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When UNSG Guterres Met DRC Team, No Women On Either Side, No Read-Outs Either, ICP Asks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 20 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his team met with the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Vice Prime Minister Léonard She Okitundu and the current and former Permanent Representatives of that country to the UN, there were no women on either side of the table. Tweeted photo here; video here.

  This stands at odds with that the UN Staff Unions say are Guterres' plans for gender parity at levels of the UN below Under Secretary General (at which, at least for UN Peacekeeping, a man Jean-Pierre Lacroix was chosen over a female candidate, Sylvie Bermann. At the March 20 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Guterres' holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq about the still murky plans, after asking about the recent lack of read-outs of Guterres' meetings. From the UN transcript:

Inner City Press:  the staff unions are saying they’ve become aware of a proposal within the Secretariat, a gender equity proposal, in which all external recruitment will be restricted to female candidates and which all lateral moves will be restricted to female candidates and promotions restricted to women at both the P and D level.  So they’re getting responses from staff.  Some are in favor.  Others are saying they should be looking at things like parental leave, maternity cover, child care.  But is this true?  Is this where the Secretariat is moving?  And, if so, why didn’t this apply, for example, to DPKO (Department of Peacekeeping Operations), where I know at least one of the three candidates was a woman and was… Mr. [Jean-Pierre] Lacroix was selected.  What would be the rationale for applying this to P and D but not to the higher levels of the UN system?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, this is not something that is policy at this point.  Whether this is something that becomes developed later on is something that will have to be developed as a result of discussions, including discussions with staff and with management.  So I don’t have anything to confirm as a policy change at this point.

Question:  I know that there’s some election coming up and there’s some controversy around it.  Would it await the results of an election of a New York staff union, or what would be the mechanism to consult with staff about this?

Deputy Spokesman:  We consult with many of the different staff unions with whoever is there to represent them.  If there is a resolution to the situation in New York and there’s a staff union here in New York, that would also be a welcome part of the process.

  Less welcome, apparently, is transparency about Guterres' meetings on the 38th floor, and even who is working there. On March 17, Inner City Press asked Haq and lead spokesman Stephane Dujarric written questions including "for a read-out of the SG's meeting with Polisario and as also previously requested with the FMs of Bahrain and Armenia. This is a request to know where the Secretary General is. This is a Press request for a list of who is working in the Executive Office of the Secretary General; within that, who is paid by the UN general budget, who is paid by or through any other UN-affiliated fund."  Not only did Dujarric and Haq not answer, they and UN official Cristina Gallach had Inner City Press evicted from the UN without any hearing and no appeal; it remains restricted to minders, a scam Egyptian state media in its office. We'll have more on this.


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