WASHINGTON DC, Dec. 21 (IPS) – There are two sides to the problem of gender equality at the United Nations.
On the one hand, Member States should appoint more women to their senior ambassadorial ranks. There is always huge competition for the post of UN ambassador, especially if a member state sits on the UN Security Council.
It is a pipeline question for the Member States. To reach that level of seniority, a diplomat must have years of service. It will probably take some time before countries have the flow of female ambassadors. So the UN Secretary-General (SG) is right to give Member States the responsibility to change or speed up their systems.
That said, there is still a problem within the UN itself.
Over the past 5 years, many governments, especially the UK, Italy and the Scandinavians, have sponsored the regional women’s advocacy networks. For example. I am a member of the Women Mediators Across the Commonwealth (WMC).
The vision was to identify women with the requisite skills and experience in mediation efforts and provide a new path to senior UN positions, particularly as envoys and mediation work. In the WMC we have 50 incredibly experienced women from all Commonwealth countries.
The Mediterranean Women’s Mediation Network also has members from that region. For higher positions, our governments must support our candidacy, and they have.
But the UN system is a blocker because when it comes to determining eligibility, their criteria still include things like “15 years of UN experience.” The point is that most of us have had experience outside the UN bureaucracy or as expert advisers to the UN, but not as UN personnel.
We bring a wealth of other valuable expertise, but the skill and knowledge that outsiders might contribute seems to be of less value to the recruiters than traditional institutional knowledge. As a result, the female candidates that member states could support are blocked by the UN.
If they are serious about having more women in the peace and security sector, especially women with the relevant experience in inclusive and gender sensitive peacemaking, humanitarian security work, they should look for us in civil society. This is where most of the innovation has happened and is happening.
The work done by women in the field and the sharing of lessons through our networks is invaluable. It is exactly what the UN needs to be better suited for its purpose. It is also the path to genuine reform and renewal of the architecture and practice of the UN.
But it can only happen if member states and UN leadership and bureaucracy have the vision, political will and willingness to change their recruitment priorities and practices.
Those who claim that they cannot find the women are willfully ignoring the facts.
Sanam Naraghi AnderliniMBE, founder and CEO, International Civil Society Action Network in Washington DC.
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