To Achieve Gender Equality Within, the UN Must Do More to Tackle Sexual Harassment

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations


Antonia Kirkland is Global Lead on Legal Equality & Access to Justice at Equality Now*

Credit: Equality Now, Tara Carey

NEW YORK, Sep 30 2020 (IPS) – In September 2017, Secretary-General António Guterres launched the “System-wide strategy on gender parity”, which set the goal of reaching gender parity within the United Nations by 2028 and outlined a strategy on how to achieve this, including the introduction of special measures, senior appointments, targets and accountability, amongst other things.

Three years have passed and it is heartening to hear that the UN has made significant progress towards this goal by achieving gender parity within its senior management. We look forward to the organization hopefully achieving this at all levels by 2028, or preferably sooner.

The principle of equal rights for women and men is one of the pillars upon which the UN was founded. It is rooted in the recognition that gender equality is a fundamental human right and that empowering all women is essential for a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable world.

The blueprint to achieving this was outlined by the UN in 2015 with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which enshrines the ambition in Sustainable Development Goal 5 to “achieve gender equality and empower all women and girls”.

As an agenda-setting organisation that plays an influential role on the world stage, the UN has a responsibility to lead by example in advocating for gender equality from the inside out. This entails ensuring that women from a variety of backgrounds are equally represented at all levels of the UN system, and is necessary for both its credibility and effectiveness in applying a gender lens to its policies and programs.

An inclusive, gender-balanced and culturally diverse workforce, operating within a system that support’s women’s equal access to decision-making, will enable the UN to carry out its mandate more successfully.

Although gender parity is an important component of achieving gender equality within the UN, what is also needed is a frank examination and enhancement of the organizational culture and ways of working. The UN has spoken of the need to “create a working environment that embraces equality, eradicates bias, and is inclusive of all staff.”

Whilst it is encouraging to see the progress being made at the UN, there are still areas where commitments must be translated into effective action, and this pertains particularly to the handling of sexual abuse and harassment within the work environment, even as the workplace itself is evolving in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In 2018, UN Women appointed an Executive Coordinator and Spokesperson on Sexual Harassment and Discrimination. This office was tasked with “supporting States, government administrations and the private sector to ensure actions are taken to respond to women’s experiences of sexual harassment.”

It contributed to the adoption of the UN System Model Policy on Sexual Harassment by the Chief Executives Board, as well as promoting much-needed awareness raising and open discussion of the issue at the highest levels of the UN itself.

Unfortunately, this office has just been closed permanently, undermining the Secretary-General’s “zero-tolerance” policy on sexual harassment and putting into question the UN’s commitment to priortizing this as in important issue in need of addressing.

Greater attention and improvement are required regarding the handling of sexual harassment and abuse cases involving UN staff, including those in senior management. A staff survey investigating sexual harassment within the organization was carried out in 2018.

Only 17.1 percent of staff responded but of those who did, a third reported they had experienced harassment, with junior and temporary staff being particularly targeted. 12 percent of the perpetrators were in senior leadership positions and incidents were cited in which offenders were not punished or condemned, despite numerous charges being levied against them.

This type of failure was clearly illustrated when the UN’s own internal Dispute Tribunal called the “accountability gap deplorable” in a recent case involving compensation for sexual harassment committed by a previous chair of the International Civil Service Commission against a UN staff member who worked under him.

Although the chair was a UN official elected by the UN General Assembly, he was deemed to be outside the jurisdiction of the UN Secretary-General and as such, no action was taken by the Tribunal. This demonstrates a systemic failure in dealing with cases of this kind.

Sexual harassment and abuse thrive where there is a culture that fosters a lack of accountability that enables perpetrators to act with impunity. Tackling it requires clear and effective leadership to ensure the implementation of adequate safeguarding measures.

Senior management must enact changes to embed transparency across the board, tackle the continuing problem of under-reporting, and provide better support to victims and whistle-blowers who disclose allegations. Only then, will the UN truly be on course to achieve gender equality within its own ranks and stand as a role model for others.

For media enquiries and interview requests please contact Tara Carey at; +44 (0)20 7304 6902; +44 (0)7971 556 340.

