“HERstory: A celebration of leading women in the United Nations”

María Emma Mejía Vélez, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the UN, at the opening of the exhibition “HERstory: A Celebration of Leading Women in the United Nations.” UN Photo/Mark Garten

A celebration of women’s achievements has been taking place at United Nations Headquarters in New York this month, through photography. On 13 December 2016,  UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary-General-designate António Guterres attended the launch by the Group of Friends for Gender Parity of an historic exhibit to illuminate some of the crucial contributions that women have made throughout the world body’s history – or, as they refer to it, ‘herstory.’

“Through today’s exhibition, the Group has managed to capture both the impact of women at the highest levels of the UN and an historic push for gender equality in employment and decision-making that goes far beyond these halls,” said Peter Thomson, President of the UN General Assembly, during the exhibition’s launch ceremony.

The exhibition: HERstory: A Celebration of Leading Women in the United Nations highlights a host of women’s “firsts” at the UN – such as the first woman to be appointed Deputy Secretary-General, Louise Frechette and the first woman to be appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for a peacekeeping operation, Margaret Anstee.

Here, we take a photo journey back in time to witness just a few of the critical roles women have taken on since the UN was but a fledgling institution.


UN Secretary-General António Guterres appeals for peace

709941-portrait-21_12_2016-13-00-28UN Secretary-General António Guterres on his first day as Secretary-General of the United Nations, appealed for peace. “Let us make 2017 a year for peace. Peace must be our goal and our guide. All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace.  But peace depends on us.” He said in his maiden statement as Secretary General:

“On my first day as Secretary-General of the United Nations, one question weighs heavily on my heart.

How can we help the millions of people caught up in conflict, suffering massively in wars with no end in sight?

Civilians are pounded with deadly force. Women, children and men are killed and injured, forced from their homes, dispossessed and destitute. Even hospitals and aid convoys are targeted.

No one wins these wars; everyone loses. Trillions of dollars are spent destroying societies and economies, fueling cycles of mistrust and fear that can last for generations. Whole regions are destabilized and the new threat of global terrorism affects us all.

On this New Year’s Day, I ask all of you to join me in making one shared New Year’s resolution: Let us resolve to put peace first.

Let us make 2017 a year in which we all – citizens, governments, leaders – strive to overcome our differences.

From solidarity and compassion in our daily lives, to dialogue and respect across political divides… From ceasefires on the battlefield, to compromise at the negotiating table to reach political solutions…

Peace must be our goal and our guide.

All that we strive for as a human family – dignity and hope, progress and prosperity – depends on peace. 

But peace depends on us.

I appeal to you all to join me in committing to peace, today and every day.

Let us make 2017 a year for peace.”

The Gambia: UN Secretary General commends ECOWAS Heads of State.

173377-portrait-08_04_2008-16-01-16The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has commended the firm stance taken by the Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on 17 December with respect to the situation in The Gambia, including the decisions to take all necessary actions to enforce the outcome of the presidential election, guarantee the protection of President-elect Adama Barrow, and attend the inauguration of President-elect Adama Barrow on 19 January 2017.
In a statement issued yesterday in New York, the Secretary-General expressed deep concern about the situation in The Gambia following the presidential election on 1 December. He is particularly worried that the Independent Electoral Commission continues to be under the control of military forces. He urges the Gambian security forces to uphold their neutrality and demonstrate restraint under the unfolding circumstances.
He underscored the commitment of the United Nations to fully support the decisions taken by the ECOWAS Authority, including, if requested, through the provision of support to the mediation effort that will be led by Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and John Dramani Mahama of the Republic of Ghana.

Statement by the Secretary-General-designate Mr Antonio Guterres, on the appointment of his Deputy Secretary-General, Nigeria’s Ms Amina Muhammed

Hajiya Amina Muhammed

Hajiya Amina Muhammed

I am pleased to announce that I will be appointing Ms. Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria as my Deputy Secretary-General, and Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti of Brazil as my Chef de Cabinet.

I also intend to create the position of Special Advisor on Policy, and to appoint Ms. Kyung-wha Kang of the Republic of Korea to this new role.

I am happy to count on the efforts of these three highly competent women, whom I have chosen for their strong backgrounds in global affairs, development, diplomacy, human rights and humanitarian action.

These appointments are the foundations of my team, which I will continue to build, respecting my pledges on gender parity and geographical diversity.

Ms. Amina J. Mohammed is currently Minister of Environment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, where she steers the country’s efforts to protect the natural environment and conserve resources for sustainable development.

