Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version

The UN's secretary general needs to be educated about gender issues, write the co-directors of AIDS-Free World.

Aids-Free World
4 January 2011

Dr. Michelle Bachelet

Under Secretary-General
UN Women

304 East 45th Street

15th Floor

New York, NY 10017

United States

An open letter

Can we help with your biggest challenge: educating the secretary-general?

Dear Dr. Bachelet,

On this, the first working week of UN Women, we write to wish you every possible success. It's a huge task to launch the first new UN agency in decades, but as we told you in our recent meeting, we have great confidence in your distinguished leadership.

The greatest challenges will come from within. And that was demonstrated right at the outset of your tenure, by a classic act of unthinking negligence on the part of the secretary-general himself. Alas, it is all too typical.

In yesterday's issue of UN Wire, the lead story was titled ‘Ban Ki-moon expounds on role of the UN’, described as ‘…closing out 2010 and ringing in 2011’. His views are expressed in an op-ed published in the Sydney Morning Herald of Australia.

The secretary-general speaks of the challenges and struggles of the United Nations as it enters the New Year. It would have been a tremendous opportunity to draw attention to UN Women…after all, the creation of an entirely new agency devoted to half the world's population is something to be noted and celebrated.

But there's not a word on UN Women.

And that's only the half of it. The other half provokes disbelief. In a paragraph that summarises the Millennium Development Goals, the secretary-general of the United Nations lists seven of the eight goals: the only one left out is, astonishingly, the goal on gender equality and the empowerment of women. How is that possible?

Dr. Bachelet, you have your work cut out for you. And your work starts at the top.


Paula Donovan & Stephen Lewis

Co-Directors, AIDS-Free World