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When UNSG Guterres Met Takijistan Team, Like DRC, No Women On Either Side, ICP Asks

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 22 – When UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and his team met with the foreign minister of Tajikistan Sirodjidin Aslov and his team on March 22, it was an all-male affair just like the previous day with the the Democratic Republic of the Congo's Vice Prime Minister Léonard She Okitundu. Tweeted DRC photo here; video here. After the unisex DRC meeting, and Guterres' speech at a "Gender Champions" event right after that, Inner City Press on March 22 asked Guterres' holdover deputy spokesman Farhan Haq, UN transcript here:

Inner City Press:  there was a meeting yesterday afternoon between the… the… I guess first Prime Minister of the DRC and the Secretary-General and his team.  And I have to say, because there was this event called “Gender Champions” afterwards, I did notice, not just on the DRC side but on the Secretary-General's side, it was six men.  And I just wanted to know, is there some… I heard him say at the Gender Champions that there's an end to all-male panels and a lot of things about gender parity.  Was this some kind of an oversight?  Is it something… did someone who was supposed to attend not attend or what's your… how would you characterize the makeup of that meeting?

Deputy Spokesman:  Well, the Secretary-General has made it very clear he wants to see an end to panels which are just… only male.  If there are any problems getting the right mix, people are encouraged to do what they can to get the right mix of panellists.  Sometimes, inevitably, whether it's through absences or whatever, it doesn't work out that way.  But we're trying to make sure that, as a general practice, that all panels will have some gender balance to them. 

   This two days in a row, no women, 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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