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

US, France, UK Tops for UN Secretariat Staff

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Feb. 10, 2015 – Ban Ki-moon’s imminent announcement of a replacement for Valerie Amos as head of OCHA has put UN hiring in the spotlight with the United Nations chief under pressure to make the appointment based on merit.

In reality, the UN Secretariat is a political battleground where, as described in Thant Myint-U and Amy Scott’s definitive The UN Secretariat: A Brief History (1945-2006), “the UN’s member states compete for power and influence and attempt to diminish the power and influence of others.”

The most recent Composition of the Secretariat report illustrates how political power and financial contributions impact hiring with just three of the 193 UN member states – the United States (2,611), France (1,484) and the UK (931) – accounting for almost 15 percent of the 41,426 Secretariat staff .

The Secretariat, which the UN Charter says “shall be comprised of a Secretary-General and such staff as the organization may require” essentially implements the resolutions of the General Assembly and Security Council, including managing peacekeeping operations, and also includes OCHA and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. It does not include specialized agencies such as UNICEF, UNDP and WHO.

Although US nationals contribute the most Secretariat staff, the Composition of the Secretariat report, which covers July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, says that it is under-represented in staff numbers but France and the UK are over-represented.

The US is the largest contributor to the UN’s regular budget, accounting for 22 percent, or $655 million annually, whereas France provides 5.5 percent, $151 million, making it the fourth biggest contributor, while the UK, at 5.1 percent, or $140 million, is fifth.

Japan is the second biggest financial contributor to the regular budget, assessed at 10 percent, or $293 million, yet only 255 Secretariat staff are Japanese. Germany is the third biggest contributor, assessed at 7 percent, $193 million. There are 516 German nationals working for the Secretariat.

China and Russia account for 5 percent and 2.4 percent of the regular budget, contributing $139 million and $66 million respectively, and there are 450 Chinese nationals and 562 Russians working for the Secretariat.

Amos is the first female head of OCHA and Ban is under pressure from civil-society groups to improve the UN’s poor record on appointing women to senior posts. According to the Composition of the Secretariat report, only 19 of the 75 undersecretaries-general and just 16 of the 64 assistant secretaries-general are women.

Related Stories:

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Security Council Inconsistent on Women, Peace & Security

The UN’s Poor Record on Gender Equality

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/UN Photo

Jordan ‘s New UN Ambassador is Sixth Woman on Security Council

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June 9, 2014 – Jordan’s appointment of Amb. Dina Kavar as its UN envoy increases female representation on the Security Council to an unprecedented 40 percent.

All UN regional groups now have female representatives in the 15-nation Council with Jordan joining Argentina, Lithuania, Luxebourg, Nigeria and the US in appointing women to the post.

Kavar is the third female diplomat to currently serve as UN ambassador from the Arab Group along with Oman’s Lyutha Al-Mughairy and Qatar’s Sheikha Alya Bint Ahmed Bin Saif Al Thani.

Kavar, who recently served as Amman’s envoy to Paris, replaces Prince Zeid who stepped down last month and was nominated on Friday to replace Navi Pillay as human rights commissioner.

Some 30 of the UN’s 193 member states are currently represented by women.

Chile’s Ana Figueoa was the first woman to serve on the Security Council in 1952. The United States, the only permanent Council member currently represented by a woman, has appointed four female UN envoys with Samantha Power preceded by Susan Rice (2009-13), Madeline Albright (1993-97) and Jeanne Kirkpatrick (1981-85).

The UN has never had a female secretary-general and after eight successive men at the helm, there is mounting speculation that a woman will succeed Ban Ki-moon in 2016.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

The UN’s Poor Record on Gender Equality

The eight UN secretaries-general.

The eight UN secretaries-general.

March 7, 2014 – The Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) convenes at the UN’s New York headquarters next week for its annual review of progress the world is making toward gender equality and it will do so in a building where few women are appointed to senior positions and among member states who are often indifferent to women’s rights.

Only 19 of the 108 personal and special representatives, envoys and advisors appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are women. There’s also never been a female secretary-general and the heads of peacekeeping and political affairs have always been men.

The Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 1325 in October 2000, the first to address the impact of armed violence on women, called for the participation of women in peace processes, the prevention of violence against women and the protection of women and children during armed conflict. But its application has been uneven, with a greater emphasis on the protection of women and children and far less on its other two pillars.

“Yes, we need to have women protected but just the protection aspect leaves women as victims. Women should be negotiators,” Carolyn Stephenson, Professor of Political Science at the University of Hawaii, told UN Tribune. “The emphasis of the resolution was equal but in terms of success, the success has been more on the protection. Women need to be protected. Then there’s the ‘women and children’ – one word – are to be protected. Well women and children are very different.”

