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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2897

Noeleen Heyzer appointed as the first woman to head of ESCAP

Bangkok, 31 July, ( Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore has been appointed by Ban Ki-moon , United Nations Secretary-General as the Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) based in Bangkok, Thailand.Noeleen Heyzer - the first woman to head ESCAPNoeleen Heyzer - the first woman to head ESCAP

Heyzer is the first woman to head ESCAP, which is the biggest of the UN's five regional commissions, both in terms of population served and areacovered.

Heyzer is the first Executive Director from Singapore to head the
United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM), the leading operational agency within the United Nations to promote women’s empowerment and gender equality.

Since joining UNIFEM, she 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 (2000) 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.

“This is a great honor and an exciting opportunity," said Heyzer. "The Asia-Pacific region has tremendous development experiences and diversity and I will focus my efforts on bringing a more integrated approach to advancing its social, economic and environmental agenda." Reflecting on her time as Executive Director of UNIFEM, a position she has held since 1994, she added: "It has been an enormous privilege to lead such a dynamic organization and to be an integral part of advancing women's human rights and gender equality. It is by now widely recognized that development efforts will fail without empowering women, and I will bring my experience and expertise on gender issues to my position at ESCAP."

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.

Before joining UNIFEM, Heyzer worked as a researcher for the World Employment Programme of the International Labour Organization (ILO), and was a Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. She served in the Economic and Social Commission of Asia and the Pacific region, where she focused on youth employment and the preparation for the Third World Conference on Women.

She was also Director of the Gender Programme of the Asia and Pacific Development Centre. In this role, Heyzer was a policy adviser to several Asian Governments on gender issues, playing a key role in the formulation of national development policies, strategies and programmes from a gender perspective. She has done extensive work at the community level with women migrant workers, women in the informal sector and in plantations, young women in prostitution, female workers in free trade zones, and rural and indigenous communities affected by environmental degradation.

Heyzer has served on numerous boards and advisory committees of international organizations including, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Human Development Report, the Commission on Globalization of the State of the World’s Forum and 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, and 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 Professor Amartya Sen.

Born in Singapore, she received a Bachelor of Arts and a Master’s of Arts 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, the NCRW “Women Who Make a Difference” Award in 2005 and the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal in 2004, given to “a person who has promoted, in action and spirit, the values that inspired Dag Hammarskjöld as Secretary-General of the United Nations and generally in his life: compassion, humanism and commitment to international solidarity and cooperation”.

- Asian Tribune -

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