Women campaign for female U.N. secretary-general International group offers six candidates to replace Boutros-Ghali

August 25, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

UNITED NATIONS -- An international women's organization based in New York is opening a campaign in 75 countries this weekend to get a woman elected secretary-general of the United Nations.

The organization, Equality Now, has selected six candidates from what it says is a pool of "many qualified women around the world."

The organization is circulating fliers to its 2,000 affiliated groups worldwide, with pictures of the candidates and the names and addresses of the Security Council delegates who must decide by the end of the year whether Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali will have another term.

The Clinton administration has vowed to veto an extension for Boutros-Ghali but has not named an alternative candidate.

This leaves a vacuum into which other countries are reluctant to move so long as the secretary-general refuses to withdraw. His term ends Dec. 31.

Equality Now's potential candidates:

Gro Harlem Brundtland, prime minister of Norway.

Frene Ginwala, speaker of the South African Parliament.

Sadako Ogata, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Navanethem Pillai, a South African judge on the Rwanda war crimes tribunal.

Mary Robinson, president of Ireland.

Leticia Shahani, president of the Senate in the Philippines.

Equality Now, a private organization, has been at the forefront of campaigns to help immigrant women in the United States and disadvantaged women in developing countries. It has also led the drive to have female genital mutilation recognized as a ground for political asylum.

Now, it hopes to call attention to women qualified to be secretary-general in U.N. member countries where it has affiliates.

Women in the United Nations say that having a woman at the top might be the most effective way to reform the organization by eliminating the old-boy networks that have kept a number of senior civil servants in sinecures for years.

Few women have ever penetrated that circle, although women are being moved into more responsible jobs at lower levels.

Rosario Green of Mexico, an assistant secretary general for political affairs, is the highest ranking woman in the Secretariat. She is also regarded by some women as a potential secretary-general.

The United Nations has never lived up to the affirmative action pledge made in its Charter in 1945, said Sir Brian Urquhart, a former undersecretary-general who is also campaigning for a new look at how a secretary-general is chosen.

Madeleine K. Albright, the U.S. representative and the only woman on the Security Council, is known to view at least some of the women on the Equality Now list positively, among them Ogata, the refugee commissioner.

Ogata, who is also looked on favorably by some Republicans in Congress, may be the most popular and respected official in the U.N. system now because of her humane yet strict management style in an agency that has had to cope with an unending series of crises in recent years.

But Ogata, 68, has told reporters that she is not a candidate.

Pub Date: 8/25/96

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