Table of Contents for the Issue
A letter from the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women
Since the last report to the General Assembly on the status of women in the Secretariat, we have again witnessed an annual 1 per cent growth in the number of women. In this year's report, women on geographical appointments are on the threshold of reaching 40 per cent (39 per cent) in the Professional category, and 36.5 per cent on appointments of one year or more. When looking at figures of women at the D-1 level and above (24.7 %) and the decrease in the number of women appointed and promoted to the P-4 level there is cause for concern. After a two-year increase in these numbers the progress has stopped even though the number of staff appointed and promoted at the senior levels has increased. On the other side we now have our first woman head of a regional commission and a woman now heads UNCHS.
We are making progress in providing yardsticks for the departments and offices to measure their gender balance. In August 2000, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management, Ms. Rafiah Salim and I wrote to the heads of departments and offices to request them to establish a target for the selection of women candidates based on current and foreseen vacancies as part of the departmental action plans on human resources management. This will give us a way to better monitor their performance in reaching the 50/50 gender balance target. So far we have had 12 responses.
We are glad to note that two more departments have reached the 50/50 gender balance goal this past year. The number of these departments and offices is now four (DPI, DM, DM/OHRM, DM/OPPBA). Four more departments have reached a critical mass of women (30%).
It is also my pleasure to report that the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Mr. Miyet decided in June 2000 to designate Focal Points for women in each peacekeeping mission.
In the coming year, my office will work with OHRM to identify sources of women candidates and to evaluate the progress made together based on the implementation of the departmental gender action plans.
Angela E. V. King
Around the UN ...
Millennium Summit 6-8 September 2000
During the six meetings of the three-day Summit, 146 heads of State and Government, four of them women from Bangladesh, Finland, Latvia and New Zealand, presented their views on the role of the United Nations in the twenty-first century and the main challenges facing the peoples of the world. One hundred and eighty-seven Member States were present. Four private round-table sessions were also held in conjunction with the proceedings.
In her press conference, the President of Finland and Co-Chair of the Summit, Ms. Tarja Halonen, spoke about gender violence. She was asked to comment on how gender violence and discrimination could be discouraged while at the same time respecting and promoting the world's cultural diversity. She said that since no cultures promoted the humiliation of people on the basis of their gender, their respective notions of fairness should be used against gender violence and to stress the equality of men and women. Similarly, nations should use the United Nations principles to act against gender discrimination and violence. "Everyone should be ready to support women's rights, no matter which culture they come from."
Women heads of state and government met with high-level United Nations women for the first time on 5 September 2000. Current and former women leaders who attended the meeting included Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand; President Tarja Halonen of Finland; President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia and former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell. Secretary of Sate Madeleine Albright also participated. At the present time there are eight countries with a woman head of state or government (Bangladesh, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Panama, San Marino and Sri Lanka). Among the women heads of UN agencies, funds and programmes who participated were Carol Bellamy (UNICEF), Catherine Bertini (WFP), Noeleen Heyzer (UNIFEM), Angela E. V. King (UN), Sadako Ogata (UNHCR), Nafis Sadik (UNFPA), Gillian Sorensen (OSG) and Mary Robinson (OHCHR). The meeting was organized by the Council of Women World Leaders at Harvard University and the UN.
While the fact that such a meeting took place attested to the progress made since 1900, President Vike-Freiberga said that considering that half of the world's population were women, the number of women leaders indicated that there was a long way to go.
Among the issues discussed were the importance of women in peacekeeping operations, the feminization of poverty, health care, HIV/AIDS and the need for a strong gender perspective in all issues before the Millennium Assembly. The key recommendations presented to the Millennium Summit were:
Optional Protocol on Discrimination against Women to come into force in December 2000
Following its tenth ratification on 22 September 2000 by Italy, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women enters into force on 22 December 2000. Bolivia also ratified the Protocol on 27 September, bringing the total number of ratifications to eleven.
States which ratify the Optional Protocol recognize the competence of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) to consider petitions from individual women or groups of women who have exhausted all national remedies. The Optional Protocol also entitles the Committee to conduct inquiries into grave or systematic violations of the Convention. The Committee is the body established under the Convention to monitor implementation by its State parties.
The Protocol, which was opened for signature, ratification and accession on 10 December 1999, includes an "opt-out clause", allowing States upon ratification or accession to declare that they do not accept the inquiry procedure. Article 17 of the Protocol explicitly provides that no reservations may be entered to its terms. Only States parties to the Convention may accept the Optional Protocol. With the ratification of Saudi Arabia on 7 September, the Convention now has 166 States parties.
During the Millennium Summit of the United Nations (New York, 6-8 September 2000), ratifications to the Optional Protocol were received from Austria, Bangladesh, Ireland and New Zealand. Other States parties to the Protocol are Denmark, France, Namibia, Senegal and Thailand. There are a total of 62 signatories to the Optional Protocol.
