UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Incoming United Nations chief Antonio Guterres on Thursday appointed Nigeria’s Environment Minister Amina Mohammed as his deputy secretary-general amid a push by more than a third of the 193 U.N. member states for gender parity at the world body.

Guterres, who will take over from current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Jan. 1, was sworn in on Monday as the ninth male U.N. chief and pledged to reach gender parity among senior leadership within his five-year term.

He also appointed Brazilian diplomat Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti as chef de cabinet and Kyung-wha Kang of South Korea to a newly created position as special adviser on policy.

“These appointments are the foundations of my team, which I will continue to build, respecting my pledges on gender parity and geographical diversity,” Guterres, a former Portuguese prime minister, said in a statement.

“I am happy to count on the efforts of these three highly competent women, whom I have chosen for their strong backgrounds in global affairs, development, diplomacy, human rights and humanitarian action,” he said.

Guterres beat out 12 other candidates, seven of whom were women, as the next secretary-general amid a strong push by some U.N. states as well as civil society groups for a female to be elected.

The 66-member U.N. Group of Friends for Woman Secretary-General – led by Colombia – has renamed itself the Group of Friends for Gender Parity and hopes to build on the momentum created during the election campaign.


The group on Tuesday launched an exhibition at the United Nations celebrating leading women throughout the history of the 71-year-old organization.

“The initial target for the equal representation of women and men among U.N. staff was the year 2000. Sixteen years later, we are far from that goal,” Guterres told the U.N. General Assembly on Monday after taking the oath of office.

As of June 30, 34.8 percent of the 40,131 members of the United Nations secretariat staff were women, while just 17 of the 79 under-secretaries-general, or 21.5 percent, were female, according to the latest report on staff demographics.

Before her appointment as environment minister a year ago, Mohammed was Ban’s special adviser on post-2015 development planning – a role that culminated last year with the adoption by the General Assembly of sustainable development goals for the next 15 years. 

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)