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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Council to Meet on UNDOF Sept. 18

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Sept. 3 – The Security Council will receive Ban Ki-moon’s latest report on the UNDOF mission in the Golan Heights on Sept. 12 and is set to meet with peacekeeping chief Herve Ladsous over the future of the mission six days later.

Forty-five Fijian UNDOF peacekeepers taken hostage last week by Al Nusra remain in captivity.

Ladsous spoke to reporters at UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday and backed UNDOF force commander Iqbal Singh Singha amid reports that he ordered a Filipino contingent to hand over their weapons to the Al Nusra militants holding the Fijian troops.

He said the Filipino troops were told to “keep their weapons quiet” but not to surrender them.

He added that the Dept. of Peacekeeping Operations is looking at “the way the force is configured.”

The Philippines announced in August that it is withdrawing its troops from UNDOF at the end of September citing security concerns (it is also withdrawing its troops from UNMIL in Liberia over the Ebola outbreak).

Ireland’s Defence Minister Simon Coveney told Morning Ireland on Monday that the Irish government would seek a review of the mission before deciding whether to send new troops when the current contingent end their tour of duty at the end of September.

Ban Ki-moon recommended over a year ago that the force’s self-defense capabilities be enhanced. While the force has received more robust armor, it is understood that both the UN Secretariat and troop contributing countries believe the Security Council has not done enough to ensure UNDOF has the defensive equipment it needs.

Irish troops, along with the Fijian contingent, were deployed after Japanese, Croatian and Austrian troops withdrew last year because of the security situation. Austria had been the longest serving contributor to the mission, having joined UNDOF when it was formed in 1974 to observe the ceasefire agreement between Syria and Israel following the end of the 1973 war.

The Council also increased the size of the force in June last year by about 300 troops. It’s current configuation has over 1,200 troops from six countries.

Ladsous said on Wednesday that in addition to Al Nusrah there are about six or seven other armed opposition groups operating in the area of separation.

In Ban Ki-moon’s report to the Council in June this year, he outlined a number of incidents in which the security of UNDOF troops was threatened. As a result of the security situation, Ban is required to report on UNDOF every three months instead of the usual six.

In his June 2014 report, Ban wrote that armed opposition groups were tailing UNDOF patrols, presumably as protection from Syrian government forces, that two peacekeepers were injured by a tank round on July 7, and that another patrol witnessed members of an armed group walking past its post with a severed head.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz