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New UN Senior Personnel Appointments Show Gap in Gender Parity


Important new senior personnel appointments announced so far in 2015 by the United Nations secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, range from peacekeeping operations to trade and development, with other candidates named to deal with preventing tuberculosis worldwide and eradicating Ebola in West Africa.

The nationalities of the new appointees include an Indian, a Bulgarian, three Americans, a Swede, an Ethiopian and others from Africa. Of the appointments made from January through mid-February, 11 were men and just 2 were women.

Stéphane Dujarric, Ban’s spokesman, defended the poor ratio of men to women in new senior posts, saying to PassBlue: “I think I would urge you to take a look overall at the Secretary‑General’s senior team. I think he’s made it a priority to appoint women and to have women in senior positions. And if you look at his senior team, I think that is very much reflected.”

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Yet looking at Ban’s current senior management team as well as the current list of special envoys and advisers reveals very high-to-low male-female ratios, especially among the envoy and adviser category. The UN senior appointees appear to be deeply lopsided in favor of men.

Here are the new appointments for 2015 so far:

Atul Khare of India is the new under secretary-general for the Department of Field Support in the UN Peacekeeping Department. He replaces Ameerah Haq of Bangladesh, who retired. Khare, born in 1959, has a long career with the UN, most recently as assistant secretary-general in the peacekeeping department, including deputy head of the department from 2010 to 2011. He was previously a special envoy for Timor-Leste; he also served with the Indian Foreign Service in France, Mauritius, Senegal, Thailand and Britain as well as with the Indian mission to the UN. He has bachelor’s degrees in medicine and surgery from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences and master’s degrees in business administration and leadership from the University of Southern Queensland, Australia.

Atul Khare of India
Atul Khare of India, the new under secretary-general for field support in the UN’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations.

To revive the focus of the Middle East Quartet, Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria has been chosen as the UN’s special coordinator for the Middle East peace process and special envoy to the Palestine Liberation Organization and the Palestinian Authority. Mladenov becomes the fourth member of the Quartet, joining representatives from the European Union, the US and Russia. The Quartet has been striving since its formation in 2002 to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine. It met on Feb. 8 in Munich to begin a new round of talks. Mladenov, 42, succeeds Robert Serry of the Netherlands, who held the post for seven years.

Mladenov has won quiet praise for his current work as special envoy for Iraq and head of the the UN mission there, called Unami, during the recent invasion of the radical group Islamic State in the north of the country. His is a former foreign minister of Bulgaria and has a master’s degree in war studies from King’s College London and a master’s and a bachelor’s degree in international relations from the University of National and World Economy of Sofia, in Bulgaria.

Dr. Eric Goosby of the United States is now special envoy on tuberculosis. Dr. Goosby was formerly ambassador at large and the US Global AIDS Coordinator under President Barack Obama. He led all international HIV/AIDS efforts for the US from 2009 to 2013. Dr. Goosby, who was born in 1952, aims to raise the profile of the fight against tuberculosis, which had been inching closer to eradication but flared anew in certain countries, like Pakistan. Worldwide, it killed 1.5 million people in 2013, while nine million became infected with it; it is a big killer of people with HIV/AIDS. Dr. Goosby earned his medical degree from the University of California, San Francisco.

ŸJanos Pasztor of Hungary and Switzerland has been named assistant secretary-general on climate change, primarily taking the role that Robert Orr, an American, played on the issue for years. Orr, one of the highest-level Americans working in the UN Secretariat management team, left in 2014 to become dean of the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

Pasztor will be the senior adviser through the UN’s climate change conference, known as CoP 21, in December in Paris, which is supposed to create a universal climate agreement. Pasztor was most recently an executive director with World Wildlife Fund International. From 2011 to 2012, he was executive secretary of the UN’s high-level panel on global sustainability and previously directed the secretary-general’s Climate Change Support Team. He has both an undergraduate degree and a master’s degree in nuclear engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

ŸSandra Mitchell of the US is the new deputy commissioner-general of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, known as Unrwa. Her position is at the level of assistant secretary-general. Mitchell, born in 1962, replaces Margot Ellis, also an American, who held the job for five years. Mitchell was most recently vice president of international programs for the International Rescue Committee. She worked in senior management roles with Unrwa from 2011 to 2013 in Jordan. She also formerly worked as director of elections with the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Unami, and as chief humanitarian affairs officer of the UN mission in Kosovo. She has a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Washington State University and a law degree from Oklahoma City University School of Law.

Sandra Mitchell, an American, is deputy of
Sandra Mitchell, an American, is deputy of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

ŸHaile Tilahun Gebremariam of Ethiopia is to head the mission in Abyei, Sudan, or the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (Unisfa). He succeeds Lieut. Gen. Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam, also of Ethiopia. Gebremariam, who was born in 1954, was a defense minister for Ethiopia and a deputy commander of the Air Force. He has a master’s degree from the Open University in Britain.

