United Nations


Commission on the Status of Women

26 February 1997

Forty-first session
10-21 March 1997
Item 3 (a) of the provisional


           Improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat

                   Report of the Secretary-General

        CONTENTS                         Paragraphs    Page

.........................................  1 - 5         3

      I.             STATISTICAL UPDATE.   6 - 9         4

     II.             RECENT DEVELOPMENTS...10 - 25       9

         A.Strategic plan of action for 
           the improvement of the status of 
           women in the Secretariat 
           (1995-2000)....................  10 -15       9

         B. Issuance and review of
            the special measures for 
            the achievement of gender
            equality ......................16 -19        10

          C. Information-sharing ..........20 - 21       10
          D. Staff development and
             training ...................  22 - 26       11

CONCLUSION...............................   27           12


DAM        Department of Administration and Management
DDSMS      Department for Development Support and Management 
DESIPA     Department for Economic and Social Information and
           Policy Analysis
DHA        Department of Humanitarian
DPA        Department of Political Affairs
DPCSD      Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable
DPI        Department of Public Information
DPKO       Department of Peacekeeping Operations
DPKO/FALD  Field Administration and Logistics Division
ECA        Economic Commission for Africa
ECE        Economic Commission for Europe
ECLAC      Economic Commission for Latin America and the
ESCAP      Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the
ESCWA      Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia
IDCP       United Nations International Drug Control Programme
INTORG     Interorganization bodies such as JIU, ISCC, CCAQ and 
OCSS       Office of Conference and Support Services
OHRM       Office of Human Resources Management
OIOS       Office of Internal Oversight Services
OLA        Office of Legal Affairs
OPPBA      Office of Programme Planning, Budget and Accounts
REGCOM     Regional Commissions 
SG         Executive Office of the Secretary-General
UNCC       United Nations Compensation Commission
UNCHS      United Nations Centre for Human Settlements
UNCTAD     United Nations Conference on Trade and Development
UNEP       United Nations Environment Programme
UNHCR      Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for
UNJSPF     United Nations Joint Staff Pension Fund
UNOG       United Nations Office at Geneva
UNON       United Nations Office at Nairobi
UNOV       United Nations Office at Vienna
UNSCOM     United Nations Special Commission


1.    In its resolution 51/67 of 12 December 1996, the
General Assembly requested that an update on the status of women
in the Secretariat be submitted to the Commission on the Status
of Women at its forty-first session.

2.     By the same resolution, the General Assembly welcomed the
achievement of the goal of a 35 per cent overall participation
rate of women in posts subject to geographical distribution, as
called for in its resolution 45/125 of 14 December 1990.  It
reaffirmed the goal of 50/50 gender distribution by the year
2000 and expressed concern that the goal might not be met,
especially at policy-making and decision-making levels.  The
General Assembly called upon the Secretary-General to ensure
full and urgent implementation of the strategic plan of action
for the improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat
(1995-2000) 1/ in order to achieve overall gender equality,
particularly at the Professional level and above, by the year
2000.  Further, it requested the Secretary-General to continue
his work to create a gender-sensitive work environment and to
enable the Focal Point for Women in the Secretariat effectively
to monitor and facilitate progress in the implementation of the
strategic plan.  It also urged the Secretary-General to
increase the number of women employed in the Secretariat from
developing countries and from countries that have a low
representation of women.

3.    The Secretary-General, since assuming office on 1 January
1997, has clearly stated his commitment to the mainstreaming of
a gender perspective in all policies and programmes of the
United Nations system.  The achievement of the goals set for
gender distribution and the creation of a gender-sensitive work
environment in the Secretariat form an integral part of this
commitment.  The accountability of senior managers in this
regard will be pursued vigorously.

4.    As his first step towards fulfilling this commitment, the
Secretary-General has appointed, as part of his Cabinet, a
Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women,
at the level of Assistant Secretary-General.  In this capacity,
the Special Adviser reports directly to the Secretary-General
and assists him, in particular, in ensuring the system-wide
coordination of policy for implementing the Beijing Platform
for Action,2/ and for mainstreaming a gender perspective in all
activities of the United Nations system.  The Special Adviser
has been designated Chairperson of the Inter-agency Committee
on Women and Gender Equality.  The Focal Point for Women in the
Secretariat, which is currently located in the Office of Human
Resources Management, will be transferred with the current
resources to the Office of the Special Adviser and will
function as part of that Office.  Efforts will continue to
strengthen the function, in line with General Assembly
resolution 51/67.  The Special Adviser continues to head the
Division for the Advancement of Women.

