Six Seven nominees for UN Women | UPDATED

Update, 20 May:  Patricia R. Francis, of Jamaica (bio), has been confirmed a nominee for the post. Francis is currently the head of the International Trade Center, a position that carries the rank of Assistant Secretary General. 


Yesterday was the deadline for nominations for Executive Director of UN Women. The candidates will succeed the organization’s first head, Michele Bachelet, who resigned suddenly in March to return home and stand for election to Chile’s presidency. 

Rebeca Grynpan, nominee for UN Women Executive Director
Rebeca Grynpan
Lakshmi Puri, Acting Executive Director and nominee for the post
Lakshmi Puri
Radhika Coomaraswamy
Radhika Coomaraswamy
Tarja Halonen
Tarja Halonen
Kim Campbell
Kim Campbell
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda
Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda

At least six candidates are rumored to be under consideration.

Rebeca Grynspan is considered a strong contender and possibly the front runner for the post. Grynspan is the former Vice President of Costa Rica and currently serves as an Associate Administrator at UNDP. An elections official at the Costa Rican permanent mission in New York stated to Global Memo that the Latin American and Caribbean region is eager to keep the post. 

Lakshmi Puri is the current Acting Executive Director, stepping in shortly after Bachelet’s resignation. A source with a leading U.S. human rights group however suggests that few women’s rights groups see her as preferred successor to Bachelet. In December, her husband, Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, wrapped up his presence on the UN Security Council as India’s 2-year term on the body concluded. What impact his influence will have his wife’s candidacy and the selection is of particular interest.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, the former special advisor to the Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict, is looked upon more favorably by women’s groups, according to the same source. She had been under consideration in 2010. From Sri Lanka, she is currently a visiting scholar at New York University’s Center for Constitutional Transitions.

Tarja Halonen, former President of Finland, is also rumored to be a nominee. Like Coomaraswamy, she had also been nominated in 2010, but was not seriously considered as the Secretary General was reportedly seeking a woman from the Global South to head up the new agency initially.

Kim Campbell, the former and first female Prime Minister of Canada, confirmed she has been nominated by her government in mid-April after its leaked in Azerbaijani media reports. Ms. Campbell was the former board chair at the International Women’s Forum and the Council of Women World Leaders. She now sits on the board of the International Crisis Group. 

Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda is currently the General Secretary of the World YWCA. She is a trained human rights lawyer from Zimbabwe with extensive experience in conflict resolution and mediation, including 20 years experience on issues of women and children’s human rights, with a special focus on crisis countries.

If the process unfolds as it did in 2010, the Secretary General’s senior appointment team will vet the nominees and present to Mr. Ban a short list of three candidates. Following interviews with each, Ban will make the final decision on whom he will appoint to take over the post. The 2010 vetting process and selection was wrapped up in 7 weeks, in part to have the first Executive Director in place before the General Assembly convened. Last month, John Hendra, Associate Executive Director at UN Women, noted that a new search could take up to three months.

But if this year’s process is less competitive, i.e. fewer than 25+ candidates as in 2010, we may see a nominee before the body’s Executive Board meets at the end of June or shortly thereafter. 

Unlike in 2010, women’s groups have been very unengaged in regards to the transparency of the Secretary General’s selection or qualifications of any of the candidates. Women Thrive is not active on the race this year, nor is the GEAR campaign, which spearheaded efforts in ensuring the 2010 candidates were highly qualified for the post.

The only NGO known to be engaging in any meaningful way this year is the Association for Women in Development (AWID), which plans to interview each candidate. William Pace, Executive Director of WFM/IGP, stated that “it would be best if the SGs process were more transparent.” 

As expected, the Secretary General’s office is officially tight-lipped on the candidates, refusing even to confirm the final number of nominees received. 



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About the Author

Tony Fleming

Tony is a communications and advocacy professional with over 20 years of experience in multilateral reform advocacy and online communications.

22 thoughts on “Six Seven nominees for UN Women | UPDATED

  1. Congrats N.Gumbonzvanda for the nomination, wish you all the best for the top post to UN..

  2. Nyaradzai, you go girl im routing for you from here in Harare. this is Africa’s time

  3. The incoming UN Women leadership should not be about a particular region or a retirement club for former Presidents- it should be about the people the organization claims to and is supposed to serve: women and girls across the globe- and especially women/girls living under challenging conditions. I keep hearing these arguments about the need for Latin American/Caribbean region to keep/complete the term of the post or how the organization should go for another former President to keep it high profile. Some candidates are highlighted as front runners based of these arguments and I found it very troubling. I believe all the candidates are extraordinary leaders in their own rights- who bring different experiences, qualities, values and visions. They should be accessed on those things that really matter and would serve the interest of the entity and the people it serves. It is in the interest of the United Nations to do so and in the interest of our shared-mission.

  4. Nyaradzayi: wishing you all the best on the top job. Go girl Go.
    Lucy masiye

  5. Nyaradzayi you deserve the post. You are strong advocate for girls and women’s right. I know for sure you are the one.

  6. The World YWCA General Secretary Nyaradzai is the best woman for the job. She has a passion for women and has been serving since she was a teen. Her experience cuts across all strata for she understands the woman or girl in the village and can carry her voice in high level discussions that aim to improve her status. She has the advantage of serving in a global movement of women, which as a Y member must say she has done an excellent job. I wish her the best at getting to the next level so as to fast track and propel forward the work she has been doing. Either way she is my best candidate.

  7. Nyaradzayi
    Gumbonzvanda deserves the post the best
    candidate for the position she is on my # 1 list on my role models … her advocacy skill her commitment for women
    empowerment is so amazing
    she is not a leader of the world …. GO GO Nyaradzayi Gumbonzvanda we are all with you

  8. i would like to give a 100% percent support to Nyaradzai , the work she has done for womens right all over the world is amazing , she is passionate about her work and support her all the way !!!!!

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