Prior to this role, she served as Special Adviser to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Post-2015 Development Planning, where she was instrumental in bringing about the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, including the Sustainable Development Goals.

Before joining the UN, Ms. Mohammed worked for three successive administrations in Nigeria, serving as Special Advisor on the Millennium Development Goals, providing advice on issues including poverty, public sector reform and sustainable development, and coordinating poverty reduction interventions.

She is also an Adjunct Professor in Development Practice at Columbia University, and serves on numerous international advisory boards and panels, including the UN Secretary-General’s High-level Panel on Post-2015 Development Agenda, the Independent Expert Advisory Group on the Data Revolution for Sustainable Development, the Global Development Program of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the UN Secretary-General’s Global Sustainability Panel, the African Women’s Millennium Initiative, Girl Effect and the ActionAid International Right to Education Project.

Born in 1961, and educated Nigeria and the UK, Ms. Mohammed is married with six children.

Ms. Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti is presently the Under-Secretary for Asia and the Pacific at the Brazilian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, where she has special responsibility for work on the BRICS. A career diplomat since 1976, she served most recently as Ambassador to Germany from 2013 to 2016 and as Permanent Representative of Brazil to the United Nations from 2007 to 2011.

Prior to those roles, Ms. Viotti was posted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasília, where she served as Advisor to the Minister (1990-1993), Head of the South America Division I (1996-99),  Director-General for Human Rights and Social Issues (2004-06) and Director-General for International Organizations (2006-07), among other positions.

Earlier in her career, she was appointed to the Mission of Brazil to the United Nations from 1985 to 1988 and again from 1999 to 2004, and to the Embassy of Brazil in La Paz, Bolivia, from 1993 to 1995.

Born in 1954, Ms. Viotti is married and has one son. She holds a bachelor’s degree in economics (1979) from the University of Brasilia, where she also concluded a post-graduate course in 1981.  She also attended the Rio Branco Institute, the Brazilian diplomatic academy.

Ms. Kyung-wha Kang is currently the Chief of the Secretary-General-designate’s Transition Team. She has served as Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs since April 2013, and was Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights from January 2007 to March 2013.

Before entering the United Nations, Ms. Kang was Director General of International Organizations at the Republic of Korea’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs and Trade.  She served in her country’s Permanent Mission to the United Nations from September 2001 to July 2005, during which time she chaired the Commission on the Status of Women.

Prior to joining the Foreign Ministry in 1998, Ms. Kang assisted the Speaker of the National Assembly in parliamentary diplomacy.  Earlier in her career, she worked for the Korean Broadcasting System’s news bureau and international radio bureau, and lectured in universities both in her own country and in the United States.

Born in 1955, Ms. Kang is married and has three children. She graduated from Yonsei University with a Bachelor of Arts in political science and diplomacy.  She also has a Master of Arts in mass communication and a PhD in intercultural communication from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, in the United States.

UNIC Lagos holds World Climate simulation  

The Facilitator, Ms QueenEsther Egbe briefing the delegates.

The Facilitator, Ms QueenEsther Egbe briefing the delegates.

To coincide with the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 22) in Morocco, also following the coming into force of the Paris Climate Change Agreement, UNIC Lagos held a mock-UN climate negotiation role play called World Climate Simulation, with the technical support of a Climate Interactive trainer and facilitator, on Wednesday 16 November 2016 in Lagos. 

The delegates

The delegates

The simulation by young people was aimed to enable them get a better understanding of the issues world leaders grapple with during negotiations to save the planet. It involved six groups representing the European Union, United States of America and other developed countries, as well as India, China and other developing countries.

climate-change-simulation-briefing-queenAfter the negotiations and commitments by the six parties, the global temperature would drop to 1.48 degree Celsius by 2030 as calculated by C-Roads computer simulator deployed by Climate Interactive.

The role play simulation was facilitated by Ms QueenEsther Egbe. Climate Interactive is a not-for-profit organization based in Washington DC, USA. UNIC Lagos intends to continue utilizing the simulation exercise as a way of creating awareness about the Paris Agreement and climate change issues among youth in Nigeria.

UN, not a world government – Students told as UNIC extends outreach to Ogun State

outreach-abeokutaThe Senior Secondary School students of Sacred Heart Catholic College, Abeokuta have been informed that the United Nations (UN) is not a world government. The National Information Officer of the United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), Mr Oluseyi Soremekun had informed that the UN represents the countries and peoples of the world but it is not a world government.

