Town Hall with the Secretary General
Brief summary of presentation of information made
UN Secretary General António Guterres convened a town hall meeting with civil society – no member states or other interested parties were present. It was simply a time for people to ask questions and make statements so that SG Guterres could hear the concerns of civil society, and he took the time to respond to each question.
In addressing CSW and the importance of gender equality, SG Guterres said:
- Our goal is to mainstream gender in all aspects and policies of the UN, with 3 points of emphasis.
- Take on the power dynamics. We live in a male-dominated world and culture, where power is not easily given – it must be taken. We need to create an environment for women to take back a fair share of power.
- Achieve full gender parity. Top leadership at the UN just achieved gender parity, but other levels of the UN still have a way to go. We commit to this initiative.
- Eliminate sexual exploitation by UN employees (such as Peacekeepers) against the people they are serving. The onus mostly falls on member states. Sexual harassment within the UN is very low based on the number of reported incidents. This does not mean that the rate is actually low, but that people do not feel comfortable reporting. An important step is to make sure UN victims are able and confident to report.
Guterres then made a number of interesting points and responses as he fielded questions from the crowd.
- We must integrate young people more effectively into conversations. Many policies will disproportionately affect them, yet we brush their opinions to the side. Young people want and need a two-way dialogue – they can talk all they want, but how do we ensure that policymakers listen? One area that could provide solutions is in new communication technologies.
- The issue of widows, and their sheer numbers, has been overlooked in past women-related UN documents, reports and compacts. Work should be done to reflect upon and consider the specific struggles of widows in any agenda moving forward.
- Whenever a political leader says or does something that the UN disagrees with, Guterres will choose to not bash their decisions, but rather encourage them to change their mind through specific policy proposals and recommendations. “I never fight against people. What I will do is fight in favour of values”.
- Rural girls in Nigeria are dying every single day due to extremist and tribal violence, and the Nigerian government is overwhelmed. But this is a problem that the Nigerian government itself must solve. The international community is willing to lend support, but cannot interfere in the sphere of the Nigerian state.
- Young adults with limited experience but limitless potential have been systematically excluded from employment by the UN’s restrictive hiring procedures. Guterres hopes to review the hiring process later this year and reach a compromise to give more opportunities to promising young individuals.
What was of particular significance to share with The Salvation Army globally?
The UN is making a concerted effort to increase transparency, break out of the bureaucratic policymaking bubble and consider the concerns of non-state-affiliated individuals. This is a promising development for the future of The Salvation Army at the UN, given that it will have increased space to lift a confident and informed voice and advocate for the The Salvation Army as a whole and the goals of its ministry.
The Secretary General’s comments on gender parity in the upper echelons of the UN could be an interesting example for The Salvation Army to look at. As the Commission on the Status of Women continues into mid-March, the conversation will continue about women in leadership and the value of equal representation in important positions.
Web links for more information
Watch the entire event on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/UNWebTV/videos/1880830805262461/
Read more about the Planet 50-50 Gender Equality Initiative: http://www.unwomen.org/en/get-involved/step-it-up/aboutTags: United Nations, SDG10: Reduced Inequalities, SDG8: Decent Work and Economic Growth, SDG5: Gender Equality, SDG17: Partnerships for the Goals