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Recent Senior Appointments at the UN Show Stubborn Gender Gap


Stephen O’Brien, a Briton, left, the new boss of the United Nations humanitarian agency, a highly visible post, at his swearing-in with Ban Ki-moon, the secretary-general, in June.

A roundup of new high-level appointments announced by the United Nations in the last three months runs the usual gamut from special envoys to new heads of agencies. These new senior appointments, made by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, show a continuing preponderance of men over women, with the latest roundup revealing a startling ratio of 18 to 2 (9:1), compared with 11 to 2 in new appointments in the first six weeks of 2015, a shorter period of time, reported by PassBlue. The two recently appointed women come from Rwanda and the United States.

True, Ban has until this year displayed a marked effort in instituting a balanced gender ratio in the UN’s highest offices, where major decision-making takes place. This year’s record by Ban, however, reveals a large decline in gender equality gains in UN senior management positions.

Ban, whose term ends in December 2016, was awarded an honorary doctorate from Ewha Woman’s University in women’s studies during his visit in May to his native South Korea.

“When I took office, there had only been a handful of female UN top officials in history,” he said at the ceremony. “Now one third of our peace envoys are women. Many of them work in extremely tough environments — like South Sudan, Haiti and Lebanon. Our Cyprus mission is also led by a woman Special Representative — and it has the first-ever female force commander of UN troops. A Norwegian female army general is now the first-ever Force Commander. Thanks to their success, we have proven that the best person for the job is often a woman.”

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He added: “I am calling for a 50:50 gender equality by 2030.” But do women really want to wait 15 years for full equality at the UN?

UN Women, the agency created to promote the rights of women worldwide and in the UN itself, has a focal point office whose role includes monitoring and reporting on the status of women in the UN system. A request by PassBlue for information on this role went unanswered by UN Women’s press office.

As Rosa Freedman and Aoife O’Donoghue, senior lecturers of law in Britain, argue in a new, yet to be published paper on gender equality in top jobs at the UN, until gender inequality is adequately addressed at the international level, “gender discrimination will remain pervasive and will filter across to other international organisations and down to other governance levels.”

Another common thread in this roundup is that three Eastern Europeans have been named to senior posts, all of whom attended Moscow State Institute of International Relations, whose alumni include Sergey Lavrov, the foreign minister of Russia; Irina Bokova, a Bulgarian who runs Unesco (and is unofficially running for the next UN secretary-general); and Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s ambassador to the UN.

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ŸŸ• ŸŸŸŸIn a move that underlines the dated tradition of political patronage dominating certain offices in the UN, Stephen O’Brien of Britain was named the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) and Emergency Relief Coordinator, replacing Valerie Amos, another Briton. Amos became the most visible face of the UN in aiming to provide humanitarian aid into Syria in the conflict — a role that O’Brien will inherit. Amos left the UN in May, not saying what she will do next.

The head of the UN humanitarian agency, an under secretary-general position (baseline salary of $191,000), has typically been a political appointee; the past two people in the job came from Britain, a permanent member of the UN Security Council. O’Brien was most recently a member of the British Parliament and was a special envoy for his government in the Sahel region of Africa. Born in Tanzania, he has a master’s degree in law from Emmanuel College, Cambridge University.

• Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed of Mauritania has taken the special envoy post for Yemen, succeeding Jamal Benomar of Britain, who worked for four years trying to broker peace in the country, which has fallen deeper into conflict in the last three months. Benomar resigned under pressure from Saudi Arabia, which is leading airstrikes in Yemen. Ould Cheikh Ahmed was previously the head of the UN’s mission for Ebola emergency response (Unmeer), created in 2014 to manage the disease outbreak in West Africa. He was the deputy special envoy for the UN mission in Libya before running Unmeer. Born in 1960, Ould Cheikh Ahmed has a master’s degree in human resources development from the University of Manchester and a bachelor’s degree in economics from the University of Montpellier.

•Ÿ Peter Jan Graaff of the Netherlands replaced Ould Cheikh Ahmed as acting head of the UN mission for Ebola emergency response (Unmeer). Graaff was most recently the Ebola crisis manager for Liberia, since October 2014. Born in 1960, he graduated from Leiden University with a master’s degree in science (pharmacy), and he has an M.B.A. from Heriot-Watt University.