“It is certainly easier to talk about protecting women than advocating for their participation, in peace negotiations, for example. It fits in well with the popular representation of women as a vulnerable group – women can be outsiders whose protection hinges upon the interest, will and resources of the powers-that-be,” said Soumita Basu, Professor of International Relations at the South Asian University in Delhi, India, in an interview with UN Tribune. “It is harder to open up spaces for greater participation of women within the system, or even more radically, talk about conflict prevention in ways that would challenge the status quo-ist nature of politics that sustains the UNSC.”

According to research conducted by UN Women, of 31 major peace processes between 1992 and 2011, only 4 per cent of signatories, 2.4 per cent of chief mediators, 3.7 percent of witnesses and nine percent of negotiators were women.

The theme of this year’s CSW is achievements and challenges of the Millennium Development Goals for women and girls. The challenges outweigh the achievements, according to a draft of the outcome document. One positive is that gender parity has been achieved in primary school education, but women are underrepresented in second and third-level education. It also says there are an unacceptably high number of maternal deaths, that the number of women living with HIV, malaria and other infectious diseases is increasing globally since 2001, and that the target for safe sanitation will not be met, with serious implications for women and girls.

Moreover, it says that “several critical gender equality issues were not covered by the MDGs such as violence against women and girls, women’s disproportionate share of unpaid care work, women’s equal access to assets and productive resources, the gender wage gap, women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights and women’s equal participation at all levels of decision-making.”

These are the shortcomings that UN member states and Ban Ki-moon’s panel advising him on the post-2015 agenda will have to address in devising goals to succeed the MDGs in September 2015. Ultimately, it is the 193 member states that has to approve the post-2015 goals.

“Understandably, much of the UN’s work depends on the contributions of its member states and the lack of political will when it comes to women’s issues is widely recognized,” Soumita Basu says. “In spite of this, the women’s agenda has made many important advances since 1945,” she says, citing Resolution 1325 and the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.

“To move forward with this, it is important that the UN takes more seriously the notion that people are central to its work and that women – in all their diversity – are an integral part of this constituency.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN: Cancer Rates Will Worsen With Poorest Hit Hardest

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Feb. 5, 2014 –  Cancer rates globally are predicted to increase by about 70 percent in the next two decades and lower-income countries will be hit hardest.

Late diagnoses and the high cost of treatment place an undue burden on poorer patients and population growth, ageing and the spread of risk factors such as tobacco use will result in the situation worsening, according to the 2014 World Cancer Report, published by WHO.

“This divide between the experiences of individual cancer patients will only increase,” the report says. “Taken in isolation, this is a dark prediction.”

The report calls for much greater emphasis on cancer prevention as it is “implausible to treat our way out of cancer.” On a positive note, it says that there is enough information available to prevent 50 percent of cancers if prevention strategies are implemented.

It states that the decades-old perception of cancer as a disease of affluence is false as high-risk factors such as tobacco use, obesity, alcohol abuse, less exercise, sun exposure and pollution are not unique to rich countries.

More than 60 percent of cancer cases occur in Africa, Asia, Central and South America and these regions account for 70 percent of cancer deaths.

There were 14 million new cancer cases and 8 million cancer-related deaths in 2012, according to the report.

The five most common cancers for Women are: 1. Breast 25.2%; 2. Colorectum 9.2%; 3. Lung 8.7%; 4. Cervix  7.9%; 5. Stomach 4.8%, and for Men: 1. Lung 16.7%; 2. Prostate 15%; 3. Colorectum 10%; 4. Stomach 8.5%; 5. Liver 7.5%.

Lung, stomach and liver cancer have the highest mortality rates for men. Breast cancer, which has a survival rate of about 65 percent, still accounts for 14.7 percent of cancer deaths in women – because of its high prevalence – followed by lung cancer at 13.2 percent.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Early UNSC Challenge for Newcomers Jordan and Lithuania, a Female Presidency Three-Peat and World Cup Draw Produces Council Battles

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Jordan’s FM Nasser Judeh congratulated following his country’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council. (UN Photo/Amanda Voisard)

Dec. 6, 2013 – Jordan’s election to a two-year term on the Security Council on Friday sees them with less than a month to get ready to assume the council’s presidency on January 1 when the Hashemite Kingdom, filling the spot vacated by Saudi Arabia in October, takes over the alphabetically rotating mantle from current holders France.

Jordan’s UN ambassador, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad, served with the United Nations Protection Force in the former Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s and was also a candidate for secretary-general in 2006.

Lithuania, the first Baltic country to be elected to a non-permanent seat on the 15-nation body, take over the reins on February 1.