Addressing a total of 459 students who participated in the educational outreach programme on Thursday 10 November 2016 at the school hall, he noted that the UN is a special organisation of independent countries, therefore would not interfere in internal affairs of member States. ‘However, where human rights are being denied or abused, the UN would respond.’ Mr Soremekun continued, ‘The UN was created to stop wars, build friendship among nations and help the less developed countries. The UN is a place where people from around the world can come and work together to make the world a better and safer place.’outreach-abeokuta-jpg1

The National Information Officer responded to questions related to the work of the UN in the North-East Nigeria; the UN response to the elections in the USA; and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials on the SDGs, UDHR and the works of the UN were shared with the school for placement in the school library.


President Muhammadu Buhari signs the Paris Agreement in New York.

President Muhammadu Buhari signs the Paris Agreement in New York.

I am heartened by the tremendous support for bringing the Paris Agreement into force this year.
The global coalition that delivered in Paris continues to go from strength to strength.
With this meeting this morning, as of now, we have 60 parties representing, over 47.5% [of global greenhouse gas emissions]. We need 7.5% more.  And that means we have crossed one the two thresholds, the 55 countries, so it’s well over, now let us work harder to get all this 7.5% greenhouse gas emissions added more.   I thank the 31 countries who have deposited their instruments with me today.  I am happy to declare that we have officially crossed one of the two thresholds required to bring the Paris Agreement into force.
As you have already heard, we heard from a diverse group of world leaders that they intend to ratify and deposit their legal instruments this year.  If I may repeat again, they include Australia, Austria, Bulgaria, Cambodia, Canada, Costa Rica, Cote d’Ivoire, the European Union, France, Germany, New Zealand, Namibia and the Republic of Korea.
Leaders from Kazakhstan and Poland have also informed me of the same intention.
I am greatly encouraged that leaders in the European Union are working to ensure they will join the Agreement this year.

R-L: UNSG, Mr Ban Ki-moon, President Buhari and Nigeria's Minister of the Environment, Hajiya Amina Muhammed

R-L: UNSG, Mr Ban Ki-moon, President Buhari and Nigeria’s Minister of the Environment, Hajiya Amina Muhammed

Taken together, these commitments, added to the 60 countries that have now formally joined the agreement, will put us past the threshold of 55 per cent of global emissions.
Now, this means we will cross the final barrier for entry into force of the Paris Agreement.
I appeal to all leaders to accelerate your domestic procedures to join the agreement this year.
What once seemed impossible is now inevitable.
I am confident that, by the time I leave office, the Paris Agreement will have entered into force.
This will be a major achievement for multilateralism.
It will mark a new era of global cooperation in building a safer, more resilient and prosperous world.
And it will catalyze action on many levels.
It will help accelerate efforts to protect the poor and most vulnerable from increasing climate impacts.
It will spur governments to fast-track implementation of their national climate plans.
And it will send a strong signal to the private sector that the future belongs to those who invest in low-carbon development and the climate resilient economy.
I salute your leadership and commitment to the Paris Agreement.
I count on you to build on this strong global momentum in the coming weeks to further reduce the risks of dangerous climate change.
Every country and every sector must play its part.
Later this month, at the International Civil Aviation Organization Assembly (ICAO), I urge you to support a global deal to limit rapidly growing emissions from the aviation sector.
And, at the Kigali meeting of the Montreal Protocol in October, I urge you to reach global consensus on an amendment to phase-down harmful HFC greenhouse gases.
Together these two actions will go far to reduce planet-warming emissions and supplement efforts under the Paris Agreement.
When this year ends, I hope we can all look back with pride, knowing that, together, we seized the opportunity to act for the common good, for a sustainable future and the protection of our common home.
Let us work together to make this world environmentally sustainable so that all of us, and our succeeding generations can live in peace and harmony.  I thank you very much for your leadership.  Thank you.

Readout of Secretary-General’s meeting with H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria

buhari-and-sg2The Secretary-General met Wednesday with H.E. Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Secretary-General commended the President’s efforts against corruption and insecurity and to promote economic development.
The two leaders discussed efforts by Nigeria and the Multi-national Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram, in the north-east of the country. The Secretary-General reiterated the UN’s continued support for those efforts and underscored the need to ensure full respect of human rights, international humanitarian and refugee law in all operations.
The Secretary-General thanked President Buhari for Nigeria’s invaluable contribution to international peace and security, including political mediation in the region.