New York, NY – As Kofi Annan’s term as United Nations Secretary-General ends next year, Equality Now is calling on the Security Council to consider a woman for the top post at the world organization. The international women’s rights group is re-launching its Time for a Woman campaign, first initiated in 1996 prior to Secretary-General Annan’s first term. In the 60 years since the UN was founded, no woman has ever served as its leader despite a wealth of qualified women candidates.
“Tradition has it that the Secretary-General position should rotate to give each geographical region a ‘turn,’” said Jessica Neuwirth, President of Equality Now, “but women, who constitute more than half of the world’s population, have never had a ‘turn.’”
Despite a pledge to reach 50-50 gender parity in the UN system by the year 2000 and annual resolutions calling for greater progress towards this goal, the premier international institution continues to fall short of its long overdue target of equal representation at the top of its leadership. Women constitute only 16% of the Under-Secretaries General who serve in the UN.
Equality Now’s Executive Director Taina Bien-Aimé noted, “Women’s unequal access to positions of decision-making power in the UN and around the world hinders progress toward all the United Nations’ goals, including equality, development and peace.”
The Beijing Platform for Action adopted at the UN Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 calls for the development of “mechanisms to nominate women candidates for appointment to senior posts in the United Nations.” Yet there is no such mechanism, and in fact no transparency in the process of election to the highest post of Secretary-General, making it impossible to know who is under consideration as a candidate and on what basis.
As part of its campaign, Equality Now is putting forth names of highly-qualified women world leaders who could be considered for the position, including current and former Heads of State, Foreign Ministers and UN Under-Secretaries General. The list, which can be found on Equality Now’s website (http://www.equalitynow.org/english/actions/action_1102_en.html) includes former Prime Minister of Norway Gro Harlem Brundtland, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour, and the current Latvian President, Vaira Vike-Freiberga.
“Women candidates for the Secretary-General post should be given full and equal consideration with male candidates,” said Angela King, former Special Advisor to the Secretary-General on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women. “This is surely at the core of the goals of the UN’s Charter to achieve gender equality, fundamental human rights and equal opportunities for both sexes.”
Gloria Steinem, recalling the role of one woman in the founding of the United Nations, said “Without the advocacy of Eleanor Roosevelt and the support and lobbying of women worldwide, the United Nations might not exist. There have always been women who were well-qualified to be Secretary General, yet the standard of representation has been limited to males from various regions. It's high time to look to the female half of the world for the new broom that will clean and lead this international house of all our human hopes."
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Equality Now, November, 2005