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On eve of Human Rights Day, UN organizes all-male panel

December 7, 2015

Dear Mr. Secretary-General,

At the noon briefing today, Mr. Ivan Šimonović of the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights provided an overview of UN events marking Human Rights Day 2015. We took note of the panel discussion planned for December 9, 2015 to review Human Rights up Front, an initiative you launched two years ago.

Certainly, the Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights should recognize that women’s rights are human rights. Remarkably, according to Mr. Šimonović’s remarks, the composition of the panel discussion is entirely male:

  • Deputy Secretary-General, Mr. Jan Eliasson
  • High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein
  • Mr. Ian Martin
  • Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom to the United Nations, Mr. Matthew Rycroft
  • Permanent Representative of Uruguay to the United Nations, Mr. Gonzalo Koncke

The fact that this all-male panel is being organized during the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence and on the eve of International Human Rights Day makes a mockery of the UN’s efforts to promote gender parity. Indeed, during the Security Council’s Open Debate on Women, Peace and Security on October 13, 2015 you expressly linked human rights, gender equality and peace and security, stating that “any reforms must include gender equality and women’s leadership as central ingredients, and must be strongly grounded in human rights.”

Mr. Secretary-General, you stated on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women not two weeks ago: “There will be nothing which will stand in our way to achieve gender equality and gender empowerment.” We call on you to put this laudable sentiment into practice by instructing the High Commissioner for Human Rights to correct the gender imbalance of this week’s panel discussion on Human Rights up Front. In doing so, you will send a signal throughout your offices that you will not tolerate such glaring affronts to the promotion of gender parity.


Paula Donovan and Stephen Lewis

Mr. Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary-General
Mr. Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, High Commissioner for Human Rights
Ms. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, Executive Director, UN Women