5.    Because of the short interval between the end of the
regular session of the General Assembly and the opening of the
Commission on the Status of Women, the present report focuses
on relevant developments in statistical data and changes in the
June 1996 figures cited in the report of the Secretary-General
on the improvement of the status of women in the Secretariat,
submitted to the General Assembly at its fifty-first session
(A/51/304).  The present report should be read in conjunction
with the earlier report, which is before the Commission for


6.         In table 1 of his report to the Assembly at its fifty-
first session (A/51/304), the Secretary-General indicated the
level of representation of women by department or office in the
global Secretariat.  Tables 1 and 2 below update those data as
of 31 December 1996.  The General Assembly's mandated goal of
achieving 35 per cent representation of women by the year 1995
has finally been achieved in 17 offices and departments out of
33.  In fact, in five departments and offices the goal of 50/50
overall has been achieved.  The overall level of representation
within the global Secretariat rose by 0.9 per cent, to reach
35.5 per cent at the end of 1996 (see table 1).  However, the
matching goal of 25 per cent women in posts at the decision-
making level has not been reached.  As of 31 December 1996,
18.5 per cent of posts at the D-1 level and above were
encumbered by women, an increase of 1.6 per cent in women's
representation since last year.  Ten departments and offices
have, in fact, achieved 25 per cent women in senior-level
positions (see table 2).

7.         It should be noted that the tables do not reflect the
appointment by the Secretary-General, on 27 January, of two
women at the level of Assistant Secretary-General - on Gender
Issues and the Advancement of Women, and for External
Relations, respectively.  Although the goal of 25 per cent
representation of women at this level remains far from being
achieved, these new appointments bring the number of women in
high-level posts to three.

8.         The year 1996 proved to be very difficult for
improving the status of women in the United Nations Secretariat
due to the recruitment freeze, ongoing restructuring,
retrenchment and early separation programmes.  In spite of this,
the percentage of women in posts subject to geographical
distribution made the slight gain mentioned above.  The
statistics in table 3 below attest to the efforts the
Organization has undertaken to reach the General Assembly
mandates on gender goals.  Table 4 indicates the number of senior
decision-making staff promoted and recruited during 1996.

9.         The Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) and
Focal Point for Women in the Secretariat have continued to be
vigilant in ensuring that the opportunities to improve the
representation of women in the global Secretariat are not
diminished and that the gains achieved in the past few years
are not lost during the time of retrenchment.  OHRM, in
cooperation with the appointment and promotion bodies, and the
Steering Committee for the Improvement of the Status of Women
in the Secretariat, continue to make every effort to ensure
that women are not disproportionately affected at a time when
the Organization is undergoing major changes.

NOTE: Tables are not available on electronic format.

Table 1.  Gender distribution of staff in the United
          Nations Secretariat by department or office
          and by grade:  Professional and higher-level
          staff in posts subject to geographical
          distribution, as of 31 December 1996

Table 2.  Gender distribution of staff in the United Nations
          Secretariat by department or office and
          by grade: D-1 and higher-level staff in 
          posts subject to geographical distribution, as of 31
          December 1996

Table 3.  Personnel actions, by case subject, level (D-1 to
          P-1/2) and gender, for the period 1 January 1996
          to 31 December 1996


       A.  Strategic plan of action for the improvement of  the
           status of women in the Secretariat (1995-2000)

10.        The primary goal of the Secretary-General continues to
be achievement of the overall target of 50/50 gender balance in
professional posts subject to geographical distribution by the
year 2000.  By June 1996, the Secretariat had met its target of
placing women in 35 per cent of the posts subject to
geographical distribution.