*Equality Now is an international human rights organisation that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls around the world by combining grassroots activism with international, regional and national legal advocacy. It’s international network of lawyers, activists, and supporters achieve legal and systemic change by holding governments responsible for enacting and enforcing laws and policies that end legal inequality, sex trafficking, sexual violence, and harmful practices such as female genital mutilation and child marriage.

For details of current campaigns, go to, Facebook @equalitynoworg, and Twitter @equalitynow.


Congolese ‘Kings’ of Art on Exhibition in Paris

Civil Society, Headlines, TerraViva United Nations

The show “Kings of Kin” – brings together the work of Chéri Samba (pictured above), Bodys Isek Kingelez and Moké, known affectionately as the kings of Kinshasa, as their art is closely linked with the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their home and work base. Credit: AD McKenzie

PARIS, Sep 28 2020 (IPS) Chéri Samba has a sly sense of humour, both in person and in his work. Standing in front of his 2018 painting “J’aime le jeu de relais” (I Love the Relays) – which criticizes politicians who cling to power instead of passing the baton – Samba is asked about the resemblance of one of his subjects to a famous statesman.

“Oh, I was just portraying a politician in general. I didn’t really have a particular person in mind because they all have certain characteristics,” he responds. Then he adds mischievously, “Isn’t it me though? Doesn’t it look like me?”

In this case it doesn’t, but the Congolese artist sometimes depicts himself in various guises in his paintings. Visitors to the current exhibition in Paris featuring his work and those of two of his equally acclaimed countrymen will have fun trying to spot him on canvas.

The show – Kings of Kin – brings together the work of Samba, Bodys Isek Kingelez and Moké, known affectionately as the kings of Kinshasa, as their art is closely linked with the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, their home and work base. All three have participated in numerous exhibitions around the world, in group and solo shows, but this is the first time they’re being shown together in galleries.

Kings of Kin is being held jointly at the MAGNIN-A and the Natalie Seroussi galleries (running until Oct. 30) and features some 30 works, including Samba’s latest paintings. He is undoubtedly the star attraction with his bold, massive canvases commenting on social and political issues in Africa and elsewhere, but the others command attention as well.

Samba also is the only surviving “king” as Moké died in 2001 and Kingelez in 2015.

On a recent unseasonably hot afternoon, the artist is present at the MAGNIN-A gallery, speaking with a visitor who’s wearing a mask, although he himself is without one. He says he came to Paris in January, then got caught in the lockdown as the Covid-19 pandemic spread in France. He has used the time to complete several paintings for the current show.

Asked if he doesn’t miss the “inspiration” that Kinshasa provides, Samba replies that all artists should be able to produce work wherever they find themselves.

“I live in the world, and I breathe as if I’m in Kinshasa,” he says. “In my head, I want to live where I can speak with people and where they understand me. I travel with the same brain. I would like to be in Kinshasa, but this doesn’t prevent me from creating. The world belongs to all of us.”

His new paintings fill the entry and the main hall of the MAGNIN-A gallery, with bright greens, reds, blues – inviting viewers into his mind or current state of world awareness. 

The first work that strikes the eye is “Merci, merci je suis dans la zone verte” (Thank you, thank you I’m in the green zone), which depicts a man – the artist – seemingly caught in a vortex of some sort. Painted this year, the painting reflects the current global upheavals with the Covid-19 and other ills. It could also be referencing the DRC’s past under brutal colonialism and the difficulties of the present.

Another equally compelling work features the faces of six girls of different ethnicities, produced in acrylic with particles of glitter, and titled: “On Est Tout Pareils” (We’re All the Same). Samba says that his daughter served as the model and that the painting is a call for peace, equality and the ability to live together without discord.

The oldest of his paintings on display dates from 1989 and reveals a very different style, with softer colours and intricate workmanship, as he portrays a Congolese singer – the late feminist performer M’Pongo Love – wearing an attractive dress. Here the broad strokes are absent, and the designs on the dress are meticulously captured.

He says that although viewers may notice variations between his earlier output and the new works, he tends not to take note of such differences.

“All the paintings are like my children,” he says. “I can’t make distinctions between them.”

In contrast to Samba, the paintings by Moké comprise softer hues and have a more earthy feel, but they also compel the viewer to see into the lives of those depicted. Moké’s subjects nearly always elicit a certain empathy, a certain melancholy, and sometimes hope – whether these subjects are performers or an older couple simply having dinner together.

