Happy Thanksgiving….. but

I was going to post a Happy Thanksgiving, nice, love and gratitude piece and then I read the below from someone I deeply respect, Paula Donovan of Aids-Free-World. I can tell you what I am NOT grateful for. I am not grateful when leaders have the opportunity to do the right thing, and do not. In fact I am down right tired of it. What will it take? Truly, what will it take?

Please read the below and take ONE ACTION at least. If you have time and passion, do more. If you want encouragement that male leaders can take a stand, watch this. 

Dear Jacki,

At the risk of sending this twice, this is so important and time-sensitive that we wanted to be sure it reached you directly. Your active engagement would be much appreciated.

The UN has promoted women’s equality for decades – in words, but not deeds.  On predictable dates, such as International Women’s Day and today, November 25th, the first of the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence, the Secretary-General takes to the world stage to preach about the full, equal rights and participation of women.

Throughout the rest of the year, his actions send a much louder and clearer message:  Equality for women? Not yet. Be patient.

We’re tired of waiting. It’s time for women to send back an equally clear message: As long as you ignore women, Mr. Secretary-General, we will ignore you.

Ban Ki-moon took his latest discriminatory action on October 31st when he appointed an “independent high-level panel” to review the way the UN and the world’s governments deal with peace operations. Given billions of candidates to consider, he selected 14 panelists: 11 men, three women.

He made his announcement on one of the few annual dates when UN Secretaries-General typically make pronouncements about gender equality. He chose October 31st, exactly fourteen long years from the day when the Security Council passed Resolution 1325 on women, peace, and security. That historic resolution makes it incumbent upon on all governments, and every part of the UN system, to ensure the equal participation of women in all aspects of peace and security.
The anti-gender equality message Ban Ki-moon sent on October 31st sounded like this to women:


Yes, yes, you’re “equal” and sure, your participation is vital—but not in the complicated geopolitical work of the United Nations! Not at the global level! Don’t misunderstand: we consult you when your issues come up–child health, maternal mortality, nutrition, sexual violence, that sort of thing. But when we men have to make decisions about really complex issues, like peace, security, militarism, global economics and politics, climate change…frankly, “women’s full and equal participation” isn’t just an abstraction; it’s a distraction.  I needed experts who could deal with troop deployments, chains of command, civilian protection, drones and helicopters—artillery and heavy machinery, and what to do with peacekeepers who rape civilians!  Some day, women may be ready to grapple with those ‘hard’ issues. But for now, men are the ones with the broad skills. Men have more impressive CVs.  Men are more diplomatic. Men are intellectual, not emotional. Men have credibility. Men know how to cut deals and compromise. Men belong on “high-level panels.” Men should make decisions. Women can provide “input”—for men to weigh.

AIDS-Free World sent a letter of protest to the Secretary-General, and demanded that he re-constitute the panel to include equal numbers of women and men: some men could step down, or he could enlist another eight women.  Other proponents of women’s rights joined in. The media asked questions.
Through a spokesperson, there came an apology: “we’ll have to do better.”
We wrote again to say that an apology was not enough; Ban must fix the panel, now.
On November 21st, a solution was announced: the Secretary-General added one additional woman—but as an “ex-officio” member rather than a bona fide panelist. And the panel’s chair, José Ramos-Horta, gave his assurances that no one need worry: the three women plus the ex-officio member and the eleven men would think about the links between gender and the panel’s issues every day.  Plus, he’d consult with women’s organizations.

It’s time for an ultimatum. Proponents of women’s equal rights are tired of being invited to “participate” through a “broad consultative process” in which male decision-makers “listen to the voices of civil society women” – and then retreat behind closed doors to make their decisions.  We’re tired of a UN operated by and for men; women are sick of being silenced and side-lined by a Secretary-General who acts as though appointing a gender-balanced panel is both impossible and unimportant.

Let’s refuse to condone sexism at the highest level of the UN.  Let’s show our strength by forcing the Secretary-General’s hand. Let’s send a message back: Until you correct the gender imbalance of this panel, we refuse to cooperate with it. We pledge to ignore the panel’s work, and we protest its very credibility. 

And let’s show the Secretary-General and the world that he is dead WRONG: women are not concerned exclusively with “women’s issues.” They have interest and expertise in peace and security.

Please join us by taking the following actions:

  1. Send your own letter by email and/or fax to the Secretary-General, or copy and paste the draft letter below.
  2. Send the names of women who could be invited to serve on the panel to [email protected] by Friday, December 5, 2014.  A name, country and (where available) affiliation is all that’s needed. We will compile and share the list with the Secretary-General.


Draft letter to the Secretary-General:
By email:

[email protected] ; CC: Susana Malcorra, [email protected]
Via Twitter:

#pledgetoignore; @UN; @UNPeacekeeping; @UN_Spokesperson


By fax:



By mail:

His Excellency Ban Ki-moon

United Nations Secretary-General

United Nations Secretariat

First Avenue at 46th Street

New York, NY  10017


Dear Mr. Secretary-General,
We are outraged by your decision to blatantly ignore the principle of gender equality in your recent appointment of a High-level Independent Panel on Peace Operations. By your actions, you effectively repudiated your prior statements to the General Assembly and ignored the importance—agreed by Member States and enshrined in Security Council Resolution 1325—of “increased representation of women at all decision-making levels in national, regional and international institutions and mechanisms for the prevention, management, and resolution of conflict.”


Until you provide for women’s equal representation, women and others who take the equality of women seriously will pledge not to support or engage with the panel. We will not lend any credibility to a review undertaken or recommendations offered through a flawed process that ignores the legitimacy of gender equality.


Download this letter as a Word document.


Paula Donovan,


AIDS-Free World

Main: +1-212-729-5084

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @AIDS_Free_World



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