Women have been appointed to head both the disarmament and mine action sections of the United Nations (UN). This is the first time that women have served as chief of either of these UN agencies.

In March 2012, Ms. Agnes Marcaillou of France was appointed as the next director of the UN Mine Action Service (UNMAS), which serves as the coordination body for mine clearance efforts around the world. As long-standing chief of the regional disarmament branch in the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (ODA), Marcaillou has represented the UN at several meetings of the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. According to the announcement, Marcaillou is known as a long-time advocate of the rights of women and the contribution of women to peace and security, as well as for pioneering the first gender action plan of the UN Secretariat. In October 2011, she spoke about UN work to implement Resolution 65/69 on women, disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control.

On International Women’s Day (8 March 2012), UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced the appointment of Ms. Angela Kane of Germany as the new UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, replacing Sergio Duarte of Brazil. Kane has served in many positions during her career at the United Nations and ODA staff have told me they expect her management skills can be put into good use there. Kane has served alongside mine action personnel in missions including the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) and knows well the devastating impact that landmines and cluster munitions cause.

Sadly the appointment of the new UNMAS director means it is time to farewell the remarkable Justin Brady of the US, who has served as acting director for the past year since Max Kerley left. Brady’s next job is as the head of OCHA in Somalia. I worked closely together with Brady on the International Campaign to Ban Landmines–particularly the US component–during the 1996-1997 “Oslo Process” that resulted in the successful adoption of the Mine Ban Treaty.

During his time at UNMAS, Brady helped to get the newly-independent nation of South Sudan on board the landmine ban, initiated a UN mine action program in Libya as the 2011 conflict was underway, helped Nepal to complete its mine clearance and become ‘mine-free,’ ensured high-level UN promotion of the “Lend Your Leg” action on April 4th 2012, and significantly strengthened relations between UN agencies and with demining organizations.

Brady is a self-described Anglo-Saxon male, but did his Masters in international development with Professor Cynthia Enloe at Clark University and is one of the most gender-aware UN officials that I’ve ever known. He will be sorely missed by the international mine ban movement. The UN may be the sum of its membership of member states, but it’s the people working there that matter the most, both men and women. Justin, good luck in Mogadishu.

Photo: Justin Brady (at center) is greeted by landmine survivor Song Kosal and other members of the Cambodian Campaign to Ban Landmines on the opening of the Mine Ban Treaty’s 11th Meeting of States Parties, Phnom Penh, 29 November 2011 (c) Mary Wareham

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