ASEAN KEY DESTINATIONS
First female chief for Escap
Ms. 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 area covered.
Ms. Heyzer is the first Executive Director from the South 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 taking up that position in 1994, she has worked on strengthening women’s economic security and rights; promoting women’s leadership in conflict resolution, peacebuilding 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.
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 fivefold, strengthened its ground presence and successfully advocated to put issues affecting women high on the agenda of the United Nations system.
Before joining UNIFEM, Ms. 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 ESCAP, 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, Ms. 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.
Ms. 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 set up by the State of the World 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. Ms. Heyzer is a New Millennium Distinguished Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in New York and chairperson of the Consortium Advisory Group of the Research Programme on Women’s Empowerment in Muslim Contexts: Gender, Poverty and Democratization 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 in the Arab States, as well as to set new standards for ethical investment.
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”. UNIS