Michelle Bachelet appointed USG of UN Women

As noted yesterday, Ban Ki Moon has selected  former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet to head up the new UN Women agency. Ms. Bachelet will be formally appointed on Sunday.

The UNelections Campaign has an extensive review of the agency’s establishment and the selection process for the new Under-Secretary-General. Twenty-five nominees (PDF) were submitted to the Secretary-General before the 23 July deadline, with 11 being placed on a short-list and 3 being interviewed by Ban last week. Ms. Bachelet was considered early for the post, but expressed disinterest in the job earlier this summer as she planned to stay involved in Chilean politics.

During the lead-up to the agency’s creation last year, the Global Campaign for Gender Equality Architecture Reform (GEAR) Campaign developed a detailed list of qualifications for candidates, and submitted these to the Secretary General. Ban Ki-moon responded, noting that he intended to

appoint a strong, dynamic, and capable leader through an open, transparent and rigorous recruitment process so that the incumbent will be well-suited to addressing the many challenges which will rest within the purview of the new gender entity.”

Last month, in anticipation of the Secretary-General’s interviews of candidates, GEAR drafted a candidate questionnaire (PDF) and invited candidates to publicly share their vision for UN Women and mechanisms for achieving its aims.

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Ms. Bachelet nor any of the other short-listed candidates responded to the questionnaire and it is not known if the selection panel, chaired by Deputy Secretary General Ash Migiro, considering using the questions in their own processes. The Secretary General, in his off-the-cuff remarks yesterday, stated that

We opened this process to the Member States and all NGOs and the civil community. We have received 26 distinguished candidates from all around the world. We have constituted a selection panel headed by the Deputy Secretary-General, Dr. [Asha Rose] Migiro, and also composed of senior advisors – Under-Secretaries-General, and also outside panel members. The process has been very transparent, and very objective, and fair.

But the UNelections Campaign notes several attempts by civil society groups to learn more about the process, candidates and timeline.

In an open letter dated May 21, 2010, AIDS-Free World (AFW) wrote to the Secretary-General seeking increased transparency in the appointment process. AFW cites previous correspondence with the office of the Deputy Secretary-General, Asha-Rose Migiro, in which Migiro committed to greater transparency on several occasions.

On October 13 and October 29, 2009 as well as March 9, 2010, the DSG’s office repeatedly pledged that it would consult civil society and engage in constructive dialogues with non-governmental organizations in the coming months. Despite these promises, however, AFW writes to Ban, “Although the selection process has begun, we have been unable to identify the Secretariat’s efforts to involve civil society or to find candidates through an open process. We respectfully ask for an explanation of the selection process.”

The selection panel was to include, in addition to the Deputy Sec-Gen and heads of the four women’s agencies being merged into UN Women, a “civil society representative” but who that representative was was never made known to the major civil society groups concerned with the agency’s goals and the process of selection. 

The General Assembly has tasked the Secretary-General with having the agency operational by 1 January 2011. ECOSOC is continuing its discussion on the process of electing the new agency’s Executive Board. Elections for the anticipated 41-member Board will take place in early November, with members serving staggered terms.

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About Tony Fleming

Tony is a communications and advocacy professional with over 15 years experience in United Nations reform advocacy. He began blogging about multilateral elections in 2006 at UNSG.org. He and his wife currently live in Panajachel, Guatemala. Find him on Facebook and Twitter.