Updated on 25 March 2018
Chapter 3: THE PEOPLE
Section 9: Permanent Missions and representation
With arrival of new UK ambassador, women now head three delegations on 2018 Security Council
On 23 March 2018, the United Kingdom’s Karen Pierce presented her credentials to the Secretary-General. She thereby joined Joanna Wronecka (Poland) and Nikki Haley (United States) as one of three female Permanent Representatives serving on the Security Council. Haley and Wronecka are fairly new to the United Nations, as they both presented their credentials in 2017 – Haley on 27 January, and Wronecka on 19 December.
The United States delegation to the UN has several times been headed by women, beginning with Jeanne Kirkpatrick (1981-1985), and followed by Madeleine Albright (1993-1997), Susan Rice (2009-2013) and Samantha Power (2013-2017). However, the appointment of Pierce marks the first time that the United Kingdom delegation to the UN has been led by a woman. The governments of the other three Permanent Members of the Security Council – China, France and the Soviet Union/Russian Federation – have never appointed a woman to that position.
As noted in the book (page 110), although Article 8 of the Charter states that the United Nations shall place no restriction on the eligibility of men and women to participate in its work “in any capacity and under conditions of equality”, it was not until 1972 that a Security Council member was represented by a woman. The country was Guinea, and the ambassador was the highly regarded Jeanne Martin Cissé.
The year 2014 marked the high point in the Security Council for female representation in the top position. As of August of that year, six delegations on the Council were headed by women: Argentina (María Cristina Perceval), Jordan (Dina Kawar), Lithuania (Raimonda Murmokaitė), Luxembourg (Sylvie Lucas), Nigeria (U. Joy Ogwu), and the United States (Samantha Power).
A photo or webcast of any Security Council meeting shows that the Council remains very much a male environment. However, in addition to the permanent representatives and a number of deputy permanent representatives who are female, virtually all Council delegations now include women in various other capacities.
The position on Council delegations least likely to be filled by a woman is not that of Permanent Representative, but rather the Political Coordinator. As described in the book (page 150-151), this position evolved informally over the years until by 2000, it had been institutionalized by all Council members. The incumbents, as their title suggests, play a highly important political coordinating role within their own delegations, as well as with other delegations and the secretariat. It is still rare for women to be among their number.
Nonetheless, at events in 2014 which brought together all six of the then female Security Council Permanent Representatives, they were often asked whether the fact that they were women was having a special impact on the Council. While sometimes mentioning women’s strengths as mediators and consensus-builders, as well as their focus on the impact of crises on families and the most vulnerable, they also often concurred that if they were doing their job well, it should primarily be the quality of their contribution that was noteworthy, rather than their gender.
(This update supplements page 110 and 150-151 of the book.)