UN Secretary-General: Time to dispense with the smoke and mirrors and appoint a woman Print E-mail
 Gloucestershire -- July 10 2006

Women deserve a shot at UN top spot

The UN should stop stalling and appoint a female Secretary-General, says marisol grandon

Kofi Annan's tenure as UN Secretary-General draws to a close at the end of 2006, and the selection process for his successor is shrouded in secrecy. Candidates are traditionally encouraged to remain unknown to the public until the final selection is made, when the identity of the appointee is revealed - just before he takes office.

I say "he" because, in the UN's 60-year history, no woman has been chosen to serve in the post, despite a wealth of contenders.

While the UN claims to be committed to gender parity in decision-making roles, the record is damning. Only six out of 37 under-secretaries-general are women, even though promises were made more than 10 years ago to address the imbalance by the year 2000.

"Women with the qualifications for the post abound," says Jessica Neuwirth, president of the charity Equality Now, which is campaigning for a female appointment. Louise Arbour (left), the present UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, New Zealand premier Helen Clark, and Michelle Bachelet of Chile are just three women Equality Now believes the Security Council should consider. Each has real political and diplomatic experience and gutsy leadership qualities.

Official response has been neutral so far. "We are looking for the best person capable of meeting the demands of the job, including the ability to lead the reform of the UN," says Sir Emyr Jones Parry, the British UN Ambassador. "If this analysis produces a woman, there we are."

Which is about as encouraging as Kofi Annan's comment in March this year when he uttered the glibly political remark: "The world is ready for a woman Secretary-General."

Having a 60+ female - typically the most invisible group in society - as a leader would send a clear signal to the world that the UN is serious about reform. Now is the time to dispense with the smoke and mirrors and hire a gal.