Jan Kubis, a Slovakian who left the Afghanistan mission to run the one in Iraq.
Jan Kubis, a Slovakian who left the Afghanistan mission to run the one in Iraq.

Ÿ• Jan Kubis of Slovakia is now in charge of the UN mission in Iraq (Unami), succeeding Nickolay Mladenov of Bulgaria, who has become the UN envoy to the Middle East Peace Process, also known as the Quartet.Kubis moved to Iraq from an equally tough assignment, running the UN mission in Afghanistan (Unama), from 2012 to 2014. He recently said that the Iraq assignment was more “complex” than in Afghanistan, given the political and tribal alliances as well as the onslaught of ISIS, the terrorist militia, in Iraq. Born in 1952, Kubis graduated from the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, as did Petko Draganov of Bulgaria and Miroslav Jenca (see below).

•Ÿ Kim Won-soo of South Korea is the new acting representative for disarmament affairs at the UN. He replaces Angela Kane, a German, who in a highly publicized move, decided to leave the UN in a political shuffle that put Kim, a close adviser to Ban Ki-moon, into the highest disarmament post in the UN at least until Ban’s term ends in 2016. Kane is leaving New York to move to Vienna. Kim, a former South Korean ambassador, has a bachelor of law degree from Seoul National University and a master of arts degree from Johns Hopkins University.

•Ÿ Robert Piper, an Australian, has been named the deputy special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, an assistant secretary-general level position. Piper will also be the UN resident coordinator and humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian Territories. He replaces James Rawley, an American. Piper was most recently the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel region in Africa. Born in 1966, he earned a B.A. degree, with honors, in political science from Australian National University.

Maj. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark, the new force commander in Mali.
Maj. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark, the new force commander in Mali.

•Ÿ Maj. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard of Denmark has been named the force commander of the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (Minusma), succeeding Jean Bosco Kazura of Rwanda. General Lollesgaard has 30 years of military experience with the Danish Army; he has also been deployed in peace operations in the Balkans and Iraq, among other duties. He is a graduate of Command and General Staff College, Royal Danish Defense College in Copenhagen.

•Ÿ Petko Draganov of Bulgaria is now leading the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) in Turkmenistan. (Miroslav Jenca of Slovakia previously held the job, and has been promoted to assistant secretary-general for political affairs.) Draganov was most recently the deputy secretary-general of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (Unctad); he has also held positions in the Bulgarian government, including ambassadorial posts. He has a master’s degree in international law from Moscow State Institute of International Relations.

•Ÿ Miroslav Jenca of Slovakia has become an assistant secretary-general for political affairs. He succeeds Jens Toyberg-Frandzen of Denmark, who was appointed assistant secretary-general (ad interim) for political affairs in 2014. Jenca will be responsible for the Americas, Asia and the Pacific, Europe, the Middle East and West Asia as well as the decolonization unit and the Division for Palestinian Rights. Jenca, born in 1965, was the special envoy for the UN at the Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) in Turkmenistan since 2008. He has a law degree from Comenius University in Bratislava; studied foreign trade at the University of Economics in Bratislava; diplomacy and international relations at Moscow State Institute of International Relations; and diplomacy at Stanford University.

Mbaranga Gasarabwe
Mbaranga Gasarabwe of Rwanda, new deputy envoy of the UN mission in Mali.

•Ÿ Mbaranga Gasarabwe of Rwanda is the new deputy envoy of Minusma (the French abbreviation for the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali), where she is also the new representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP). She succeeds David Gressly, an American who has become deputy envoy of operations and rule of law for the UN’s mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Gasarabwe has extensive experience with the UN in development and humanitarian assistance in Africa. From 2001 to 2011, she was the chief representative for the UN Development Program in Benin, Djibouti, Guinea and Mali. Born in 1959, she holds a master’s degree in economics from the University of Burundi and a second master’s degree in management and business administration from the Arthur D. Little School of Management, now called the Hult International Business School, in the US.

