Gender Equality

“Be demanding”

Tuesday March 13, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres held a Town Hall meeting with NGOs at CSW62. He said that the struggle for gender equality is tough, and "we wouldn’t be where we are today without civil society."
According to the SG, the issue of power relations in a male-dominated world is a major obstacle, as almost everywhere power is usually taken, not given. He explained that he is working to change power relations starting here at the UN: currently technical staff number 56% Women, top management (under secretaries-general) are at 50-50, and they are now addressing country level staffing at 47%. He is committed to reaching full gender parity across the board, with road maps and a website on gender parity so there is transparency. I looked it up: here it is!
SG Guterres considers gender parity the main instrument to change power relations in the UN system. 
There are also lingering and serious problems of sexual abuse and exploitation in field operations, which are due to unequal power relations in field situations which lead to corruption. They have initiated new victims advocates and called for member states commitments, because in Peacekeeping Operations, the staff report to their respective governments. Conditions on the ground are very difficult, so we have no illusions that the problems will disappear from one day to the next.
There are also problems of harassment within the UN, and it is known that it is not being reported. They are trying to change the culture through training, website, helpline and a specialized investigation unit with majority of women investigators.  
 
After his statement, SG Guterres said, as many in the UN say to invite others to speak: "The floor is yours." He went on to say "I’m more interested in your comments, suggestions and criticisms than in questions for me to answer. Please, speak freely."
 
I was so impressed with the SG. I campigned for a woman SG, and I still believe we need one, but for a man, Guterres is remarkable. He is open, honest, forthright and realistic about what is possible. He responded to questions speaking excellent English, Spanish and French. He made a good feminist joke! When someone made a comment about having competent women in decision-making positions, he replied: There will only be real equality when there are also incompetent women in decision-making positions, just as there are so many incompetent men in these positions. 
Asked about youth involvement and participation: "we need to listen and pay attention to young people, not talk to them."
He spoke about how he works with the complex global challenges faced by the UN: "I never fight against people, I fight for values, for a world where people are in the center, rights are respected, and diversity is recognized as a positive thing." 
 
 
 

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