Moké lived for only 51 years, but his output was impressive – dating from the time he arrived in Kinshasa as a child and began painting urban landscapes on cardboard. He considered himself a “painter-journalist” and portrayed the everyday life of the capital, including political happenings. One of his paintings from 1965 depicts then-general Mobutu Sese Seko waving to the crowds as he came to power in Zaire (the previous name of the DRC).

In the Paris show, Moké’s paintings depict boxers, performers, frenetic city scenes, and portraits of women staring out with expressions that are both bold and solemn.

Meanwhile, the work of Kingelez takes viewers into a sphere of colourful towers and other “weird and wonderful” structures with a utopian bent, as he imagines a world that might possibly rise from the ravages of colonialism, inequity and bad urban planning.

The first Congolese artist to have a retrospective exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art (“City Dreams” in 2018), Kingelez used everyday objects such as paper, cardboard and plastic to produce his first individual sculptures before creating whole fantastical cities.

His futuristic urban settings, which also address social issues, thus form a perfect companion to the “surreal earthliness” of Samba and Moké in Kings of Kin.

“These are artists who worked because of deep necessity, because they had something to say. It wasn’t about the art market or commerce,” said French gallery owner and independent curator André Magnin, who first encountered their work in the 1980s in Kinshasa.

The author of several books on Congolese art, Magnin said he hoped visitors to the exhibition would discover the unique “artistic richness” of the Congo region as exemplified by the “kings”. As for “queens”, he said that there weren’t many women artists working at the time, but that more are now becoming known and should be the focus of coming shows.

Dorine, a French art student of African descent who visited the exhibition, said she admired the artists and particularly Samba because he “speaks of African reality”.

“Their work is very interesting, and the message is extremely strong,” she told SWAN.


Agriculture for Development

Civil Society, Food & Agriculture

Sep 21 2020 –  

Special Issue on the contributions of non-governmental organisations and civil society
to agricultural and rural development

– Involving local communities in setting the agricultural development agenda
– Ten years of opportunities to improve the lives of family farmers
– BRAC’s contributions to agricultural development
– Updated data sets for more efficient investment strategies for family farms
– Can food production keep up with population increase in Malawi?

– Northern civil society in agriculture in the South: a failure?
– A systems approach to unlock the potential of African agriculture
– Promoting biodiversity and livelihoods through community forest restoration
– Introducing the new Chair of TAA
– Alternative livelihoods in an opium-based agricultural economy
– News from NGO institutional members

Source: ‘Agriculture for Development’ journal


After 75 Years, UN Claims 50:50 Gender Parity, But Falls Short of its Ultimate Goals

Civil Society, Development & Aid, Editors’ Choice, Featured, Gender, Global, Global Governance, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, TerraViva United Nations

While women have come a long way since the adoption of the Beijing Platform for Action nearly 25 years ago, they still lag behind on virtually every Sustainable Development Goal (SDG). Credit: UN Women, India

UNITED NATIONS, Sep 18 2020 (IPS) – When the United Nations was dominated by men, holding some of the highest positions in the staff hierarchy, women staffers were overwhelmingly administrative secretaries seen pounding on their Remington typewriters seated outside their bosses’ enclosed offices.

A legendary story circulating in the 1960s recounts the plight of a woman candidate being interviewed for a job. She had superlative credentials, including work experience as a political analyst, and was armed with a post-graduate degree from a prestigious university in the US.

The male UN director from human resources, however, had one final question at the end of the interview: “But can you type?”

Mercifully, that was a bygone era. But since then, the UN has made significant progress trying to conform to an age-old General Assembly resolution calling for gender parity system-wide.

As Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted last week: “The #COVID19 pandemic is demonstrating what we all know: millennia of patriarchy have resulted in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture which damages everyone – women, men, girls & boys.”

As the UN commemorates its 75th anniversary, the world body claims it has achieved 50:50 gender parity in the higher ranks of its administrative hierarchy.

But it still falls short of reaching “full parity at all levels” of the Organization —even as two recent staff surveys in New York and Geneva raised several lingering questions, including the largely system-wide absence of women of color, widespread racism in the Organization and the lack of equitable geographical representation of staffers from the developing world.

In a letter to staffers on September 2, Guterres singles out the efforts made shortly after he took office: ”Nearly four years into this effort, I can report that we have come a long way”.

