UN Blue Book : Diplomatic titles in French will be feminized

Press release, 12.06.2019

The initiative, launched by Switzerland and realized thanks to the commitment of the International Organisation of La Francophonie, was enthusiastically endorsed by the Director General of the UN in Geneva as a contribution to the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goal 5.

June 2019
Garance Stettler, First Secretary at the Swiss Mission to the UN Geneva, surrounded by International Gender Champions Michael Møller, Director General of the UN Geneva, Henri Monceau, Permanent Representative of the IOF and Valentin Zellweger, Swiss Ambassador to the UN Geneva as well as Corinne Momal-Vanian, one of the initiator of International Gender Champions system and Alessandra Vellucci, Director of the UN Geneva Information Service. © UN Photo/ Jean Marc Ferré

According to the old diplomatic tradition, in French, the Ambassadeur was his country's representative, while the Ambassadrice was his wife. The women who now increasingly assume this function had to call themselves Ambassadeur. Same custom for the other diplomatic functions: the Counselors and Secretaries of embassies were Madame le Conseiller and Madame le premier, deuxième or troisième Secrétaire. From now on, at the UN Geneva, all this belongs to the past. Starting with the next French edition of the Blue Book, the directory that lists all the staff of diplomatic representations, women's titles will be feminized. 

For the initiator of the project, Garance Stettler, First Secretary at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN, the theme of inclusive language can sometimes seem anecdotal, if we do not take into account the fact that language influences the thought and that the use by default of the masculine term is not neutral. “Without a word to designate an Ambassadrice or an Ambassadeure, there will always be a tendency to think that the Ambassadeur is a man”, she underlines, adding that “feminizing titles in the Blue Book will better represent women’s role in diplomacy”. 

For the Director General of UN Geneva, Michael Møller, this operation will send a strong message: “professions in diplomacy are not reserved for men, but open to all. How do you want a women to feel legitimate in a world where she is not only under-represented, but where she also has to present herself with a masculine title?”. 

« We know that mechanisms of discrimination are multiple and also pass through language, » said Henri Monceau, co-author of this initiative and Permanent Representative of the International Organization of La Francophonie in Geneva. The IOF is by nature very sensitive to the linguistic sakes and by conviction very attached to gender equality. « It was symbolically important to establish this equality in titles, and we are delighted to have been able to collaborate with various francophone permanent missions to push this project. » 

Equality between women and men, respect for the rights of women and girls and the prohibition of all forms of gender-based discrimination are among core values of the United Nations. Geneva is at the forefront of this fight; for example, the International Gender Champions system, which has been adopted by various UN headquarters around the world, was launched from the shores of Lake Geneva. 

Switzerland actively promotes the United Nations commitment to equality. In particular, it supports UN Women in influencing intergovernmental decision-making processes. UN Women, which opened an office in Geneva in 2016 with the support of Switzerland, is fighting for the gender-based approach to be mainstreamed in all areas of International Geneva, such as humanitarian aid, peace negotiations, health, migration, labor. 

Switzerland will not limit its action to diplomatic titles in the Blue Book, but will also extend the practice of feminization to the legitimation cards that it provides as residence permits to the 43’000 members of the staff of diplomatic missions and international organizations.

FDFA Strategy on Gender equality and Women’s (PDF, 357.9 kB, English)

International Gender Champions