11.        The Organization, however, still needs to address a
number of long-standing obstacles to the improvement of the
status of women in the Secretariat if it is to meet the 50/50
target.  It needs to continue to develop a management environment
and culture that is supportive of having staff members contribute
to their maximum potential, as outlined in the Secretary-
General's report (A/51/304).

12.        As part of the effort to create a gender-sensitive
environment, attention must be paid to realities which affect
both sexes in relation to family, work and life issues,
including child-care and elder-care.  Downsizing and current
economic uncertainty are making it more difficult for employees
to take advantage of flexible work arrangements and family-
friendly policies.  Balancing work and family will become more
of an issue as demands in both domains increase.

13.        OHRM's Work/Life Task Force is currently examining the
development of different policies, priorities and programmes,
including, for instance, an employee assistance programme to
help staff cope with work and non-work issues.

14.        A secure and gender-balanced work environment requires
specific measures of accountability and responsibility to
ensure effective management of human and other resources
entrusted to managers' care.  The Performance Appraisal System
has been an important initiative in that regard.  The system
includes gender sensitivity as a mandatory performance
dimension to be taken into account in the appraisal of all
staff members having supervisory and managerial
responsibilities.  It is, of course, too early to assess its
impact, since the first performance cycle is only now ending.

15.        The Office of Human Resources Management, under the
mandate of the JAC Task Force on Harassment, including Sexual
Harassment, in the United Nations Work Place has prepared a
questionnaire on harassment, including sexual harassment, in
the work place.  The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF),
the United Nations Development Programme and the United Nations
Population Fund (UNDP/UNFPA), and the United Nations Office for
Project Services (UNOPS) released the questionnaire in late
1996.  The global Secretariat, including peacekeeping and other
field missions have joined forces with the Office of the United
Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to circulate the
questionnaire in March 1997.  The objective of the
questionnaire is to gauge staff perceptions and understandings,
to be used in future development of policies, complaint
procedures and training programmes.  It is expected that the
analyses of questionnaire data, together with recommendations
for appropriate action, will be presented by the summer of

       B.  Issuance and review of the special measures for the
           achievement of gender equality

16.        More than a year has now passed since the special
measures for the achievement of gender equality were issued in a
consolidated form (ST/AI/412, 5 January 1996).  The Secretary-
General intends to hold managers of departments accountable for
compliance with the measures within departments and offices.

17.        Compliance with the special measures has been closely
monitored by the Steering Committee on the Improvement of the
Status of Women in the Secretariat, the Focal Point for Women
in the Secretariat, and, to the extent possible, by the
appointment and promotion bodies.  Some problems have arisen in
the application of some of the provisions, in particular those
pertaining to the eligibility to apply for internal vacancy
announcements at the P-2 and P-3 levels and those pertaining to
external recruitment of women in the light of the current
recruitment freeze.  Based upon observations received, a
decision has been made to review the measures so as to resolve
those and any other problems encountered in the application of
the text.

18.        The Secretariat continues to face obstacles in
appointing or promoting women, particularly to positions at
higher levels. 
Downsizing the Secretariat, including the freezing of posts and
external hiring over the past two years, has undermined the use
of recruitment as an enhancement device.  Moreover,
appointments at the Under-Secretary-General and Assistant
Secretary-General levels have not kept apace with modest
gender-balance improvements at the lower levels of intake. 
Further, staffing capacity to identify qualified senior women
candidates has been lacking.  However, efforts are now in train
to systematize search capability.

19.        The Administrative Tribunal has provided guidance to
the Secretariat in the application of special measures for the
achievement of gender equality.  While, as indicated in
Judgement No. 671, Grinblat (1995), qualified male candidates
cannot be excluded from consideration to available vacancies,
Judgement No. 765, Anderson Bieler (1996), reaffirmed that,
unless affirmative action measures were taken towards
ameliorating the effects of past history, those effects would
be perpetuated for many years.  This would be incompatible with
Article 8 of the Charter, which provides for equal opportunity
in United Nations employment.  The Tribunal also reaffirmed the
legitimacy of affirmative action measures establishing a right
to preferential treatment for women whose qualifications are
substantially equal to the qualifications of competing male
candidates.  Those judgements have helped OHRM obtain better
compliance with the special measures.

