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Ethical leadership is needed to address the scourge of injustice

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Photo: Barbara Ries

Ban Ki-moon on the responsibility of African leaders to intervene in the conflict in Ethiopia, and how factors such as conflict, COVID-19 and poor leadership hinder gender equality.

Dear friends,    

The world is experiencing unprecedented challenges – from climate change and widening gender injustices, to the continuous fight against COVID-19 and unfolding violent conflicts. Poor leadership at national and global levels intensifies these problems, leading to alienation among citizens, and making it harder to develop credible and sustainable policies for the future.    

The appalling situation in Ethiopia in particular demonstrates the importance of ethical leadership. A year after this destructive conflict began, it is now escalating at an alarming rate, exacerbating the humanitarian situation in the region.    

The African Union and the UN Security Council must push for a ceasefire, and take immediate steps to address the humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia. This is needed not just by the Ethiopians suffering from the fighting, but to save the region from the consequences of conflict spilling over Ethiopia’s borders.    

One example of the horrific scenes going on in Ethiopia right now is the use of rape and sexual abuse as a means of war. This highlights not only how gender injustice is compounded by conflict, but also how far we still have to go to achieve gender equality.    

I was delighted to see that Ellen Johnson Sirleaf met last week with a group of mostly male African Presidents at the Conference on Positive Masculinity in Kinshasa, which called for action to end violence against women and girls in Africa.  

I spoke at length about gender injustice and ending violence against women in the latest episode of the Finding Humanity podcast. Mary Robinson and I reflected on the lack of genuine political will to tackle this issue, and the importance of male awareness and engagement to challenge the current patriarchal order.    

Having grown up in a conservative and patriarchal society, and served in many leadership positions, including as UN Secretary-General, I am acutely aware of gender disparities. While there are many successful women leaders, frankly speaking, much more needs to be done – from ensuring equal representation to ending violence against women.  

As men, especially men in positions of power, it is our moral responsibility to do all we can to end this injustice and challenge misogyny.    

Looking forward, Human Rights Day on 10 December serves as a good reminder that women’s rights are human rights, and that access to justice for women and girls must be a part of advancing gender equality and a freer, fairer world for all.   

Ban Ki-moon


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