In 2019, for the first time in United Nations history, he said; “we reached parity in the Senior Management Group and among Resident Coordinators. On 1 January 2020, and well ahead of schedule, we attained this milestone by reaching parity among all full-time senior leaders, comprising 90 women and 90 men at the level of Assistant and Under-Secretaries-General.”

“In addition to the commitment to reach parity and diversify in our senior leadership by 2021, I have committed to achieving parity at all levels of the Organization by 2028”.

“We are on track to meet this target, but progress is uneven and inconsistent. Our greatest challenge is in field missions, where the gap is the largest and the rate of change is slowest”, he added.

Prisca Chaoui, Executive Secretary of the 3,500-strong Staff Coordinating Council of the UN Office in Geneva (UNOG), told IPS that in the past, despite the existence of competent women in the UN, it has largely been the reality that when women do achieve career progression, it tends to be mostly women belonging to certain geographical groups or regions.

“There are concerns that implementation of the UN’s Gender Parity Strategy may follow a similar pattern. It is crucial that this important initiative ensures a diverse gender parity that includes women from the global South, women of colour, and women from developing and underrepresented countries,” she noted.

The Organization can do better at bringing the valuable and creative talents of diverse women together to help bridge the gender gap. This can only help the UN better deliver on its mandate – especially in these challenging times.

“Gender and geographic diversity should not be mutually exclusive. We can implement the Gender Parity Strategy while ensuring improved geographical representation and diversity,” Chaoui declared.

Meanwhile, the lack of geographical diversity is reflected in the absence of staffers from some 21 member states, according to the latest December 2017 figures released in a report to the UN’s Administrative and Budgetary Committee.

The 21 “unrepresented” countries among staffers, mostly in the developing world, include Afghanistan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic Saint Lucia, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines., Angola, Marshall Islands, Sao Tome and Principe, Belize, Monaco, Timor-Leste, Equatorial Guinea, Nauru, Tuvalu, Kiribati, Palau United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Vanuatu.

Ian Richards, former President of the Coordinating Committee of International Staff Unions and Associations, and an economist at the Geneva-based UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), told IPS that last year Guterres asked the UN’s member states at the General Assembly to let him change the staff regulations to allow the quotas and promotion and recruitment bans based on gender that he had been seeking for a while. But they refused his request.

“It seems they felt it went against Article 8 of the UN Charter on non-discrimination and Article 101 on merit”.

However, this year, while the pandemic and Covid-19 recovery efforts drew attention elsewhere, it seems he made the changes anyway, albeit through a type of executive order called an “administrative instruction”, complained Richards.

Firstly, is the executive order legal if it contradicts the staff regulations? he asked. Lawyers have apparently been looking at this. And, secondly, is it wise to provoke our member states by disregarding their instructions at a time when some are trying to cut our funding? There seems to be some disquiet.

“We all want to advance gender balance and we are all impatient. But I hope our efforts to do so doesn’t backfire because of this”.

A further question is why aren’t the General Service staff included?. They are staff like everyone else and form the backbone of our organization,” asked Richards.

Currently, the UN has a global staff of about 34,170, according to the latest figures from the Chief Executives Board for Coordination.

While the Secretariat staff in New York is estimated at over 3,000, the five largest UN agencies worldwide include the UN children’s agency UNICEF (12,806 staffers), the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (9,740), the World Health Organization (8,049), the UN Development Programme (7,177) and the World Food Programme (6,091).

Purnima Mane, a former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director of the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), told IPS it is indeed heartening to hear that the UN has reached gender parity among its senior leadership.

The Secretary-General further promises that steps will be taken to ensure parity at all levels of the organization by 2028 which is most welcome, she said.

“It is also heartening to note that there is attention to the reality that it is not just about numbers but also about a shift in organizational culture. There obviously needs to be transparency on what this shift implies in terms of its goals, how they will be achieved, and how success will be measured.”

While equitable recruitment is one way to measure gender parity, number of male and female staff obviously cannot be the sole measure of success in achieving gender equality, she argued.

“Parity in numbers is one, critical part of ensuring gender equality in the UN but it needs to be matched with efforts that address the quality of work life. Recognizing the demands on the lives of women and men today and building flexibility in work life policies is a key part of ensuring this quality and equality,” she added.

