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Key policies and acts related to Gender Balance

 ► 2012

 The Secretary-General reinforces his commitment to gender balance across the Organization 7 March 2012. A letter from the Secretary-General in late 2011requested Head of Departments and Office and Missions to take action to accelerate progress towards gender parity through specific actions. A letter to staff on iseek from the Secretary-General on 7 March 2012 reiterated his commitment to organizational gender parity and stressed the importance of leading by example. He further states the importance of creating work place that is characterized by a culture of respect for all, including zero tolerance of abuse, harassment and sexual harassment.

 ► 2011

 Effective January 1, 2011 - Resolution 64/289 decides that the mandate and functions of the Entity (UN Women) shall consist of the consolidated mandates and functions of the Office of the Special Adviser on Gender issues and Advancement of Women, the Division for the Advancement of Women, the United Nations Development Fund for Women and the Unternational Research and Training Institute for the Advancement of Women, with the additional role of leading, coordinating and promoting the accountability of the United Nations system in its work on gender equality on the empowerment of women.






Produced every two years these reports analyze and report on trends and statistics in the representation of women, challenges faced, recommendations and good practices in the UN System.

A Gender Balance Strategy and Action Plan for the United Nations Secretariat prepared by the Office of the Focal Point for Women in consultation with the Office of Human Resources is endorsed by the Change Management Steering Committee led by the Deputy Secretary-General.

The Staff Selection System stipulates inter alia that for job openings at the P-4 to D-2 levels, the list of qualified and suitable candidates must normally include at least one qualified female.

  •  International Women’s Day Panel Discussion:

Beijing + 15 The  Representation of Women:  A Fifteen Year Retrospect and Hopes for the Future







These are updated periodically and posted on the Focal Point website.

  • Flexible Work Arrangements Awareness and Outreach Strategy

The Flexible Work Arrangements Awareness and Outreach Strategy is endorsed by the Change Management Committee to increase the utilization of flexible arrangements in the workplace and the Deputy Secretary General writes to all heads of department and offices drawing their attention to the need to incorporate FWA in their departments in view of its well documented benefits.


A survey sent to all secretariat staff (approximately 16,000) is undertaken by the Office of the Focal Point for Women. It reveals that staff is strongly in favour of enhanced implementation and that both managers and staff alike with implementation experience believe that use of FWA has a significant and positive impact on staff productivity, job satisfaction, motivation, and organizational commitment.







An new administrative issuance on the Terms of Reference of Departmental Focal Points strengthens their functions with the aim of increasing their access and participation in department based processes of relevance to gender representation and positive work environment in the Secretariat.

The Office of the Focal Point for Women is incorporated as one of the channels for grievance redress in the context of discrimination, harassment and abuse of authority.

A letter from the Secretary-General requests Head of Departments and Office to take all possible steps to accelerate progress towards gender balance through specific actions.  A similar letter is sent to staff. The letter of the SG constitutes powerful advocacy from the highest level to set the tone from the top and increase impact.


  • Global Diversity and Gender Equality Symposium



  • International Women’s Day Panel Discussion:  Investing in Women:  What is being done






Distinguished international experts including from academia and the private sector make recommendations to improve the status of women for the UN. It lays the foundation for the gender strategy and action plan on gender balance developed and endorsed two years later.


  • International Women’s Day Panel Discussion:  Breaking Barriers:  Achieving Balance in Numbers and Work-Life





Staff Selection System stipulates inter alia that when a qualified female candidate is successfully placed on a short list of candidates approved for selection against a given post, AND where an imbalance in the representation of women exists at that level in the department, the Head of the Office of Human Resources must grant special permission for the selection of a male candidate from that short list.; The administrative issuance also extends time that women remain on roster of candidates pre-approved for similar functions to three years, increasing their probability for selection for similar posts without the need to then re-interview for posts of similar function and level.




Family Leave:
Under the uncertified sick leave entitlement, uncertified sick leave may be used for family purposes.
Under the Adoption leave, special leave shall be for a continuous period not exceeding eight weeks from the date of the adopted child’s arrival in the home of staff member.
Under special leave without pay, leave shall be for a period of up to two years for a newly born or adopted child. 
Under the special leave in cases of death or emergency, leave shall normally be granted for a period of up to two calendar weeks, including necessary travel time.

For Maternity Leave, the executive or local personnel office shall normally grant pre-delivery leave for a period of six weeks and a post delivery leave of a period equivalent to the difference between 16 weeks and the actual period of pre‑delivery leave.

The staff member may request Paternity Leave for a total period of up to four weeks or, in the case of an internationally recruited staff member serving at a non-family duty station, up to eight weeks.




The administrative issuance recognizes the Office of the Focal Point for Women as an established channel for informal resolution of conflicts.






Staggered working hours, compressed work schedule, scheduled break for external learning activities and telecommuting are made available to staff.

  • The website of the Focal Point of Women is launched.


  • Directive on Sexual Harassment in United Nations Peacekeeping and Other Field Missions (For Military Members of National Contingents, Military Observers and Civilian Police Officers)

This directive is to inform military members of national contingents, military observers and civilian police officers of the United Nations policy and procedures on sexual harassment applicable also to them.




The mandate includes monitoring and reporting on the status of women in the United Nations system over and above the prior mandate of reporting only on the Secretariat.  General Assembly Resolution A/RES/55/69 requests the Secretary-General to report up-to-date statistics in the representation of women in the whole United Nations system which is comprised of 31 entities. 









This comprehensive policy covers staff selection, career progression, and increased gender awareness including the stipulation that in cases of imbalance, a qualified woman candidate must be selected when she is equally or better qualified.


Started in 1999 the OFPW publishes a quarterly publication disseminated worldwide and to all entities of the UN system. It serves as forum for the dissemination and exchange of information on gender issues.




  • Individual Cases

Since 1998 the Office of the Focal Point for Women (OFPW) counsels approximately 100-150 individuals per year on gender related issues including conditions of service, organizational advancement and discrimination.




  • Creation of Office of  Special Adviser on Gender Issues and the Advancement of Women (OSAGI) the Office of the Focal Point for Women (OFPW)

To promote and strengthen the effective implementation of the Beijing Declaration and the Platform for Action of the Fourth World Conference on Women (FWCW) held in Beijing in 1995 and the Outcome Document of the special session of the General Assembly on Beijing+5, OSAGI and the OFPW within it, is created.  To avoid any potential conflict of interest with any entities, departments or offices over which it exercises its monitoring and reporting oversight it reports directly to the Secretary General and/or his office on all substantive gender related issues including the representation of women and gender mainstreaming. 





  • The Fourth World Conference on Women which was convened by the United Nations adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action 4-15 September 1995.

One of the strategic objectives of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action was to take measures to ensure women’s equal access to and full participation in power structures and decision-making.  This covers the following actions to be taken by the United Nations:  achieve gender equality particularly in the Professional level by year 2000, develop mechanisms to nominate female candidates for appointment senior level posts in the organization, to continue to collect and disseminate quantitative and qualitative data on women and men in decision-making levels, and monitor progress to achieve the target of having women hold 50 per cent of decision-making positions by the year 2000.




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(Click to open the Gender Parity Commitments made by the GA)