UNITED NATIONS, Mar 16 (IPS) – When Secretary-General Antonio Guterres addressed the UN Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) last week, he said the annual meeting took on greater significance at a time when women’s rights are “abused “. , has been threatened and violated all over the world.”
Decades of progress are disappearing before our eyes and gender equality is slipping further away, she told CSW, the main global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to promoting gender equality and empowering women (and which is wrapping up its two-week session in March. on the 17th). And she cited UN Women’s dire prediction that “gender equality is 300 years away”.
Let’s hope that prediction doesn’t apply to the United Nations, which has failed to elect a female Secretary-General for the past 77 years, while cementing male dominance in one of the world’s leading institutions, even as it continues to champion gender empowerment around the world.
Guterres said last December that overall, “we’ve come a long way” and achieved some significant priorities, such as achieving parity within the top leadership group for the first time in UN history two years ago.
“Now this is also true among the chiefs and deputy chiefs of peacekeeping operations. “Five years ago, the share of women in these positions was only 25 percent,” he said.
Parity was achieved in 2018 among the 130 Permanent Coordinators, and women’s representation at headquarters has now reached parity, while the number of UN organizations with at least 50 percent female staff rose from five to 26.
However, the male/female ratio for Secretary General is 9 to zero. And the Presidency of the General Assembly (PGA), the UN’s highest policy-making body, is not far behind, with 73 men and four women.
The upcoming new PGA selection, Denise Francis of Trinidad and Tobago, will bring the total to 74 men and four women. Score another one for the men.
PassBlue said last week that Some diplomats are rightfully angry that this meant that a 74th person would be chosen out of 78 people to fill the position, but they could not organize a challenger to run against him.
“The pressure has at least caused Mr Francis to issue a vision statement, although that is perhaps a generous term for a short policy document of just four paragraphs.”
“We wish Mr. Francis well in this important role, but regret that the process was not strengthened by meaningful competition and a thorough policy platform,” said PassBlue, a widely read independent, women-led nonprofit multimedia news company that. closely addresses US-UN relations, women’s issues, human rights, peacekeeping, and other pressing global issues at play in the world body.
The nine general secretaries so far include Trygve Lie of Norway, 1946-1952; Dag Hammarskjöld from Sweden, 1953-1961. U Thant from Burma (now Myanmar), 1961-1971; Kurt Waldheim from Austria, 1972-1981. Javier Perez de Cuellar from Peru, 1982-1991. Boutros Boutros-Ghali, from Egypt, 1992-1996. Kofi A. Annan, from Ghana, 1997-2006. Ban Ki-moon from the Republic of Korea, 2007-2016. and Antonio Guterres from Portugal in 2017.
Only four women have been elected president: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit of India (1953), Angie Brooks of Liberia (1969), Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa of Bahrain (2006) and Maria Fernando Espinosa Garces of Ecuador (2018).
But the blame for these anomalies should not lie with successive secretaries-general, but with the 193 UN member states, which rush to adopt numerous resolutions on gender empowerment, but fail to implement them at the highest levels of the UN totem pole. pole
Ben Donaldson, speaking on behalf of Blue Smoke, which is described as “a new initiative that shines a light on UN appointment processes”, said IPS’s progress on gender equality at the UN.
“Gains have been made in SG’s senior leadership team, but this is not the full story. There is no escaping the fact that an unbroken chain of nine male leaders will lead the organization for 80 years until the next General Assembly is elected, and only two of the last 50 General Assembly presidents have been women.”
And like Guterres’ reappointment, the next male PGA candidate has a blank slate in front of him, unchallenged by any candidate, female or otherwise, he pointed out.
In both cases, he argued, states failed to field female candidates despite an abundance of highly qualified women.
“Sexism still permeates the international system, which fights against women from early careers, creating our current predicament. Only 25% of UN ambassadors are women, and equality remains elusive in field operations, peacekeeping and global health leadership despite 70. A percentage of health and social care workers are women,” Donaldson said.
“The most frustrating thing about the UN for those of us trying to understand this issue is the lack of transparency.”
“It is still impossible to get a gender balance reading of, for example, all D1 and D2 positions in the UN system, or for that matter a geographic breakdown. That’s why we launched Blue Smoke, a monthly email newsletter.
Chief Program Officer of CIVICUS Mandeep S. Tiwana told IPS that the gender imbalance in the elections and appointments of the UN Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly “is a symptom of a larger malaise in our societies”.
“States, in particular, need to make progress on diversity, equity and inclusion, but are often seen lagging behind non-governmental actors,” he noted.
Meanwhile, referring to Guterres’ statement on gender equality, one of the questions asked at a March 6 UN press briefing was whether the Secretary-General would “consider making some grand gesture to emphasize his point by stepping aside and giving his job. woman”.
Responding to a question, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said “a waiver is not something the Secretary-General is considering doing in any way, shape or form.”
“He will continue and I think he has demonstrated demonstrable results in improving and achieving gender equality in the high office he has been appointed to, hasn’t he? Because he has no power over the entire administration.”
But she is developing a strategy to achieve gender equality at professional levels to ensure fairer and clearer representation.
“And I think what he has done in terms of appointments has been done very quickly by UN standards. I think within two years he has reached parity, including the permanent coordinators in place. And it is a policy that he will continue with great enthusiasm,” said Dujarik.
Under the Guterres administration, gender competence is increasing at senior staff levels, in UN agencies and in peacekeeping and field operations around the world.
Mathu Joyini, president of CSW South Africa, said that “gender discrimination is a systemic problem that is woven into the fabric of our political, social and economic life, and the technology sector is no different.”
While digital technologies are enabling unprecedented progress in improving social and economic outcomes for women and girls, new challenges may perpetuate existing patterns of gender inequality.
She called for more opportunities for women leaders and innovators, and more accessible funding for the public and private sectors to enable the full participation of women and girls in the tech ecosystem.
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