Greater efforts needed to achieve gender balance within UN system – Migiro

Asha-Rose Migiro

14 November 2007 – Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro today called for greater efforts to achieve gender balance within the United Nations system, stating that statistics show an “unacceptable” lack of progress in this area despite the measures taken so far.

While the UN has proclaimed the equal rights of men and women, and the General Assembly has called for 50-50 gender balance in the world body’s staff in numerous resolutions over the years, gender parity has yet to become a reality.

“Our own statistics showed an unacceptable lack of progress in achieving gender balance among United Nations staff,” Ms. Migiro said in a message to the expert group meeting on measures to accelerate the improvement in the status of women in the UN system.

She noted that, for the past eight years, the share of female Secretariat staff in professional and higher categories increased by an average of only 0.35 per cent per year. Between 2004 and 2006, the proportion of women in most professional grades actually decreased.

Also during the same period, there was close to a 20 per cent rise in the proportion of women leaving the Organization voluntarily before retirement age.

“Simple projections show that at the current glacial pace, we would achieve gender balance at the USG [Under-Secretary-General] level in 2080, and, even more alarmingly, at the P-5 level in 2120.”

In addition, if UN managers today were judged on their performance on gender, “few of them would get a passing grade.”

She stressed the need for managers at all levels to be bold and creative in their efforts to reach gender parity throughout the UN system, including in recruiting and retaining qualified women.

Ms. Migiro also suggested exploring the kind of temporary special measures that have been used by some Member States to reach legislated gender targets. “It is my firm conviction that without temporary special measures, tradition, whatever its manifestation, cannot be overcome,” she stated.

Another area that the Deputy Secretary-General feels requires greater efforts within the Organization is regarding rule of law. “Despite our strengths, we have struggled to ensure strategic coherence and coordination in our engagement in rule of law,” Ms. Migiro told a round-table discussion on cooperation between the UN and rule of law assistance providers, held yesterday.

To address that issue, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has established the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group, which Ms. Migiro chairs, and the Rule of Law Unit. The Unit supports the Group in system-wide coordination, guidance and development of best practices, and fostering effective partnerships with external actors.

“With these new arrangements, we have set firmly down a path towards shared strategic and policy direction, coordination and quality-control,” she said, stressing that for the UN, the rule of law is fundamental to achieving long-lasting peace and security, effective protection of human rights, economic progress and sustainable development.

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