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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One Person Killed Every Seven Minutes as Syria Death Toll Nears 200,000

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Aug. 22, 2014 – At least 191,369 people were killed in the Syria conflict from March 2011 to April 2014, according to a new report commissioned by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

That corresponds to about eight people killed every hour for the 1,095 days covered in the report or one person every seven minutes.

The report is the first update from the UN since June last year when it reported that at least 92,901 people had been killed between March 2011 and April 2013. The latest study says that was an undercount and new data has recorded 116,046 deaths in the first two years as a result of the conflict.

The research for the OHCHR was conducted by the Human Rights Data Analysis Group using five sources: 1. the Syrian Government 2. the Syrian Center for Statistics and Research 3. the Syrian Network for Human Rights 4. the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights 5. the Violations Documentation Centre.

“The total 191 369 can be understood as a minimum bound of the number of killings between March 2011 and April 2014,” the report states.

85.1 percent are male victims, 9.3 percent are female victims, and 5.6 percent of records do not indicate the sex of the victim.

“The majority of records (83.8 percent) lack information about the age of victims, which makes it impossible to draw conclusions about the distribution of violence over age categories,” the report says. “Of the records that do include age information, 2,165 indicate victims 0-9 years old, and 6,638 victims 10-18 years old.”

The highest number of documented killings was recorded in the Governorate of Rural Damascus (39,393), next highest was Aleppo (31,932), Homs (28,186), Idlib (20,040), Daraa (18,539) and Hama (14,690).

In a statement accompanying the release of the report, UN human rights commissioner Navi Pillay lambasted the Security Council for its failure to hold accountable the perpetrators.

“The killers, destroyers and torturers in Syria have been empowered and emboldened by the international paralysis,” she said. “There are serious allegations that war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed time and time again with total impunity, yet the Security Council has failed to refer the case of Syria to the International Criminal Court, where it clearly belongs.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Photo/ICRC

Pillay Pitches Stronger Security Council Role for Successor

Special Session Human Rights Council
Aug. 21, 2014, Outgoing UN human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, on Thursday suggested her successor provide informal monthly briefings to the Security Council to avert future crises.

Pillay’s pitch came after she scolded the 15-nation body over its inaction on crises during her tenure such as Syria, Gaza, Sri Lanka and Iraq. “I firmly believe that greater responsiveness by this Council would have saved hundreds of thousands of lives,” she said in her final address to the Council.

The South African jurist was appointed in 2008 for a four-year term but fell foul of the US over her criticism of Israel and was only given a two-year second term.

The Council tends to act when a humanitarian situation arises out of conflict but Pillay stressed that human rights abuses are evident for years, even decades, before a major crisis erupts and the Council must must do more to prevent, rather than react to, conflicts.

Pillay also said Ban Ki-moon can do more in providing early warning to the Council on emerging crises. Ban launched the Rights Up Front plan last year in response to the UN’s “systematic failure” in responding to the final months of the 2009 war in Sri Lanka.  The plan’s aim is to prevent human rights abuses by acting on early warnings of human rights abuses.

“Within Rights Up Front, the Secretary-General can be even more proactive in alerting to potential crises, including situations that are not formally on the Council’s agenda,” she said.

Article 99 of the UN Charter empowers the secretary-general to “bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.”

The human rights chief, who will be succeeded by Jordan’s outgoing UN envoy, Prince Zeid, also suggested the Council build on the new Arms Trade Treaty, “which requires arms exporters and importers to confirm that weapons will not be used to commit violations.”

“Where there are concerns about human rights in States that purchase arms, one condition of sale would be that they accept a small human rights monitoring team, with deployment funded by the Treaty’s Trust Fund,” she said.

The five permanent members of the Security Council are among the six biggest arms sellers in the world.

Prince Zeid assumes the role of high commissioner for human rights on Sept. 1. He has been succeeded as UN envoy by Dina Kavar, who becomes the sixth female ambassador to currently serve on the Council.

- Denis Fitzgerald 
On Twitter @denisfitz

 

Image/UN Photo

Jordan’s Prince Zeid Nominated as Next Human Rights Chief

Jordan addresses the press at Security Council Stakeout
June 6, 2014 – Ban Ki-moon on Friday nominated Jordan’s envoy to the United Nations as successor to Navi Pillay as human rights commissioner.

Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein will become the seventh person to hold the post of high commissioner for human rights pending approval from the UN General Assembly.

Zeid served as political affairs officer with the UN peacekeeping mission in the former Yugoslavia and was a candidate to succeed Kofi Annan as secretary-general in 2006. Jordan is currently a member of the UN Security Council

Navil Pillay’s term will end in September this year. Pillay, a South African lawyer, has held the post since 2008 but fell foul of the United States because of her criticism of Israel and was only approved for a half-term, or two years, when her first four-year term ended in September 2012.

Zeid would become the first Arab to hold the post.

Previous Holders:

Jose Ayala-Lasso (Ecuador) 1994-97
Mary Robinson (Ireland) 1997-2002
Sergio Vieira (Brazil) 2002-03 (killed in Canal Hotel Bombing, Baghdad, Aug. 19, 2003)
Bertrand Ramcharan (Guyana) 2003-04 (Acting)
Louise Arbour (Canada) 2004-08
Navanethem Pillay (South Africa) 2008-

Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Image/UN Photo