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Open letter to UN Member States: appoint a woman Secretary-General

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Silk Portraits of the Secretary-Generals

UNA-UK joins more than 50 organisations across the globe calling for UN member states to address the historic gender imbalance at the UN.

That the next Secretary-General of the United Nations should be a woman is indisputable - after almost 80 years of an unbroken succession of men occupying the UN’s top job, it’s long overdue.

Read the open letter, coordinated by the 1 for 8 Billion campaign, calling for all UN member states to only consider nominating women candidates for the next Secretary-General selection process:

Dear Excellency,

The appointment of a woman Secretary-General is long overdue.

Gender equality is a core guiding principle of the United Nations. It is a fundamental human right and a necessary foundation for a peaceful, fair and sustainable world. However, the Organization cannot claim to be a champion of women’s empowerment when half of the world continues to be excluded from its highest office.

We are calling on you to take matters into your own hands: help address the historic imbalance by announcing that your country will only consider nominating women candidates for the next Secretary-General selection process while encouraging all states to do the same. 

Women need the UN, but the UN also needs women. Evidence clearly shows the contribution women bring across all areas of the UN’s work. Progress in breaking the glass ceiling has not been impeded by a shortage of qualified women, but a shortage of opportunity and the limited imagination of decision makers operating in an environment of systemic discrimination.

Despite recent improvements, the sphere of international relations remains woefully monopolised by men: 13 multilateral organizations (including the four largest development banks) have never been led by a woman, 78 years without a woman leading the UN, and just 24% of UN Permanent Representatives are women, as highlighted by GWL Voices.  

We ask states to keep this disturbing reality in mind as they consider their nominations for the next UN chief. We ask states to consider the urgent need to restore credibility and faith in the UN’s highest office. We ask states to appoint a woman Secretary-General.

The time is now. 

Yours faithfully,

1 for 8 Billion

Access Now

Africans Rising


Associação das Mulheres Diplomatas Brasileiras (AMDB) – Association of Brazilian Women Diplomats


Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication (BNNRC)

Blue Smoke

BRICS Policy Center (BPC)

Casa de Acolhimento Marielle Franco Brasil – Marielle Franco Brasil Shelter Home

Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC)

Center for Development of International Law

Children and Young People Living for Peace (CYPLP)

Children's Investment Fund Foundation

Citizens for Global Solutions (CGS)


Coalition for the UN We Need

Coalizão O Clima é de Mudança – Coalition The Climate is for Change

COESUS Coalizão Não Fracking Brasil – No Fracking Coalition Brazil

Coletivo AquilombaRI (Coletivo Negro Estudantil da PUC-Rio – Black Student Collective of PUC-Rio)

Coletivo de Entidades Negras (CEN Brasil) – Collective of Black Entities (CEN Brasil)

Coletivo Negro de Relações Internacionais - Brasil (Black International Relations Collective)

Curso de Graduação em Relações Internacionais da Universidade Veiga de Almeida (UVA) – Undergraduate Program in International Relations at Veiga de Almeida University

Democracy Without Borders

European Center for Not-For-Profit Law (ECNL)

Equality Now

FADA - Força Ação e Defesa Ambiental – Action and Environmental Defense Force

Federação Nacional dos Estudantes de Relações Internacionais – National Federation of International Relations Students

Fundación ARAYARA – ARAYARA Foundation

Gender Action for Peace and Security (GAPS)

Global Citizen

Global Digital Inclusion Partnership (GDIP)

Global Governance Innovation Network (GGIN)

Global Shapers Community - Belo Horizonte Hub

GWL Voices

GQUAL Campaign

HVD: Humanistischer Verband Deutschland - Bundesverband – Humanist Association of Germany - Federal Association

Instituto Clima de Eleição – Climate of Election Institute

Instituto de Relações Internacionais (IRI) da PUC-Rio – International Relations Institute at PUC-Rio

Instituto Internacional ARAYARA – ARAYARA International Institute

Instituto PACS (Políticas Alternativas para o Cone Sul) – Alternative Policies Institute for the Southern Cone

Instituto Socioambiental (ISA) – Socio-Environmental Institute

InterAgency Institute

International Alliance of Women

International Centre for Eritrean Refugees and Asylum Seekers

Juventudes do Coletivo de Entidades Negras – Youth of the Black Entities Collective

Kurytiba Metropole

LITIGA - Litigância Climática e de Direitos – Climate and Rights Litigation

Núcleo de Pesquisa em Gênero, Raça e Diferença na Política Internacional (NUGRAD-UFU) – Research Center on Gender, Race, and Difference in International Politics

Observatório do Carvão Mineral (OCM) – Mineral Coal Observatory

Observatório do Petróleo e Gás (OPG) – Oil and Gas Observatory

Observatório Feminista de Relações Internacionais (OFRI) – Feminist Observatory of International Relations

Open Society Foundations


Plataforma CIPÓ

Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência Política da Universidade Federal Fluminense (PPGCP-UFF) – Graduate Program in Political Science at Fluminense Federal University

Programa de Pós-Graduação em Ciência Política da Universidade Federal Fluminense (PPGCP-UFF)

Project Starling

Rede Fé, Paz e Clima – Faith, Peace and Climate Network

Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Soroptimist International

Southern Voice

Strategy for Humanity

Tanzania Peace Legal Aid and Justice Center PLAJC

United Nations Association - UK


Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom UK (WILPF UK)


WorldWIDE Network Nigeria: Women in Development and Environment


Photo: A series of silk portraits of past UN Secretary-Generals. For almost 80 years there has been an unbroken succession of men occupying the UN’s top job. Photo source.