Advocate and attorney, Vicky Edgecombe, visits Wilkes University

Edgecombe speaks out about women’s empowerment at world’s stage during November election


The Beacon/Gabby Glinski

Vicky Edgecombe speaks to Wilkes University students.

Consultant on United Nations issues, advocate, attorney and former Canadian Consulate General senior official Vicky Edgecombe, spoke out on behalf of women’s issues, specifically the fight for women in politics and for women leaders at the UN.

Edgecombe explained that while strides are being made towards gender equality, the results have been incremental.

“We’ve made some gains on women in politics but again, it’s been slow. We have 23 percent of the seats held by women around the world in parliament. That growth has not been huge over the last few years,” she explained. “In the United Nations we recently had a vote for a new Secretary General…and there was a huge push for it to be a woman. There were seven female candidates and none of them were really felt to be taken seriously by people who really follow these issues.”

Describing the “straw polls” which occur before the election for the UN Secretary General and helps show rank of candidates, of the women involved, none rose to the top of the poll. Though, many were qualified individuals with various political and leadership achievements.

The same issue exists within senior appointments at the United Nations. Edgecombe explained that in 2015, 22 men and only two women were appointed to the most senior level of Under-Secretary General. Six women Under-Secretary Generals were replaced by men.  At the next level down, Assistant Secretary-General, male appointments made up 77 percent.

“We’re seeing a secretary general who professed to have women’s equality as an issue he was concerned about turn around and not appoint women to senior ranks of the UN either,” she said. “We’re missing out at the highest levels, and we’re missing out at management levels within the UN.”

Edgecombe explained that the lack of female representation has proved problematic in peace agreements, too. Though peace agreements have a better chance of success when women are at the table, their seats have been more often than not occupied by men. In fact, the probability of peace agreements lasting at least 15 years is 35 percent higher when women are included as part of the negotiations

While representation at the highest levels in the UN is due to the non-selection by the Secretary-General, in politics there are confidence issues according to Edgecombe who explains women should “realize that as in anything, it’s okay to go in and try and not be afraid to fail and to just do it.”

In regards to the United States election that’s just mere weeks away, she explains that a women running for the presidency will send a strong message to women and girls globally.

From a UN perspective, there have been talks on the future of the United States regarding the election results.

“I think that people are concerned about his (Donald Trump) style of diplomacy that is very aggressive,” Edgecombe said of the Republican nominee. “The kind of policies he has put forward worry people. The diplomatic system is used to a give and take and working with others. His style is much more aggressive than that.”

For democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, there is not as much concern as many of the UN representatives are aware of her background and know she’s “not shy about stating her issues.”

Regardless of the outcome, the lack of representation of women in politics will continue to be at the forefront of global affairs.

“It’s an issue for all of us.. For a lot of women they need to work.. They represent half of our population but yet if they’re not in our democratic institutions it makes one wonder how democratic we really are.”

Edgecombe has 15 years of experience working with the voluntary, public and private sectors on a range of human rights, trade and sustainable development issues.

She also has represented Canada at UN meetings and worked closely with a number of U.N. bodies and missions as well as advised Canadian members of Parliament.

Edgecombe has also worked as a lawyer specializing in international trade and media law for Gowling WLG, a global law firm; as a senior trade commissioner and senior foreign policy advisor for Global Affairs Canada, Canada’s foreign service; and as a consultant and senior advisor with various organizations.