ŸDavid Gressly, an American, is the new deputy special envoy for operations and the rule of law in the UN’s mission in Congo, or Monusco, essentially the second in command after Martin Kobler of Germany. Gressly, who succeeds Abdallah Wafy of Niger, has been most recently deputy special envoy for the peacekeeping mission in Mali and in charge of the UN Development Program there. He filled in while the Mali mission had a gap in leadership after Albert Koenders of Netherlands left to become his country’s foreign minister and was replaced by Mongi Hamdi of Tunisia.

Gressly, born in 1956, moves from Mali to an equally complex peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo, where a UN international force brigade is charged with disarming militias. Gressly has also served as regional coordinator for the UN’s mission in Sudan, among other African positions. He earned a master’s degree in business administration from the American Graduate School of International Management in Glendale, Ariz.

ŸJoakim Reiter of Sweden is the new deputy secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development as an assistant secretary-general. He succeeds Petko Draganov 

of Bulgaria. Reiter was most recently heading the Department for International Trade Policy for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. Born in Sweden in 1974, Reiter holds a master of science degree from the London School of Economics and an M.A. from the University of Lund in Sweden.

ŸMaj, Gen. Purna Chandra Thapa of Nepal is the new head of mission and force commander of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or Undof, in Golan Heights. General Thapa succeeds Lieut. Gen. Iqbal Singh Singha of India. General Thapa, born in 1960, was the master general of ordnance with the Nepalese Army, and from 2012 to 2013, he was a commanding general of an infantry division, among other military posts. General Thapa served with the Nepalese contingent in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon, or Unifil; as a military observer in the UN Protection Force (Unprofor); and was vice chairman of the Joint Monitoring Coordination Committee of the UN mission in Nepal. He has a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of Madras, India, and a bachelor’s degree in humanities and social science from Tribhuvan University, Nepal. He also graduated from the Army Command and Staff College in Nepal and the National Defense College in New Delhi.

ŸThe new force commander for the UN mission in Liberia is Maj. Gen. Salihu Zaway Uba of Nigeria, replacing Maj. Gen. Leonard Muriuki Ngondi of Kenya, who finishes Feb. 25. General Uba, born in 1959, was previously commander of training and doctrine command of the Nigerian army and commandant of its peacekeeping center from 2013 to 2014.  Earlier, he served as the director of the Veterans Affairs Department in the Nigerian Ministry of Defense; as a commander for the UN mission in Liberia; and as a commander in the UN Protection Force (Unprofor). He has several master’s degrees: in strategic studies, business administration and peace and conflict from the University of Ibadan, Imo State University and the National Open University, respectively, all in Nigeria. He is also a graduate of the War College, Nigeria.

Maj. Gen. Salihu Zaway Uba of Nigeria, the force commander for the UN mission in Liberia.

ŸBintou Keita of Guinea is the Ebola crisis manager for Sierra Leone for the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response, called Unmeer, where she has been chief of staff. New incidences of the disease have been falling, but a slight rise was registered recently. The country recorded 8,136 cases since the outbreak began last year, and nearly 3,000 deaths.

Keita succeeds Amadu Kamara of the US, who will return to the UN Support Office for the African Union Mission in Somalia. Keita has a master’s degree in social economy from the University Pántheon-Assas in Paris and a graduate degree in business administration and management from the Paris Dauphine University in France.

Two appointments at the UN High Commissioner for Refugees:

George Okoth-Obbo of Uganda is the new assistant high commissioner for operations, succeeding Janet Lin of Singapore. Since 2009, Okoth-Obbo has been the agency’s director of the Regional Bureau for Africa. He graduated from Makerere University in Uganda with an bachelor’s degree in law and has a master’s degree in law from the University of Nairobi.

Volker Turk of Austria is assistant high commissioner for protection, replacing Erika Feller of Australia. Turk was most recently director of the refugee agency’s Division of International Protection, since 2009. He holds a master’s in law from the University of Linz in Austria and a doctorate in international law from the University of Vienna.

































































































We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Dulcie Leimbach

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland, The Hague and Cyprus). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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New UN Senior Personnel Appointments Show Gap in Gender Parity
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Ahmed El Mallah
Ahmed El Mallah
9 years ago

Dear PassBlue,

In the above article it states, “The nationalities of the new appointees include an Indian, a Bulgarian, three Americans, a Swede and several Africans”. Several Africans? Really PassBlue? Does that sound very professional?

One of several Africans

9 years ago

Good point, Ahmed. We’ll adjust the language. Thanks for your close read. The Editors

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