15 MARCH 2010


This year's celebration of International Women's Day on 8 March could have been an opportunity for the Secretary General to display action taken to appoint more women in decision-making positions.

Actually, Mr. Ban has done very well, comparatively speaking. In addition to his Deputy, he appointed women as Under-Secretary General for Management, Administrator and Deputy Administrator for UNDP, a woman Special Representative in Chad, and several other new postings in addition to the sterling work of his Gender Equality Chief, the experienced Rachel Mayanja. There is also an imminent appointment of a prominent woman to mobilize support for the 1995 unimplemented Plan of Action. Regardless of frustrations and delinquent political will by leading member states, the Beijing Declaration remains the most comprehensive global policy framework to achieve the stated goals of gender equality, development and peace.

However, the Day passed almost unnoticed. There was a brief "seminar" of sorts, an opening session where the Secretary General and other officials spoke, followed by an "inter-active discussion." That was it. Compared to earlier times when all senior U.N. officials, led by U.N. female pillars, joined together to make a memorable event, this year looked particularly shabby. Perhaps it's the dispersal out of the building, or a demoralized spirit. For sure, wider action was needed, at least to indicate that the Secretariat was doing its best. Shortcomings are the responsibility of member states that do not even see fit to appoint a greater number of women as Permanent Representatives to the U.N.

To be sure, there were a few women milling around conference rooms in the old basement and the new compound. But no special thrust to show that there was a special, really special day. A great pity.