Elisabeth Rehn

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Elisabeth Rehn
Elisabeth Rehn in 2015.jpg
Minister of Defence[1]
In office
13 June 1990 – 1 January 1995
Prime Minister Harri Holkeri
Esko Aho
Preceded by Ole Norrback
Succeeded by Jan-Erik Enestam
Undersecretary General of the United Nations
In office
Preceded by Kofi Annan
Personal details
Born Märta Elisabeth Carlberg
(1935-04-06) 6 April 1935 (age 83)
Helsinki, Finland
Political party Swedish People's Party
Spouse(s) Ove Rehn (1955-2004; his death)
Children 4

Märta Elisabeth Rehn (née Carlberg) (born 6 April 1935) is a former MP of the Swedish People's Party and the first female minister of defence in Finland and in Europe. In the 1994 presidential election, she was narrowly defeated by Martti Ahtisaari.

Early life and education[edit]

Rehn was born on 6 April 1935 in Helsinki, Finland. She spent her childhood in Mäntsälä, where her father worked as a community medical doctor. Rehn went to a local school in Mäntsälä before entering a boarding school in Kauniainen.

Rehn received the degree of master of science in economics in 1957 and has honorary degrees in political science from both Hanken School of Economics and Åbo Akademi University. In the beginning of the 1960s Rehn was known to be the first person in Finland to import and market the plastic Tupperware containers.


Rehn was the parliamentary leader of the Swedish People's Party from 1987 to 1990.[2] She was appointed defence minister in 1990 and held the post until 1995.[2] In addition, she served as the minister of equality from 1991 to 1995.[2] Next she was a member of the European Parliament from 1995 to 1997.[2] In the 1994 and 2000 presidential elections, she ran for the office.[2]

She had a high profile as the first female Minister of Defence of Finland and Europe.[3] In 1995, during Rehn's term as minister of defence, a law on voluntary female enlistment was enacted. Rehn is known for her international assignments as UN Undersecretary General (1995 - 1999) and as the special rapporteur for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1998-1999).[2]

Other activities[edit]

Elisabeth Rehn was a Member of the Global Leadership Foundation until November 2017. GLF is an organization which works to support democratic leadership, prevent and resolve conflict through mediation and promote good governance in the form of democratic institutions, open markets, human rights and the rule of law. It does so by making available, discreetly and in confidence, the experience of former leaders to today’s national leaders. It is a not-for-profit organization composed of former heads of government, senior governmental and international organization officials who work closely with Heads of Government on governance-related issues of concern to them.

Personal life[edit]

Rehn was married to Ove Rehn from 1955 until his death in 2004, and they have four children: Veronica, Joakim, Charlotta and Johan.

Rehn is a two-time cancer survivor. She recovered from colon cancer in the 1990s and was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000.[4]


External links[edit]

Media related to Elisabeth Rehn at Wikimedia Commons