Thursday, July 14, 2016

Why A Woman As Next SG Of UN ?

          The United Nations (UN) is in the process of identifying its ninth Secretary General(SG). This time it is difficult, challenging and involving a huge stake due to two main reasons among others.  Hence, it is quite interesting and attention seeking.
          The first, many NGOs, civil society organisations and group of elders are demanding openness and transparency in the selection process. They have launched awareness campaigns  well in advance and have build-up required pressure on the team engaged in selection. In previous selections,  a closed door approach was followed which was opaque.
          The second, a resolution (51/241) was  endorsed by General Assembly (GA) on 22 August 1997. This has mentioned three criteria for the candidate to be SG- best candidature, regional rotation and gender equality. It is difficult to match all three in an opaque selection process.
          The Security Council (SC) intends to start on  the 21st of July the process of  consideration of candidates  for the SG position. The UN charter signed in 1945 is its foundation.  Article 97 says SG is to be appointed  by the GA on recommendation of the SC.  No detail procedure for selection process has been laid down.
          The UN has became 70 years old.  Eight persons  have served as its SG.  The SG is the head of UN secretariat and acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader. Roles and responsibilities of SG are laid out in chapter 15 in article 97 to 101 of  the UN charter.
          The SG position requires the highest standards which includes efficiency, competency and integrity. It also needs a strong commitment to the purpose and principles of the UN charter. Furthermore, SG must possess proven leadership and managerial abilities, vast experience in international relations, and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual abilities and capabilities.
           A single name was usually agreed upon by SC and sent to GA for its approval.  The GA did not reject any so far. Any permanent member can veto a nomination. So, SG is a compromise candidate. This indicates the selection process is in control of the permanent members. Gradually, a custom is developed that SG would not be from permanent members.
          Resolution 51/241 of 1997 states that " In the course of the identification and appointment of the best candidate for the post of  SG, due regards shall continue to be given to regional  rotation and shall also be  given to gender equality."
          Now, we have to focus our attention on three  qualities of the candidate: One, the best candidate worldwide; two, gender equality; three, regional rotation. It is difficult to get a perfect match on all three set of criteria. So, we have to prioritise it. There could not be any compromise on selecting the 'Best' candidate. The gender equality shall be the second top most priority as so far no female became SG. Then, the third one is the regional rotation.
          Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group and Civil Society groups are making efforts for improving the transparency and openness  of the selection process.  In 2015,  these  groups created awareness on this issue. Selection process started earlier due to active efforts of  25 ACT members and civil society groups including 1 for 7 Billion, an alliance of NGOs, and the Elders, a group of global leaders working to promote peace and human rights. They also have provided appropriate suggestions to improve transparency and openness in selecting SG.
          Ongoing selection process is changed somewhat unlike the past one. An active campaign for change in process to make it more transparent and open, unlike the secretive one in the past, has mounted a big global pressure. Prestige and credibility of selection is at stake. The change in process is good for all stakeholders and it is a win-win situation for all.
          1 for 7 Billion global campaign is aiming at to get the best UNSG. UNSG tasks with  tackling global challenges and improving the lives of seven billion. But identifying process is secretive and outdated. Just five counties holds sway over a decision which affects us all. More than 750 organisations  have joined the campaign with a reach of more 170 million people worldwide.  Many eminent personalities are part of this.
          1 for 7 Billion campaign demands "An open, transparent and merit-based selection process offers the best chance to find the best SG. We need a process that sets out formal selection criteria and qualifications, meets modern practices and exemplifies the ideals of UN. We need a process that meets the higher standards of  transparency and accountability that UN Member States and civil society have been demanding for years."  
          This campaign has gained momentum world-wide.  It has brought fruitful results. The Presidents of the GA and the SC forwarded an unprecedented letter to all Member States on December 15, 2015 soliciting candidates and stressing that selection will be guided by principal of transparency and inclusivity. There are many more steps taken by select team to meet demand. But many more are left untouched and mostly are partially met. The campaign is on. The best part is a start is made with a positive note in right direction to avoid any dent on UN prestige.
          Resolution 51/241 of 1997 compel us to consider gender quality. By now,  we ignored it in selection of our past eight SGs. Are we still  going to repeat it in our ongoing selection for 9th? Repetition looks impossible. It is possible on one condition that we prove that we are not getting the best woman candidate. This is again impossible.
          There is no dearth of the best  women candidates. We have the best candidates in both men and women for the job. Now, we have to decide who would be next SG- a Man or a Woman.  Resolution 51/241 clearly points towards a Woman as we have not given chance to any woman.
          Like-minded women have joined hands in February 2015 to run a campaign to see next SG as a woman to replace Mr Moon at the end of 2016.  This group says women represents half of the world's population. The UN never gave a chance to a woman. The group includes women from academia and civil society with a long record of engagement with the UN. The punch line of the campaign " we have had 8 male SGs and our 9th should be a woman."
          The campaign puts forward reasons that  eight SGs so far have represented multiple regions of the world, but no woman has yet held this top position. Women make up half of  the world's population and it is the time that a woman is to be represented as SG.
          The preamble of UN charter states " People of the UN" to uphold the " equal rights of men and women"; Article One repeats by linking "international cooperation" with "respect for human rights and for the fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion. Based on this, campaign is demanding to honor these words that the founders so carefully drafted in their vision for a peaceful world.

          The SC resolution 1325(2000) requests member states to include women at all level in national, regional, international bodies. The UN secretariat has 7 women out of 44 SRSGs. This proves that women are underrepresented. In past women hold many top-level positions worldwide and proved equally competent as men.
          Based on above facts and figures, we have to choose the best candidate in a transparent manner. From the transparent selection procedure point of view, an acceptable progress has been made. This is a good sign and start. Regional rotation is followed to some extent but gender equality is still untouched. Plainly, it is giving a wrong impression.
          To act in letter and spirit and to save the prestige of UN, there is no option for choosing a man as 9th SG. Women campaign is already have generated much awareness for their due turn and selection. If  we ignore their legitimate demand, this will be a dent on UN body and confidence of half population in UN will come down. As a result, this will weaken UN.  Therefore, we are legally and morally bound to choose a woman SG in present circumstances to avoid any compromise on UN reputation.  

Heera Lal ( Views are personal and based on different sources) AND OUR 9TH SHOULD BE A WOMAN




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