Attention will have to be paid to other critical areas of work life, such as parity in retention, rate of promotion, salary, benefit package including adequate and flexible work arrangements especially those related to maternity (and paternity) leave, and support and mentoring of women, Mane said.

Targets will not only need to be set for each of these areas but also reported on to ensure transparency and accountability that gender parity is successful in a comprehensive and meaningful way, in the long run, she declared.

Ben Phillips, author of ‘How to Fight Inequality’ and former Campaigns Director for Oxfam and for ActionAid, told IPS there is a growing unity amongst grassroots groups across the world fighting intersecting inequalities.

That is what ‘we the peoples‘ really means. It is that united push that is driving a long-overdue reckoning across institutions of every kind, said Phillips who co-founded the Fight Inequality Alliance.


UN Women Calls for Accelerating its Unfinished Business

Civil Society, Featured, Gender, Global, Headlines, IPS UN: Inside the Glasshouse, Poverty & SDGs, TerraViva United Nations, Women’s Health


Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka is UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director, UN Women

Women in Bangladesh stand up for gender equality. Credit: UNICEF/Jannatul Mawa

NEW YORK, Sep 7 2020 (IPS) – Twenty-five years ago, the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing set a path-breaking agenda for women’s rights. As a result of the two-week gathering with more than 30,000 activists, representatives from 189 nations unanimously adopted the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.

This historic blueprint articulated a vision of equal rights, freedom and opportunities for women – everywhere, no matter what their circumstances are – that continues to shape gender equality and women’s movements worldwide.

A quarter century on, the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, calls for urgent action: “With nations around the world searching for solutions to the complex challenges of our age, the leading way for all of us to rebuild more equal, inclusive, and resilient societies, is to accelerate the implementation of women’s rights – the Beijing Platform for Action. That vision has been only partly realized. We still live in a male-dominated world with a male-dominated culture, and this simply has to change”.

The Beijing Platform for Action imagined a world where every woman and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices, and realize her rights, such as to live free from violence, to go to school, to participate in decisions and to earn equal pay for work of equal value. As a defining framework for change, the Platform for Action made comprehensive commitments under 12 critical areas of concern.

Twenty-five years later, no country has fully delivered on the commitments of the Beijing Platform for Action, nor is close to it. A major stock-taking UN Women report published earlier this year showed that progress towards gender equality is faltering and hard-won advances are being reversed.

Women currently hold just one quarter of the seats at the tables of power across the board. Men are still 75 per cent of parliamentarians, hold 73 per cent of managerial positions, are 70 per cent of climate negotiators and almost all of the peacemakers.

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka

The anniversary is a wake-up call and comes at a time when the impact of the gender equality gaps is undeniable. Research shows the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating pre-existing inequalities and threatening to halt or reverse the gains of decades of collective effort – with just released new data revealing that the pandemic will push 47 million more women and girls below the poverty line.

We are also witnessing increased reports on violence against women throughout the world due to the lockdowns, and women losing their livelihoods faster because they are more exposed to hard-hit economic sectors.

While much works remains on fulfilling the promises of the Beijing Platform for Action, it continues to be a global framework and a powerful source of mobilization, civil society activism, guidance and inspiration 25 years later.

It was at the Fourth World Conference on Women, specifically at the Women & Health Security Colloquium, where Hillary Clinton coined the phrase, “Women’s rights are human rights, and human rights are women’s rights”.

In a recent article in The Atlantic, she recalled her participation at the Conference as the Honorary Chairperson of the US delegation, and the significance of the Beijing Declaration: “A 270-page document might not lend itself to bumper stickers or coffee mugs, but it laid the groundwork for sweeping, necessary changes.”

Underlining the urgency for implementation, she added: “As the changes laid out in the Platform for Action have been implemented, what’s become clear is that simply embracing the concept of women’s rights, let alone enshrining those rights in laws and constitutions, is not the same as achieving full equality. Rights are important, but they are nothing without the power to claim them.”

Years after, global activists continue the hard work and those who participated at the 1995 Beijing Conference remain touched by this historic meeting. Zeliha Ünaldi, a long-standing gender advocate from Turkey, said it was a life-changing experience: “When I recall those days, mingling around the tents with thousands of women committing to a better world, two words immediately come to my mind: sisterhood and peace. The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action and the subsequent five years helped me understand the power in us and of us as the global women’s movement.”

