|NOELEEN HEYZER, FIRST WOMAN TO TAKE OVER U.N.'S ASIA/PACIFIC COMMISSION
15 MARCH 2008
Since taking over her new post last July as the Executive Secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for
Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), Noeleen Heyzer proved the wisdom of that choice by Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. A workaholic
even by workaholic standards, Ms. Heyzer is the first woman to have taken that post. Before that, she was the first
executive director from the "South" to head the U.N. Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). In all her tasks, Noeleen
displays total dedication and enlightened commitment to the principles of the U.N. Charter. More to the point, she
sharpened the focus on participatory partnerships with civic society, influential individuals, and helpful groups, as
well as with her colleagues, all of whom hold her in high regard.
As the executive director of UNIFEM, the leading operational agency within the United Nations to promote
women's empowerment and gender equality, Dr. Heyzer has worked on strengthening women's economic security and rights;
promoting women's leadership in conflict resolution, peace-building and governance; ending violence against women;
and combating HIV/AIDS from a gender perspective. She played a critical role in the Security Council's adoption of
Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security and undertook extensive missions to conflict-affected countries
worldwide to ensure its implementation to make a difference in women's lives on the ground.
Through her leadership, UNIFEM has assisted countries to formulate and implement legislation and policies to
realize women's security and rights. This has led, for example, to changes in inheritance laws for women, better
working conditions for migrant workers, the inclusion of women as full citizens in the constitution of Afghanistan
and as full participants in several peace negotiations and electoral processes. Organizationally, UNIFEM has
undergone a comprehensive restructuring to maximize performance, build knowledge and partnerships to deliver
results. It has also increased its resources five-fold, strengthened its ground presence and successfully
advocated to put issues affecting women high on the agenda of the U.N. system.
Dr. Heyzer has served on numerous boards and advisory committees of international organizations including, the
UNDP Human Development Report, the Commission on Globalization of the State of the World's Forum, the UNDP
Eminent Persons Group on Trade and Sustainable Development. She was a founding member of numerous international
women's networks and has published extensively on gender and development issues, especially economic globalization,
international migration and trafficking, women, peace and security. She is currently the convener of the
International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace, serves on the Board of
President Ahtisaari's Crisis Management Initiative, and is a member of the High-Level Commonwealth Commission
on Respect and Understanding chaired by Nobel Prize Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen. Dr. Heyzer is a New Millennium
Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Columbia University and is chairperson of the Consortium Advisory Group of the
Research Programme on Women's Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: Gender, Poverty and Democratisation from the Inside
Out. She has also successfully mobilized private sector partners such as Macy's, CISCO, Citigroup and the Calvert
Investment Fund to provide high value employment and market access to women and youth in conflict and tsunami
affected areas, and to the Arab States, as well as to set new standards for ethical investment.
Born in Singapore, she received a B.A. and an M.A. from the University of Singapore and a doctorate in social
sciences from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom. She has received several awards for leadership including
the UNA-Harvard Leadership Award, the Woman of Distinction Award from the UN-NGO Committee on the Status of Women,
NCRW "Women Who Make a Difference" Award in 2005 and the Dag Hammarskj÷ld medal in 2004 given to "a person who has
promoted, in action and spirit, the values that inspired Dag Hammarskj÷ld as Secretary General of the United Nations
and generally in his life: compassion, humanism and commitment to international solidarity and cooperation."