for human rights by Zeid Husien

There are others. Angela Kane, a German who held the post of high representative for disarmament, was replaced by Ban’s fellow South Korean, Kim Won Soo. And after Ban’s reelection as secretary-general in 2012, he replaced his deputy secretary-general, Tanzania’s Asha Rose Migiro, with Sweden’s Jan Eliasson.

Angela Kane and her successor as high representative for disarmament, Ban's fellow South Korean, Kim Won Soo

Angela Kane and her successor as high representative for disarmament, Ban’s fellow South Korean, Kim Won Soo

When making these appointments, Ban has to juggle finding the best person for the post as well as keeping member states and regional groups content, as well as – and more importantly – getting the tacit approval of the P5 countries, who essentially get to veto Ban’s appointments. While it’s no easy task, it’s disappointing that a trend has emerged where the UN chief is appointing men to fill senior posts previously held by women.

Asha Rose Migiro and the man Ban Ki-moon appinted as her successor, Jan Eliasson

Asha Rose Migiro and the man Ban Ki-moon appointed as her successor, Jan Eliasson

Ban recently appointed Italian Filippo Grandi to the post of high commissioner for refugees, selecting him from a shortlist dominated by women. It’s widely accepted that Grandi had the most refugee experience but Ban could have another chance to appoint a woman to a key post if and when the current head of peacekeeping, France’s Herve Ladsous, resigns. Appointing a woman to this post would go a long way toward backing up Ban’s public statements on gender equality with real action.

– Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

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