The upcoming UN General Assembly later this month will be a key opportunity to bring to the forefront the relevance of the Beijing Declaration and move the needle on implementation, with a High-Level Meeting attended by global leaders on “Accelerating the Realization of Gender Equality and the Empowerment of all Women and Girls” on 1 October.

The event will showcase how building equal and inclusive societies is more urgent than ever, as the COVID-19 pandemic ravages lives and livelihoods.

Calling on world leaders to use their political power to accelerate robust action and resources for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls: “This is a re-set moment. On this important anniversary, let us reaffirm the promises the world made to women in 1995. Let us draw on the activist spirit of the Beijing Conference and commit to forging new alliances across generations and sectors to ensure we seize this opportunity for deep, systemic change for women and for the world.”

The anniversary will be further commemorated in the context of the Generation Equality Forum, a civil society–centred, global gathering for gender equality, convened by UN Women and co-hosted by the governments of France and Mexico, foreseen to take place in the first half of 2021.

Exactly 25 years after the opening of the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China, its significance is undimmed. In that quarter century we have seen the strength and impact of collective activism grow and have been reminded of the importance of multilateralism and partnership to find common solutions to shared problems.

Back in 1995, the deliberations of the Conference resulted in the framing of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action: a bold agenda for the change needed to realize the human rights of women and girls, articulated across 12 critical areas of concern.

The Platform for Action provided a blueprint for the advancement of gender equality and the empowerment of women and girls, adopted by 189 UN Member States and universally referenced.

The continued relevance of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action cannot be overstated today. The far-reaching social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the significant increases in violence against women, threaten to reverse many of the hard-won advances made in the last 25 years to empower women and girls.

At the same time, the outstanding value of women’s leadership through the COVID-19 pandemic is in plain sight, along with the recognition of just how much women’s work and women’s movements have sustained the world, from domestic life, the fight for human rights, to national economies.

We also know that by next year, 435 million women and girls are likely to have been reduced to extreme poverty. Governments, local administrations, businesses and enterprises of all sorts must not let this happen.

To tackle persistent systemic barriers to equality, we need transformative approaches and new alliances that engage the private sector alongside governments and civil society. This is a re-set moment. The economic and policy lifeboats for our struggling world must put women and children first.

The political will of leaders can make the difference. World leaders convening at this year’s United Nations General Assembly have the opportunity to use their power in action to accelerate the realization of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls, and to support the role of civil society organizations and youth.

Our humanitarian responses to COVID-19, our economic stimulus packages, our reinventions of working life and our efforts to create solidarity across social and physical distance – these are all chances to build back better for women and girls.

For success, we need to work together on these transformative actions. In 2019, we launched a global campaign called Generation Equality: Realizing Women’s Rights for an Equal Future, with a call for renewed commitment by governments in partnership with civil society, academia and the private sector.

It included clear timelines, responsibilities and resources towards realizing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, an ambitious long-term framework that included goals to achieve universal gender equality.

On October 1, 2020, when a High-Level Meeting on the 25th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action is convened by the President of the General Assembly, Member States can put into action their commitment toward a more gender-equal world.

On this important anniversary, let us reaffirm the promises the world made to women and girls in 1995. Let us draw on the activist spirit of the Beijing Conference and commit to forging new alliances across generations and sectors to ensure we seize this opportunity for deep, systemic change for women and for the world.


Americans By Force

Civil Society, Democracy, Headlines, Human Rights, North America, TerraViva United Nations


The explanation for black Americans endemic discrimination is the contrast between their implantation in the United States and the way the rest of the public settled in the “American dream.” Almost everyone came to this idea that is the United States of free will.

Protests have been taking place in cities across the United States. Credit: UN News/Shirin Yaseen

MIAMI, Sep 4 2020 (IPS) – Why, in the United States, where change is the most pronounced hallmark, do some aspects never change? Why do many bad habits resist giving way to novelties that prove to be the basis of the success of the most developed country on earth and still the leading power?  Why is the explanation for that leadership due to a few factors? Why does Trump profess a visceral opposition to immigration, knowing that it is the key to the country’s success? Because millions of his compatriots interpret the sinew of American DNA as a threat to their comparative social advantage.

Meanwhile, in this drama, blacks continue to bear the brunt of it all. The explanation for their endemic discrimination is the contrast between their implantation in the United States and the way the rest of the public settled in the “American dream.” Almost everyone came to this idea that is the United States of free will.