On Monday, 25 September 2000, the Secretary-General, H. E. Mr. Kofi Annan, gave his annual address to the staff. However, this years statement proposed some policies that will go a long way towards helping women in the Secretariat advance and provide much needed support systems.
The Secretary-General announced that in his report to the General Assembly at its fifty-fifth session, he will be introducing methods designed to attract and promote qualified staff, especially young people for whose talents we have to ?complete with nimble dot.com enterprises and other alluring opportunities presented by the new economy?. Enhancing promotion prospects for qualified staff will hopefully allow women the opportunities they have been waiting for and the ability to forge ahead towards gender parity, particularly at senior levels.
It was also announced that efforts will be made to encourage and reward mobility in the Secretariat? ? across functions, departments, occupations, duty stations and organizations. While mobility has always been desirable for all staff, it has been particularly difficult for women in view of family constraints including lack of proper child-care and the need for spousal employment opportunities.
In his statement, the Secretary-General acknowledged that the Organization must find ways to improve the support system so that the needs of staff, their families and the Organization can be met. He took this a step farther by clearly admitting that the impediments to spouse employment need to be removed in order to enable some staff to be more mobile.
Also specifically mentioned was the need to consider more flexible work schedules, such as part-time and four-day work weeks, since the current staggered hours policy has not been widely utilized. Women as the primary caregivers for children and elders, would find the two options stated as particularly desirable.
The United Nations has no shortage of creative proposals, however, these proposals must be carefully monitored by the appropriate executing bodies to ensure that they are implemented as real policy in the Organization.
A Special welcome to ...
Interview with Zohreh Tabatabai
Outgoing Focal Point for Women in the United Nations
Network was privileged to have an interview with Ms. Zohreh Tabatabai, before leaving her duties as Focal Point for Women in the United Nations, to assume her new functions as Director of Communications for the International Labour Office (ILO) in Geneva. Ms. Tabatabai gave us her forthright views on how far women in the Organization have come over the past three years and where she believes they are headed.
Network wishes Ms. Tabatabai great success and satisfaction in her new position with ILO. Zuzu, you will be sorely missed in the Secretariat but we wish you all the best in Geneva.
Women's employment in Kosovo
The following is an excerpt from a report prepared by the Office of Gender Affairs / UNMIK in June-July 2000.
There is a huge problem of unemployment of women after conflict. In the month of June, for example, the Regional Employment Centre in Pristina registered about 17,000 unemployed women who sought paid employment out of a total 37,000. These women vary in age, work experience and qualifications; 6,000 are high school graduates, 600 university graduates and the remainder are unqualified. Women in rural areas supply 62 per cent of agricultural labour.
Another assessment (UNIFEM study on women and work) showed that currently only 26.7% of women were in paid employment and 73.3% unpaid, working at home and supporting the family. Economically active women are currently mainly in private business (34.3%), professional activities (professors, doctors, lawyers) (28.1%), humanitarian and support services within NGOs (18.8%). The low figures of employment reflect a lack of job opportunities, unfinished education, lack of information skills and dislocation after conflict, rather than choice. Contrary to previous research the assessment showed that women engaged in business ventures at all levels (including as owners) are anxious to improve and consolidate their skills and expertise for profitable and sustainable enterprises. There are no strict cultural or traditional barriers to women's employment or to working outside their homes.
In order to develop appropriate policy solutions, UNMIK is establishing an economic policy working group to discuss means to provide business skills development. The Office of Gender Affairs in collaboration with International Labour Office (ILO), and the five Regional Employment Centres in Kosovo, and women business associations encourage more women to enlist in training sessions entrepreneurs and as managers.
Women Foreign Ministers write to the Secretary-General on HIV/AIDS
Women Ministers from 13 countries wrote a letter on 12 September 2000 to the Secretary-General expressing their support to his call to stop and reverse the spread on HIV/AIDS by 2015, and to provide special assistance to children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. They also noted the special needs of women and girls with HIV/AIDS calling upon the UN to take account of the enhanced need for education, testing, counselling and treatment. The Ministers recognized the financial resources required for this and promised to strive to identify and dedicate those resources.
A new professional organization The Association for Human Resources Management in International Organizations held its inaugural conference and first training event in Geneva, 11-15 September 2000. The theme was New Thinking for Human Resources Management in International Not-for-Profit Organizations in the 21st century. Academics, researchers and human resources practitioners from the private sector and NGOs participated also in this event in addition to human resources officers from the UN organizations and agencies.
