Thursday, July 29, 2010

UN Women – A Callipygian Leadership Quest

On July 2, 2010 the 104th meeting of the 64th General Assembly of the UN voted unanimously to adopt a Resolution on System-Wide Coherence within the UN (UN Doc. A/64/L.56). Contained within this Resolution was the decision to establish a new ‘composite entity’ in the UN – to be called UN Women – by consolidating and transferring to the new entity the existing mandates and functions of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, and the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Secretariat, as well as those of the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the International Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women.

UN Women in an early mission statement have declared:

Grounded in the vision of equality enshrined in the UN Charter, UN Women will work for the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women and girls, the empowerment of women, and the achievement of equality between women and men as partners and beneficiaries of development, human rights, humanitarian action and peace and security.

As a gynaecologist and as a male I have to be a little careful as to how I address some of the issues that are already being aired concerning the most recent and very significant evolution of the United Nations.

The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the decision as ‘historic’, and declared: ‘It will now be much more difficult for the world to ignore the challenges facing women and girls — or to fail to take the necessary action’

And it is historic, from both a legal and a financial perspective, as the new entity has been granted normative powers (the power to establish rules and regulations that automatically become part of international human rights and humanitarian law) and a budget of about $500million.

As an entity therefore with a very specific ‘genderised’ mandate, even if the impact of the ‘new entity’ for the impoverished Third World woman, the marginalized political woman in traditional societies, the woman victim of war, violence, sex-trafficing etc has yet to be felt on the ground, the western media has already sensed the new power that it gives to the UN female diplomat.

The picture below is from a recent Marie Claire article: 

"The Diplomatic Woman"
All-female ambassadors stage a march of progress past portraits of former Secretary-Generals; 
including a partially obscured U Thant and Kurt Waldheim." 

"Far Left: Jacket, $990, pants, $625, Y and Kei; pumps, $895, bag, $2495, Michael Kors; earrings, $1010, Tenthousandthings; ring, $3740, Kara Ross. Center left: Jacket, $1920, skirt, $875, Peter Som; shoes, price upon request, Dior by John Galliano; earrings, $4180, Kara Ross. Center right: Jacket, $4260, skirt, $720, Dior by John Galliano; shoes, $495, Giuseppe Zanotti Design; earrings, $465, NAG. Right: Dress, $395, Tory Burch; shoes, $645, Sergio Rossi."

The leadership of UN Women, as a position, has therefore the significant potential to exercise very serious political clout, an empowerment enshrined in Resolution A/64/L.56, which determined that the new Under-Secretary-General/head of UN Women shall report (directly) to the Secretary-General and shall be a full member of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination. The Secretary-General is mandated to have the person appointed by the opening of the 65th session of the General Assembly on September 14, 2010 at 3pm.

The Callipygian Venus (Louvre)
CallipygianFunction: adjective 
Etymology: Greek kallipygos, from kalli- + pygē buttocks : having shapely buttocks

This is a 'seat' at the big table! And already it is quite apparent that the ‘beauty’ contest bickering has begun over the choosing of a Under-Secretary-General (or even Ovary-Secretary-General!!) to head up the 'entity'.

In an interview on Voice of America Paula Donovan, co-director of AIDS-FREE World and former regional AIDS advisor for UNICEF, said she was concerned about the selection process. She stated that the UN Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon and others had promised the selected process would be fair, open and transparent. 


Donovan continued,

'They’ve now changed that to open, rigorous and transparent. 
 And somehow fairness has slipped off of the agenda.’

Donovan said that many qualified women (and from reading various articles I suspect that it is very unlikely that a ‘man’ will be chosen for the position!) might be passed over for consideration and that women outside of the U.N. structure or not a favored choice of a head of state ‘have absolutely no information about how they can apply, what the qualifications are. And I haven’t seen anything that resembles fairness or openness and certainly not transparency.’

Ouch. Let the games begin.

No comments: