Quest for Gender Parity at the UN

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Quest for Gender Parity at the UN

The United Nations (UN) has long been an advocate of women’s equality.

Article 8 of the UN Charter states that “The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs.”

Seventy years after its establishment, the UN has yet to achieve gender parity within its own organization.

In the blog post entitled “Gender Equality At The UN: The Final Push?” published in the The Huffington Post, Michael Møller, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, wrote, “In 2013, of the 32,000 staff employed by the UN in professional categories worldwide, 41.6% were women.”

The Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva added that only 30% of Directors at the UN are women, while women represent only slightly more than a quarter of all top executives.

Official UN documents showed that between 1 January and 10 December 2015, out of the 22 appointed UN undersecretaries-general, only two were women.

According to Karin Landgren, a non-resident visiting fellow at the Center on International Cooperation, out of the six female UN undersecretaries-general who retired in 2015, all were replaced by men.

While far from parity, women’s role especially in the peacekeeping aspect has improved. Women lead five out of the 16 UN peacekeeping missions. The organization, though, has never appointed a woman as a chief mediator.

Search for the First Woman UN Secretary-General
Most importantly, in its 70-year existence, the UN has never elected a woman Secretary-General, the highest position of the organization.

Many are hoping that Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s replacement, when he steps down by the end of this year, will be a woman.

Out of the 10 official candidates for the Secretary-General position, half are women. These five women leaders are vying for the UN Secretary-General position:
1. Irina Bokova
Bokova has been the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) since 2009. She was a member of the Bulgarian Parliament and Ambassador of Bulgaria to France and Monaco.

2. Helen Clark
Clark has served as Prime Minister of New Zealand. She also served as the Administrator of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).

3. Christiana Figueres
From 2010 to 2016, Figueres worked as the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

4. Natalia Gherman
Gherman has served as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Moldova. In 2015, she was the Acting Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova.

5. Susana Malcorra
Malcorra is the current Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina. She previously worked as Chef de Cabinet to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

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