Nobody is sure any more what the United Nations (UN) does, apart from giving world leaders to grandstand and posture from the podium during General Assembly meetings. As most of them choose to speak in their own languages instead of English, the chances of spontaneous debates are zero. Of course, in an ideal world, the UN (and its predecessor the League of Nations) would have prevented war and provided relief in natural disasters. Instead, it is irmly positioned in various war zones just watching from the sidelines — or rather holed up in high security enclaves, unable to do much except provide humanitarian relief to the victims of wars of all kinds. Though there hasn’t been a World War III, we expect that the UN will only make ineffectual noises before the dogs of war are let loose.
Lately, the UN has shown signs of trying to improve the lot of women, though in a half-hearted way. Of course, it has taken a pledge to improve gender equality around the world — but who wouldn’t? All institutions pay lip service to the general idea. At the UN, shamefully, nine out of 10 senior positions in the body went to men. The UN, like the US, has never given the top job to a woman, though the US is expected to do so, thanks to Donald Trump’s foot-in-mouth disease.
In the months prior to the election of a Secretary General for the UN, seven female candidates were put forward by various nations. None of them could seriously challenge Antonio Guterres, who headed UNHCR for a decade. As if to compensate, he has promised to uphold gender parity in senior appointments — and the world body in all its wisdom has announced that DC Comics’ Wonder Woman, who debuted in 1941, will be its honorary ambassador. If this sounds absurd, consider the fact that Winnie the Pooh was its honorary ambassador of friendship in 1998 and Tinker Bell promoted environmentalism in 2009!
Has the UN entered a fantasy world or has it gone commercial? The event to announce the ‘appointment’ will be sponsored by Warner Brothers and DC Entertainment. There is a whisper that the event might be graced by Lynda Carter, who played the character on TV or Gal Gadot, who plays Wonder Woman in a film soon coming to a theatre near you. Our misgivings about the fact that the UN is headquartered in New York, on American soil, are fast turning into alarm. Will Hollywood now dictate who our role models should be when it comes to skin colour, body weight, dress, moral values and
conflict resolution? What is the world coming to? Brand ambassadors at the level of
member-nations tend to be successful people, often from the film industry. It might cheese off other women achievers, but if the purpose is to promote a cause or product by using a household name, a face that even the poor recognize, then it is acceptable. At the global level, the UN in all its wisdom thinks a comic character is the best bet? And this is an international bureaucracy that has drawn the best brains from all countries into its comfortable fold. Why could it not choose an ex-PM or President who could fly around the world giving real speeches, instead of waiting for an artist to pen words into a speech balloon over her head?
Perhaps some wise men (obviously, not women) at the UN thought that this was a good way to prevent the cat fight that might have erupted if Khaleda Zia had become the ambassador? Or any of the candidates who failed to get the top global job: Irina Bokova, Helen Clark, Kristalina Georgieva, Natalia Gherman or Susana Malcorra. Instead, Warner Brothers won over our sistahs.