C.  Information-sharing

20.        The Focal Point for Women in the Secretariat published
for the first time, in September 1996, a newsletter called
NETWORK which is now issued quarterly and distributed
system-wide, both in printed form and via electronic mail in the
United Nations. 
The newsletter provides a forum for discussion for women and
men on issues of gender and communicates the latest news,
regulations, statistics, post availability, and other
developments to staff of the global Secretariat.  The second
issue was published in January 1997.

21.        The first session of the Inter-agency Committee on
Women and Gender Equality (22-23 October 1996) discussed issues
of gender balance throughout the secretariats of the United
Nations system.  It was agreed that the main responsibility for
personnel-related issues rested with the Consultative Committee
on Administrative Questions (CCAQ) and the International Civil
Service Commission (ICSC).  The Inter-Agency Committee will,
however, support the work of those bodies in order to highlight
the importance it attaches to these issues and to stress the
link between the institutional dimension and the policy and
programme dimensions of gender mainstreaming.

D .  Staff development and training

22.        Since training is a critical factor in promoting
attitudinal change, gender issues are increasingly incorporated
into the Secretariat's programmes of training and staff
development, including the orientation programme for new staff
joining the Secretariat; training in the Performance Appraisal
System; training in collaborative negotiation skills and
conflict resolution; and supervision and management training.

23.        A mandatory programme of people management training is
being implemented top-down.  Over 90 per cent of all staff at
the D-2 and D-1 levels have now participated in the programme,
which has now begun for middle-level managers at the P-5 and P-
4 levels.  In order to improve the gender balance and support
measures to enhance the status of women in the Secretariat,
women at the P-5 level who have managerial responsibilities
were included with the directors in the first phase of the
training.  Gender issues are dealt with in these programmes and
in the follow-up sessions through the use of case-studies that
raise gender issues and encourage their discussion.  In
addition, programmes to promote gender sensitivity in the work
place are being developed.  These programmes should also
contribute to raising awareness of the need to reflect a gender
perspective in all areas of the Organization's work.

24.        Efforts are also being made to ensure that women in
the General Service category have access to a range of
developmental opportunities.  Most of the organization's
programmes of staff development and training are available to
both Professional and General Service staff.  These include
programmes in information technology, language and
communications, collaborative negotiation skills, and United
Nations administration.  A new programme of supervisory skills
training for senior General Service and junior professional
staff with supervisory responsibilities was introduced this
year.  Over 50 per cent of the participants in these
programmes, as well as in programmes for external studies, are

25.        In February 1997, a week-long enhanced orientation
programme was launched for successful candidates from the G-to-
P examination, over 50 per cent of whom have consistently been
women.  The programme is seen as an important building block of
more systematic efforts to provide development opportunities to
staff at all levels.

26.        At the same time, it is recognized that, in addition
to formal training opportunities, it would be beneficial to have
more lateral and interdepartmental transfers and assignments of
senior General Service women to mission replacement posts, in
order to give them on-the-job training in positions of greater


27.        The Charter of the United Nations was the first
universally accepted international agreement to proclaim the
equal rights of men and women.  As the Commission on the Status
of Women commemorates its fiftieth anniversary, it can point to
the Organization's extensive record of creating a historical
legacy of standards and norms and of international strategies,
programmes and goals to advance the status of women worldwide. 
Gender mainstreaming in such substantive areas as economic and
social matters, peace and security, human rights, sustainable
development and humanitarian affairs requires an institutional
culture that is conducive to such mainstreaming.  Consequently,
the status of women in the Secretariat is an essential
indicator for mainstreaming a gender perspective into all
policies and programmes.  While Governments have this
responsibility at the national level, the United Nations
Secretariat and the United Nations system, with the support of
Member States, must be committed to assuming a leadership role
in the achievement of gender balance and of a gender-sensitive
work environment.


           1/ See A/49/587 and Corr.1 and A/50/691.

           2/ See Report of the Fourth World Conference on Women,
Beijing, 4-15 September 1995 (A/CONF.177/20), chap. I,
resolution 1, annex II.



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Date last updated: 06 December 1999 by DESA/DAW
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