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