It was noted that there are many similarities between the human resources problems and practices between the UN organizations and the private sector. One of the guest speakers, Mr. Bob Morton who is a Human Resources Director in Ciba Specialty Chemicals Corporation, mentioned that the number of HR staff is currently decreasing in the private sector. Foreign assignments are becoming less attractive to companies due to rising expatriate costs, and for employees due to work/family issues. Companies are therefore tending to hire more local staff and have expatriates only in key senior positions. There is more commuting within a certain region, and virtual teams are becoming more common in big multinational corporations.
Dr. Hilary Harris from the Cranfield School of Management presented results of her study on major British multinationals. She was particularly interested in looking at reasons for having so few women in senior positions on foreign assignments. In her research she concluded that most of the previous assumptions in the research tradition (e.g. women are not risk-takers, foreign prejudices against women, work/family issues, women are not interested) were not supported by evidence. Instead she focused on the selection processes of the company in the home country as there was no evidence to show that women failed once set on foreign assignment.
All companies in the study were formally equal opportunity employers and had work/family policies in place. What she found was that the majority of companies had informal and closed selection processes where the selector's individual preferences determined the criteria. There were no panel discussions and selections were based on nominations only. The more unstructured the selection process is, the more likely the selectors are to decide according to their personal gender perceptions.
Here are some of the recommendations of the study:
Comparison of the gender distribution of Professional and higher-level staff with appointments of one year or more, as of 30 June 1999 and 30 June 2000, and staff on appointments subject to geographical distribution as of 30 June 2000
Women and Peacekeeping - a follow-up
The Windhoek Declaration and gender mainstreaming
by Marlene Nilsson, DPKO
The Department of Peacekeeping Operations' Lessons Learned Unit, in cooperation with the Division for the Advancement of Women, has undertaken an action-oriented study on the role of women in peacekeeping operations. This study tried to identify the reasons for DPKO's difficulties in attracting and retaining women staff, and to analyse how the inclusion and involvement of women enhances modern peacekeeping.
A draft of the study including five case studies of past and present peace support operations was presented at a Seminar on Mainstreaming a Gender Perspective in Peace Support Operations held in Windhoek, Namibia from 29 to 31 May 2000. The seminar examined practical ways in which the UN system and Members States can ensure that the principles of gender equality will permeate the entire peace support operations. The participants' enthusiastic approach and hard work produced an important document for peace support operations: the Windhoek Declaration and the Namibia Plan of Action. The Namibia Plan of Action, so far, covers nine areas of peace support operations that the Secretary-General and Member States need to ensure are gender mainstreamed. These are some of the specific measures:
The Declaration and Plan of Action was circulated during the Beijing +5 Conference in June 2000 and has so far received positive responses from the Member States. The document has also been forwarded to the Secretary-General. The future outcome of the document is still pending. It will be one of the basic documents before the Security Council when it holds an open discussion on women, peace and security on 24 October 2000.
Congratulations to ...
Farewell to ...
Flash flash flash
Lives Together, Worlds Apart -- State of World Population 2000 report launched by the UN Population Fund on 20 September 2000 shows that despite the tremendous changes of the 20th century, discrimination and violence against women and girls remain firmly rooted in cultures around the world.
The report says that much of women's work is unpaid, and even when cash exchanges are involved, the contribution of women is not included or is discounted in national statistics. For example, in rural areas, women not only prepare but also grow most of the family food, and it is primarily girls and women who collect water, fuel for cooking and fodder for domestic animals.
In West Africa, the Caribbean and Asia, between 70 and 90 per cent of all farm and marine produce is traded by women. Street and market stands are part of an under-recorded informal economy that generates an estimated 30 per cent of all urban wealth.
It is estimated that women's unpaid household labour accounts for about one third of the world's economic production. In developing countries, when unpaid agricultural work and housework are considered with wage labour, women's work hours are estimated to exceed men's by 30 per cent.
Discrepancies in pay are often more entrenched in developing countries. For example, in Kenya women's average wages in non-agricultural employment are 84 per cent of men's, while in Japan women earn only 51 per cent of what men earn (page 38).
World March of Women 2000 was celebrated in New York on 17 October. Several thousand women assembled in Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and marched through Manhattan to Union Square as a part of a global initiative involving thousands of NGO representatives from 159 countries. The March and related grassroots activities have brought attention to issues of poverty and violence against women in all countries. The marchers in New York delivered millions of signed petitions collected in support of the initiative to a panel discussion at which Ms. Louise Fréchette made the main address. The petitions call for concrete measures to eliminate poverty and to ensure an equitable distribution of the world's wealth, and to do away with violence against women and ensure equality between women and men. The March was launched on 8 March 2000 (International Women's Day) and it was initiated by the Canadian NGO, La Fédération des femmes du Québec.
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Network--The UN Women's Newsletter
Editor-in-Chief: Zohreh Tabatabai, Focal Point for Women
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Focal Point for Women in the Secretariat
Office of the Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women, DESA
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