No one can say that their grandparents were forced to change residence. Although it can be argued that hunger, religious persecution, and the desire for economic improvement were important factors in driving emigration from Europe, Africa, or Asia, it is also true that voluntary americanization is the key to the success of the United States.

Joaquín Roy

This country is the most genuine example of national construction opposed to that based on ethnicity, religion, race. America is the most definite specimen of the nation of choice, based on personal conviction.

It is not by chance that theorists of nationalism call this alternative “liberal.” The “American dream” explains its survival. As long as millions of citizens of other continents answer Ernest Renan’s question with a negative vote every night in his imaginary “daily plebiscite”, and decide to opt for the residency trick, the United States will exist.

The day a majority of Americans vote negative for residency, the country would be deserted. There is nothing that unites Americans, except their desire to be. Their religion is summarized in the offer provided by the Declaration of Independence: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He does not give them a guarantee, but a promise. And it is enough for them.

However, the absence of a residency obligation has two crucial exceptions: black and indigenous minorities. These two sectors contrast in their implementation in what for them is, more than a dream, an “American nightmare.”

Although it can be argued that hunger, religious persecution, and the desire for economic improvement were important factors in driving emigration from Europe, Africa, or Asia, it is also true that voluntary americanization is the key to the success of the United States.

The original owners of the immense territory, although their immemorial ancestors crossed the Straits of Alaska at the dawn of North America, have been reduced to their reservations, marginalized, eaten away by poverty and alcoholism. Even in the sporadic mythos in Hollywood movies, Sitting Bull and his imitators do not overcome the mystique of Buffalo Bill.

The blacks were unfortunately marked by the original sin of not having booked a ticket for the forced trip to the United States. Their implantation has been resisted from the beginning by themselves and by the descendants of the merchants who deposited them in America.

With their emancipation and its disastrous execution, the peculiarity of their residence became more apparent. When they were stripped of the benefits that they had given away to their owners for free, their value was lost in Wall Street.

The successive corrective measures of discrimination and segregation only made the division of society even more evident. Despite the actions of Martin Luther King, who paid for his daring with his life, legal advances supercharged racist resentment from a part of society that resisted reform. “Affirmative Action” and food stamps multiplied the opposition.

Simultaneously, the black community, which had ceased to call itself “colored,” to take a curious journey back to being classified as “African,” watched with amazement as other newcomers from other continents were climbing ranks.

Latin Americans began to outnumber blacks not only in economic resources, but in numbers. As a result of the new census parameters, while whites held 63%, Hispanics (15%) and Asians (10%) cornered blacks (13%).

Internally, the new “African-Americans” decided to opt for a peculiar nationalism: they defended themselves with their signs of “black is beautiful”, they enthroned their peculiar English inherited from their owners, and they monopolized some entertainment professions.

Some were more fortunate and co-opted the rosters of basketball teams. For their part, some managed to settle on the ladders of power as senators and congress people, thanks in part to the restructuring of electoral districts.

Then they even aimed, with the decisive support of white sectors, to opt for the incredible: the presidency of the United States. It was already too much and the opposition to this impudence did not forgive Obama or the rest of the community, and even less the Democrats and liberals.

The mirage of the election of the first black president bypassed the resistance of deep America and the withdrawal of the “silent majority” that Nixon tried to awaken. Now Trump has reinvented it.

It was forgotten that only about a third of the electorate voted for Obama, while another third chose the Republican candidates. Another third stayed home. Among those 60-70% of Americans who abstained from voting on the traditional electoral correction, crouched was the mostly white sector, both high-income and lower-middle-class that followed the sounds of the piper Trump.

Those who rejected the candidate Hillary Clinton believed, and still believe, that their faltering economies have been pierced by the rise of the historically vanquished. They now believe that their pristine suburbs, real or imagined, are threatened by the “socialist” hordes of predominantly Latino origin, and the “terrorists” who insist on protesting against what they consider dangerous interference by the security forces in daily life.

The only thing missing is that the statistical evidence of the black overpopulation of the prisons and the number of crime victims of the same origin is “enriched” with sad deaths of blacks at the hands of white policemen.

Joaquín Roy is Jean Monnet Professor and Director of the European Union Center at the University of Miami