Collective Voices

“Empowering women as political and social actors can change policy choices”( The World Bank )

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome aboard United Nations Air flight number A/CONF.177/20—your bargain shuttle to the Fifth World Conference on Women. We urgently request a doctor to cure some delegates showing signs of brain damage. There are a few dizzy spells lingering from stalled discussions during the last preparatory meeting in New York on key subjects concerning women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights. Our preliminary diagnosis is that this is hypochondria, a fake illness that is likely to reappear in all future meetings. The Women’s Caucus suggests that these delegates stay in bed, so they can read previous agreements. Delegates who negotiated at the International Conference on Population and Development are fit to travel to this global gathering.

We apologize for any translation problems on this flight. Due to budget cuts, our flight attendants no longer receive language training. However, we have tried to accommodate these differences with multilingual personnel. Your cabin crew today includes a few former government officials who have volunteered for this flight in lieu of their country’s contribution to the UN. Let’s give them a hand.

We understand that although some non-governmental organizations (NGOs), women’s groups, and journalists pushed the emergency button several times during previous meetings, most countries declined to be alarmed. Looking at the state of our world, some observers think drastic action is the only rational response. However, we commend you for your reasonable and cautious attitude and have seated those troublemakers in the rear of the plane. Those NGOs who tried to take seats in first class and chat up the folks with real power are being appropriately disciplined. We regret that they often try to gain access to areas that are off limits. They will not be given the final UN document or earphones for entertainment.

In the interest of environmental consciousness, we are happy to announce that there will be no food or beverage service during this flight. The wasted food, plastic utensils, and trays will not be a black spot on our waste disposal record. We couldn’t afford all those frills anyway. Please try to cooperate with our new procedures. At this time, the captain has turned on the “no smoking” sign. In keeping with the concern for the environment, we hope you will put up similar signs in all lavatories and public places in your countries.

In the front seat pocket, there are changes proposed for the document that were not taken seriously at the regional preparatory meetings. These changes represent the statements compiled by the NGO International Facilitating Committee and the Women’s Caucus. If you are unable to finish reading these during the flight, you are invited to take your complimentary copies to the meeting, where they belong anyway.

Those of you who are frequent fliers on our UN Air conference flights will earn an additional 1,500 pages of documents points for your outstanding performance on the UN reading test. Many of you have been to so many UN meetings that you have already reached the Gold Elite category. This allows you to upgrade your seats to the cockpit, where you can discuss issues with the new woman Secretary General, who is the pilot for this flight.

Congratulations to NGOs, architects, and governments for some excellent recommendations on how to improve human settlements during the Habitat IV meeting. To the left of the plane, you can see the model urban settlements built in two weeks according to the guidelines drawn up at the conference. It was a rush job in order to have them ready for the photographers. If you do not recognize your recommendations, we suggest you consult with local contractors and city officials about what happened to them.

We thank you for flying with us today. As you know, this is a new privatized venture for the UN. It is the wave of the future. Since we can’t get government funding, we have no choice. In keeping with our newfound faith in the market economy to solve every problem, UN Air is funded almost entirely by passenger patronage, interest from the UN pension fund, and change contributed to the charity box at the airport. We expect to expand our routing and upgrade our DC-3s. Remember our motto: “We’re all in this together, so fly UN Air to the next century.”