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A Feminist Agenda for the new UN Secretary-General

Extracts from a petition by The UN Feminist Network (UNFN)

The world faces unprecedented challenges including violent conflict, spiraling inequality, environmental degradation and diminishing democratic spaces .In this context, we cannot afford not to harness the energies, talents and capacities of women and men to meet the demands of our era. From women working in the UN, to female leaders in developing and fragile countries, to rural women who are the backbone of the agricultural sector, the need to support and enable women’s equal participation and leadership has never been greater.

The United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Beijing Platform for Action, and most recently the 2030 Agenda set out clear requirements and demands of Member States, the UN, civil society organizations and individuals to step up to these challenges, to achieve women’s rights and gender equality. Antonio Guterres, the new Secretary-General, has a unique opportunity to act as a role model, set the example and be a champion for gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls. To meet the United Nations’ own Commitments, our hope and expectation is that the world’s top diplomat will be a feminist in both words and deeds: an unswerving champion for women’s rights, demonstrating courage and commitment to gender equality, even when that becomes politically uncomfortable. The unprecedented transparency of the selection process has revealed a widely-shared ambition for a reform agenda, with gender equality at its heart. Expectations have been raised and we stand ready to support the Secretary-General in this endeavour.

First, we ask Antonio Guterres to make advancing gender equality and women’s rights a publicly stated priority for his tenure. In addition, the following set of clear, actionable priorities will substantiate this commitment and ensure the UN fulfils its commitments to gender equality and women’s rights:

  • Increase and track resources for UN programmes on gender equality and women’s rights
  • Work with women’s rights organizations
  • Achieve gender parity in the UN
  • Prevent and address sexual harassment, violence against women and discrimination
  • Improve working conditions for working parents and caregivers
  • Increase accountability for gender equality commitments in the UN system


Ranjana Banerjee