The country’s UN ambassador, Raimonda Murmokaite, will preside over the beginning of an unprecedented three-month span when the council will be headed by female ambassadors. Her presidency will be followed by that of Luxembourg’s Sylvie Lucas in March who will be succeeded by Nigeria’s Joy Ugwu in April. Two other current council members are represented by female ambassadors, permanent member United States, represented by Samantha Power, and non-permanent member Argentina, represented by Maria Perceval.

Meanwhile, the 2014 World Cup draw on Friday saw eight current council members, along with the UK’s England, discover their fate in the group stages of the Brazil-hosted finals which begins in June. Non-permanent members Australia and Chile will battle in out in Group B alongside powerhouses Spain and the Netherlands, who contested the 2010 final.

Group F sees fellow non-permanent council members Argentina and Nigeria up against Iran and Bosnia-Herzegovina, the latter are also both on the Security Council’s agenda.

Russia finds itself pitted against another non-permanent member, South Korea in Group H, along with Algeria and Belgium. England face Costa Rica, Italy and Uruguay in Group D, while France are up against Ecuador, Honduras and Switzerland in Group E and Group G sees the US face Germany, Ghana and Portugal.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN Lag on Female Peacekeepers

 June 24, 2013 – Less than four percent of the UN’s 90,551 uniformed peacekeepers deployed in 16 missions throughout the world are women, according to the most recent figures available from the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations.

These numbers came into focus today as the Security Council debated Resolution 1325, passed in 2000 and which calls for women’s full and equal participation in peacemaking and for an end to sexual violence in conflict. According to the resolution, recruiting more female military or police officers is a means of better protecting the safety and rights of women and girls.

In 2009, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon launched a campaign to increase the number of  women peacekeepers to 20 percent in police units by 2014, and to 10 percent in military contingents.

Those targets are nowhere near being met. Women comprise about 10 percent of UN peacekeeping police units (1,251/12,480) and less than 3 percent of the military contingents (2,259/78,091). 

But the UN is hardly to blame for these numbers as it relies on member states to contribute troops for its peacekeeping missions and, globally, women are under-represented in police and army forces.

Just 7 percent of Delhi’s police force are women and 16 percent of the NYPD’s most recent graduating class were women.

On the military side, women make up about 15 percent of active US army service members, while in Norway, which tops many gender equality indexes, only about 10 percent of the country’s military is female. 

– Denis Fitzgerald

(photo: UN Photo/Saw Lwin)       

Mary Robinson’s Appointment Highlights Lack of Women Among UNSG Envoys

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March 19, 2013 – Former Irish President Mary Robinson’s appointment on Monday as Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes Region makes her only the sixth woman to currently hold such a post.

Of the 37 current personal and special representatives, envoys and advisors of Ban, 31 are men.

Non-governmental organizations have been pointing out for years that women are underrepresented in peace negotiations. In fact, no woman has ever been the lead negotiator in UN-sponsored peace talks.

Resolution 1325 passed in 2000 aimed to address that and calls for equal and full participation in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding but progress has been slow because of a long held preference for appointing men to post-conflict roles.

As UN secretary-general in 2001, Kofi Annan had 54 personal envoys, including deputies, but only one was a woman.

That has slowly begun to change under Ban and he appointed Hilde Johsnon from Norway as his special representative to South Sudan, Karin Lundgren of Sweden as his special representative to Liberia and Margaret Vogt of Nigeria as his special representative and head of the integrated peacebuilding office in Central African Republic.

Among deputy personal envoys, he has appointed Finalnd’s Kaarina Immonen to Liberia and Burkina Faso’s Rosine Sori-Coulibal to Burundi.

Mary Robinson will represent Ban as the UN readies a new plan to end conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A full list of Ban Ki-moon’s personal envoys is here.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: Un Photo/Paulo Filgueiras

UN Cancels Gaza Marathon After Hamas Bans Women Competitors

March 5, 2013 – Next month’s Gaza marathon has been canceled after Hamas banned women from participating, the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said Tuesday.

Some 551 local people, including 266 women, as well as 256 international runners, including 119 women, were registered to compete in the race or one of the associated events which included 2km and 10km walks. Gaza children attending UN schools were also set to take part in marathon relay teams.

“UNRWA regrets to announce that it has cancelled the third Gaza marathon which was to be held on 10 April,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. “This follows the decision by the authorities in Gaza not to allow women to participate.”

Last year’s race was won by Nader el Masri, who is from Gaza and participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. He had been helping UNRWA train locals for this year’s event, the agency said.

Hamas, who have ruled Gaza since 2007, previously banned women from riding on the back of motorcycles and banned men from working as hairdressers for women as part of what is called the group’s virtue campaign.

Funds raised from the marathon were to aid a summer program for Gaza’s children. 

The marathon course was planned to start at one end of the approximately 25-mile long Gaza Strip and end at the other.

– Denis Fitzgerald