Fashion as soft power: all candidates looked the same at the London #SGdebate

It isn't just that all candidates at last night's Secretary General debate, organised by Guardian Live, UNA-UK, Future United Nations Development System and the Embassy of Denmark were males. It's also that they all looked the same. Not so much physically but because of their clothing. 

When the three men took the stage, the looked eerily alike, the way men in suits can: dark suit, fair shirt, black socks, black shoes and colourful tie. None of that business about showing your uniqueness through socks for UN hopefuls. 

I am not favouring any candidate based on his fashion choices but after listening to their answers, H.E. Antonio Guterres ended up being my favourite. Guterres was the one in a pink tie, whereas H.E. Vuk Jeremic and H.E. Dr. Igor Luksic opted for blue. In his answers, he came across as the most experienced in the UN arcane, the most thoughtful  in his answers and the best prepared. 

Because the three men dressed the same, the gender homogeneity on stage was even more obvious. You could argue that this meant that we could focus solely on their answers, that they had chosen to speak about their ideas rather than showing their personality through a gimmicky outfit choice. But the UN needs change and radical thought. Through their suits, Guterres, Jeremic and Luksic told me that none of them was the candidate ready to revolutionise the UN.  

Gender was a hot topic at last night's #SGdebate

Last night, The Guardian Live and UNA-UK held the latest @1For7Billion campaign #SGdebate. Three of the 11 candidates took the stage, all males. H.E. Antonio Guterres, Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal came out strongest. H.E. Vuk Jeremic, former President of the UN General Assembly and former Foreign Minister of Serbia kept referring to his detailed platform. And H.E. Dr. Igor Luksic, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Montenegro seemed the least prepared and least knowledgeable about the organisation he aspires to lead. 

Moderator Mark Rice-Oxley opened the debate by acknowledging and explaining the lack of women (scheduling issues) but gender ended up being a hot topic on the night, both in the questions asked and on social media. 

As there was no female candidates on stage, the question "do you consider yourself a feminist" got applauded. How could any candidate have said no? Sadly, most answers focused on the important of 50-50 workforce at the UN, rather than looking into how you can protect and further women's rights and ensure gender equality around the world. 

Then a question was asked (but not really answered) about sexual misconduct by UN peacekeepers.

Happy 70th Birthday UN General Assembly! Here are all the women working for UN agencies #wifp has featured

"Seventy years ago on 10 January 1946, 51 nations came together at Westminster Central Hall in London, England, and called to order the first meeting of the UN General Assembly." (UN News Centre)

To celebrate, here is a recap of all the women we've interviewed so far who are working or have previously worked for UN agencies. 

Melissa Fleming, Head of Communication & Public Information of UNHCR

Amanda Weyler, Public Information and Reporting Officer in the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Juba South Sudan

Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director at United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK)

Eliane Luthi, Communications Specialist at UNICEF

Nadira Irdiana, Child Protection Officer at UNICEF Indonesia

Hilary Stauffer worked for the Permanent Mission of Israel to the UN 

Alexandra Hiniker, Representative to the United Nations