UN Must Live Up to Its Promises of Gender Equality —and Support Women

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  • Opinion by Shihana Mohamed (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

The UN hosted a SDG Summit 2023 on September 18-19 to review progress toward those goals. The UN hosted a SDG Summit 2023 on September 18-19 to review progress toward those goals. As UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned, “Halfway towards the 2030 deadline the Sustainable Development Goals have a dangerously off-track.” Gender equality will be reached in about 300 years.

Asia-Pacific is among the regions that are the most behind. The Asia-Pacific region is dynamic, but at this stage it should have achieved half of the goals. However, its progress only reached 14.4%.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the UN Women report Women’s Leadership Asia-Pacific states that women’s representation is 20%, which is below the global average 25%. Women are underrepresented in the chairs of permanent committees that deal with finance and human rights.

Women are rarely involved in peace negotiations as mediators, negotiators or signatories. Only 20% of women hold management positions. The UN is no exception.

Around 4.3 billion people live in the Asia-Pacific region, which is 54% of all the world’s population. More than half the women on the planet are also from this region. Only 18% of the women who work in UN organizations are from this region.

There is a noticeable disparity in the number of professional staff at UN organizations between the West, and the rest. In the UN, women are represented by five different regional groups: Western European and Other States (including North America), African States (including North America), Asia-Pacific States (including Asia-Pacific States), Eastern European States and Latin American and Caribbean States.

Only 6% of the senior positions or those involving decision-making in UN organisations are held by women from Asia-Pacific. These posts are occupied by Western Europeans and Other States staff in the majority (about 53%).

Recent review of racism by the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), the UN’s external monitoring body, revealed that UN staff in countries in the Global South where people of color are the majority tend to have lower pay grades and less authority than their counterparts in countries with a predominantly white population or in the group of Western Europeans and Other States. The racial disparity in authority and seniority has been identified as a structural issue that needs to be addressed.

The Secretary-General Guterres said at the opening of the Commission on the Status of Women’s 61st Session: “We are in need of a cultural change — both within the United Nations and around the globe. Women should be treated equally everywhere and given equal opportunities. We need to go beyond goals and instead set targets, benchmarks, and action. For the United Nations gender equality is more than just a question of staffing. It is a part of everything we do.

If the UN wants to make a real difference in women’s status, it should concentrate its efforts on the necessary measures that will increase the number of women who come from Asia-Pacific nations.

These steps should include but not be restricted to establishing goals for a balanced regional diversity within UN organizations, ensuring that recruitment and selection assessments do not contain bias, and conducting audits on the career advancement of women in Asia-Pacific to identify and remove barriers. In addition, it is important to place women in positions of decision-making.

UN organizations should reflect accurately the diversity and dynamism in their staff, from all regions and countries around the world. This includes at the senior and decision making levels. This is crucial if organizations want to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

The UN must ensure that its staffing is diverse, inclusive and equal.

The Sustainable Development Goals and the Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted eight years earlier, centered on the transformative promise to “Leave No One Behind”. In order to fulfill this promise, we must address the needs and concerns and rights of marginalized women and girls. The

Shihana Mohamed

is one of the Coordinators of the United Nations Asia Network for Diversity and Inclusion (UN-ANDI) and a Public Voices Fellow with The OpEd Project and Equality Now.

IPS UN Bureau

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Original source: Inter Press Service


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