Worldwide | The Secretary-General
One year ago this week, I launched my system-wide Gender Parity Strategy. Parity across our Organization is a commitment I made during my oath speech, and one which I have given urgent priority to since. In the past year we have made real gains. We now have parity in my Senior Management Group, as well as among Resident Coordinators. In our peace operations, we have the highest numbers of female heads and deputy heads of missions in the history of the UN. Similarly, I have appointed three female special envoys in past months – this is almost the equivalent of the total number of female special envoys we have had in the past 70 years. These numbers are not yet at parity, however they are a significant gain from where we were just one year ago, and they place us well ahead of our timetable to reach parity at the most senior levels by 2021.
These numbers do not tell the full story however. Among these appointments was the first female head of Political Affairs. In the field, a number of the women appointed Resident Coordinator and heads/ deputy heads of mission are serving in some of our most challenging contexts, whether it be crisis contexts, or contexts that are challenging because of the traditional views of women in these countries. It is precisely here where the UN must model the universal values of equality.
Let me be clear, this is not an exercise in numbers for numbers’ sake. This is imperative and foundational to our overall reforms and our efforts to transform this institution into a body that can effectively meet the global challenges of our day. Our global framework on sustainable development speaks to the need for more inclusive societies. We cannot lead implementation of this framework if we ourselves cannot model inclusion. This is particularly important in the field, where our missions are our most visible interface with communities. In meeting with female SRSGs and DSRSGs earlier this year, I was struck by the issues raised and the different style of leadership. It was clear that diversity gives us greater access to communities, diverse ways of building relationships with key stakeholders. This is not about better styles of leadership, but simply that diversity is a strength, particularly for the UN.
Beyond the gains made in the past year at the senior most levels, significant milestones have also been reached in policy and implementation. One hundred percent of Secretariat entities have submitted implementation plans for the gender parity strategy, as well as approximately three-quarters of entities outside the Secretariat. This means that each entity has taken the strategy as a guide, and provided a plan for its full implementation within their own context. Political compacts with my senior leadership now include agreed targets, and new policies are removing barriers to the immediate employment of UNVs and entrenching the ability of staff to apply for any job for which they have the years of experience. Flexible work arrangements are being codified; enabling work environment guidelines will shortly be released; and special measures are being strengthened. DPKO has also developed a dedicated strategy to address the numbers of female uniformed personnel. All of these were recommendations of the Gender Parity Strategy that have been moved forward in just the past 12 months. Lastly, at headquarters in the Secretariat we have seen a slow and steady change on gender parity over the past year at all levels, placing us on track to meet our goals within the time frames of the strategy.
Where I remain concerned however is with implementation in the field, specifically in crisis contexts and in our peace operations missions. Here, numbers have stagnated and projections suggest that they will stagnate further or even regress in the years to come if we do not take urgent actions. We know the challenges, and I’m happy to be working with my team on a set of immediate measures that will open up more possibilities to women who want to serve in these challenging but rewarding environments.
We must be clear that these efforts are not about shifting the rules of our Organization to accommodate half our population. It is in fact about changing the rules so that they no longer only suit half our staff. We need to access the talent, expertise, and merit of all our staff, and ultimately shift the gendered power imbalances which hamper our capacity and that create an environment for potential sexual harassment, exploitation and abuse. This is why these three issues together – achieving gender parity, preventing sexual harassment, and preventing sexual exploitation and abuse, are so critical to my overall reforms.