•Ÿ Mourad Wahba of Egypt is the new deputy envoy for the UN peacekeeping mission in Haiti, or Minustah. He is also the chief representative of the UN Development Program. Wahba succeeds Peter de Clercq of the Netherlands. Wahba most recently was the deputy assistant administrator and deputy regional director for the Arab States bureau of the UN Development Program. He has also been director of the security office in the Bureau of Management of the UN Development Program and was the agency’s chief representative in Morocco. Wahba, born in 1959, has a doctorate degree from the Faculty of Oriental Studies at Oxford University in Britain.

•Ÿ Mamadou Diallo of Guinea is now deputy envoy for the peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Monusco), where he is also the UN Development Program’s main representative. He replaces Moustapha Soumaré of Mali. Diallo was most recently the regional director for West and Central Africa for the UN program on HIV/AIDS (Unaids). Diallo, who is a medical doctor, has a master’s degree in public health from San Diego State University in California and a public health diploma from the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium.

Ali al-Zatari, a Jordanian
Ali al-Zatari, a Jordanian, new deputy envoy to the UN mission in Libya.

•Ÿ Ali al-Zatari of Jordan has been appointed deputy envoy and deputy head of the peacekeeping mission in Libya (Unsmil), where he is also leading the UN Development Program. Most recently, he was the UN Development Program’s top envoy in Sudan; he has also held that post in Syria and elsewhere. He is American-educated, with a diploma in environmental economics from Harvard, a master’s degree in social sciences from Syracuse University and a bachelor’s degree in liberal arts from Western Maryland College.

•Ÿ Philippe Lazzarini of Switzerland is the new deputy special coordinator for Lebanon, serving as the UN Development Program’s chief representative in the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon (Unscol). Ross Mountain of New Zealand had the job before him. Lazzarini joined the UN in 2003, working in humanitarian aid, including a recent assignment in Somalia. Lazzarini previously was a banker in Geneva and worked for the International Committee of the Red Cross. Born in 1964, he has an undergraduate degree in economics from the University of Neuchâtel and an M.B.A. from the University of Lausanne.

Cindy J. Smith, an American, leads the
Cindy J. Smith, an American, leads the UN’s institute on interregional crime and justice.

•Ÿ Cindy J. Smith, an American, is now director of the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute (Unicri), based in Turin, Italy and tasked with preventing crime and promoting criminal justice worldwide. Jonathan Lucas of Seychelles most recently had the job. Smith is an expert in criminology and justice as well as policymaking and education, having been most recently the senior coordinator for international programs in the Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons at the US Department of State. Smith has a Ph.D. in social ecology from the University of California at Irvine; a master of science in education administration from National University in the US; and a master of science in justice from American University in Washington, D.C.

•Ÿ Yannick Glemarec of France has been designated deputy executive director for policy and programs at UN Women, an assistant secretary-general level position. He succeeds John Hendra of Canada, now senior coordinator of the UN Fit for Purpose campaign to manage the post-2015 development agenda in the UN system. Glemarec is one of two deputies at UN Women. (The other is Lakshmi Puri of India.) Glemarec most previously worked as an executive with the UN Development Program, managing the multidonor trust fund and other assignments. He has a Ph.D. from the University of Paris in environment sciences and two master’s degrees, in hydrology and in business administration. He is an expert in climate finance, renewable energy and natural-disaster risk management, including a UN carbon credit program. His climate change and development experience will be important for UN Women’s focus on women in the developing world.

Elliott Harris of Trinidad and Tobago
Elliott Harris of Trinidad and Tobago, heads the New York office of the UN Environment Program.

•Ÿ Elliott Harris of Trinidad and Tobago is assistant secretary-general and head of the New York office of the UN Environment Program, which is based in Nairobi, Kenya. Harris has a 25-year career in international economics and development policy analysis and had worked with the UN Environment Program management team in New York. Harris has a bachelor’s degree in German and political science and an advanced degree in economics.

Ÿ Jean Todt of France is special envoy for road safety, a dollar-a-year position based in Geneva. He is the president of the International Automobile Federation, a racing-car champion and was a chief executive for Ferrari. Todt’s UN job will be to garner political attention to road safety worldwide.


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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 and The Hague). 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, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. 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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