Op-Ed: Jumping the Shark at the United Nations

By Randall Redman, Washington Post international correspondent

“Why would you suggest something that has a 99% chance of failing?” was a choice quote to end all choice quotes amongst the smörgåsbord of inscrutable ramblings that so magically characterized the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women this sunny morning, as it convened once again from all over the world to bash out another plan to fix once and for all the problem of workplace gender discrimination.

See, the problem with being a part of the United Nations is that you feel the need to set everything right, all around the world, as if you’re Superman jumping at lightspeed from nation to nation. 

It’s as if, having purveyed the overwhelming array of problems at hand, they’ve threw up their hands and gone “we’ll just make something that fits everything close enough”. Obviously, this isn’t possible – you need studies in detail on each country to help understand the unique cultural circumstances which drive its gender inequality, and to develop unique solutions that best address the specific manifestations of workplace inequality seen.

Trying to fit over 200 pegs of varying sizes into a single square hole is counterproductive, since it’s just gonna produce yet another plan that people will call “out-of-touch” and weary parliaments will continue to blindside.

Action in any country that manages to make a difference there is better than action for everyone that solves nobody’s problem – perhaps it’s best not to try and make eve

Is it not good enough simply to admit that you can’t fix everything at this juncture? Must the UNCSW humour the idea that gender equality is just a step away, instead of settling in for the long game like it should? This plan, and the plan after it, won’t fix the problems it aims to address, at least not nearly as completely as all delegates at hand seem to think it needs to.

No, what you really need is to take things one step at a time, to realise that solving inequality is an accumulation of measures that will span decades, and to admit that sometimes, it’s better to understand the problem than to break ahead and say “Kamala suggested it, so it’s gotta be the way forward for all countries.”

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