By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, Mar 4 (IPS) – When women activists lash out against gender discrimination, one of their longstanding complaints is also directed at the U.N. Secretariat, where senior level posts are still largely a virtual monopoly of men. Despite a 1997 General Assembly resolution calling for 50:50 gender parity in decision-making jobs by 2000, the elusive goal is long past that deadline. A coalition of some 600 women’s groups and non- governmental organisations (NGOs) is now complaining that the pervasive gender discrimination in the U.N. system may also be responsible for the lack of an executive director at a key body dealing with women’s issues: the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM).

Since its former executive director Noeleen Heyzer was appointed executive secretary of the Bangkok-based U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacifi c (ESCAP) last September, UNIFEM has remained headless, but functions under an acting executive director, Joanne Sandler. ”We need an appointment now”, says Ana Agostino, coordinator of the Feminist Task Force of the Global Call to Action Against Poverty (GCAP), who points out that the six-month-long delay is unacceptable. She said that women’s groups were expecting an announcement during the current two-week session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), which concludes Friday. But there are no indications it will happen.

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