Noeleen Heyzer

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Noeleen Heyzer
Korean War 60th Anniversary Armistice Ceremony 27.jpg
Heyzer speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the end of the Korean War
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
In office
Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
In office
Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women
In office
Personal details
EducationUniversity of Singapore (B.A.) (MSc)
Lucy Cavendish College, Cambridge (PhD)

Dr. Noeleen Heyzer is a Singaporean social scientist who was Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP). She was the first woman to hold the latter position since ESCAP's founding in 1947.[1] She is currently Lee Kong Chian Distinguished Fellow at the SMU School of Social Sciences.[2] She was also the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for Timor-Leste, working to support peace-building, state-building, and sustainable development.[3] In 2005, she was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in recognition of her struggle to improve the lives of women, while always promoting peace and justice.[4]

Education and recognition[edit]

Born in Singapore, Dr. Heyzer holds a Bachelor of Arts (Upper Hons.) and a Master of Science from the University of Singapore. She obtained a Doctorate in social sciences from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.


United Nations Development Fund for Women[edit]

Prior to her appointment to ESCAP, Dr. Heyzer was the first woman from the South to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). She became its longest serving Executive Director for 13 years (October 1994–August 2007), transforming it from a small entity to a powerhouse leading in women’s empowerment and gender equality. Through her leadership, UNIFEM assisted over 100 countries in the formulation and implementation of legislation and policies that promote women's security and rights. This resulted in the removal of discriminatory practices, changes in inheritance laws for women, better working conditions for migrant workers, full participation for women in several peace negotiations and electoral processes including in Liberia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Timor-Leste, and the inclusion of women as full citizens in the constitution of Afghanistan.

UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific[edit]

As the Executive Secretary (August 2007-January 2014), she strengthened ESCAP's capacity and effectiveness to support the countries of the region, using its convening powers and standard-setting authority, rigorous analysis, technical and policy assistance to build the economic and social foundations for inclusive and sustainable development.[5][6] She worked with key political leaders and decision-makers in 54 Member States to shape regional policy agendas for Asia Pacific’s transition towards sustainable and shared prosperity, and established regional cooperation mechanisms to address the "new normal" of volatility, such as the food-fuel-finance crises and climate change. She focused on harnessing development opportunities through multi-stakeholder alliances and partnerships to sustain development gains, reduce poverty and inequalities, transforming the quality of people’s lives.[7]

Among the many significant achievements of the region, under her tenure with ESCAP, have been groundbreaking intergovernmental agreements on a regional intermodal transport and logistical system, especially for landlocked developing countries; and initiatives such as Regional Connectivity including assistance in the formulation of ASEAN's Connectivity Master Plan,[8][9][10] exploration of an Asia-Pacific Energy Highway,[11] an ICT super-highway,[12][13] and the negotiation supporting the new Silk Route of economic development in Central Asia.[14][15] Other major milestones are the regional action plans on inclusive socioeconomic policies and social protection;[16][17] the strengthening of vital statistics and civil registration;[18][19][20] financing and technology for an inclusive and green future;[21] the building of productive capacities of Least Developed Countries and secure employment in vulnerable communities; the empowerment of women and youth. She was also responsible for the establishment of ESCAP’s works on resilience to man-made and natural disasters, and the stewardship of water, energy and natural resources especially for small islands states, least developed and landlocked countries.[22]

In 2009, Dr. Heyzer led an unprecedented dialogue with Myanmar's leaders on development and poverty reduction, resulting in the Government of Myanmar requesting the formation of a development partnership that has allowed practitioners and eminent international scholars, such as the Nobel Prize economist Professor Joseph Stiglitz, and local researchers to exchange experiences and ideas with government agencies and civil society.[23] This has been regarded by many as helping to catalyze the opening-up of the country from its former isolation.[24][25] In 2008, she also worked closely with ASEAN, the Government of Myanmar, and the UN in the recovery efforts assisting cyclone-affected people in the Ayeyarwady Delta.[26]

Heyzer meeting Kamal Nath

Heyzer played a critical role in the Security Council's adoption and implementation of the landmark Resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security,[27][28] undertaking extensive missions to conflict-affected countries worldwide. She was responsible for the establishment of the United Nations Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women[29][30] and for appointing Actress Nicole Kidman as UNIFEM's Goodwill Ambassador to campaign against this violence.[31][32] She led UNIFEM's restructuring to maximize organizational performance. Consequently, UNIFEM increased its resources tenfold, strengthened its programmes, ground presence and team leadership, and successfully advocated to put issues affecting women high on the agenda of the whole United Nations system.[33][34] She and her team were instrumental in the establishment of UN Women (the successor to UNIFEM) – to ensure that the United Nations will always have a strong institutional voice for women at its highest decision-making table.

Dr. Heyzer has served on numerous boards and advisory committees of international organizations, including the UNDP Human Development Report, UNDP Eminent Persons Group on Trade and Sustainable Development, the G77’s High-level Panel of Eminent Personalities of the South, the Asian Development Bank’s Eminent Persons Group, Distinguished Fellow of the Fung Global Institute,[35] and Board of Trustees of the National University of Singapore.[36] She was a founding member of several international women's networks and chairperson of the Consortium Advisory Group on Women's Empowerment in Muslim Contexts:[37] Gender, Poverty and Democratisation from the Inside Out. She was on the High-Level Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding chaired by Nobel Laureate Prof. Amartya Sen.[38][39] She was a jury member of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Innovation Award for Women’s and Girl’s Empowerment, 2010. Dr. Heyzer has also advised private sector partners such as Macy's, CISCO, and the Calvert Investment Fund to provide high value employment and market access to women and youth in conflict and disaster-affected areas as well as in the Arab States, setting new standards for ethical investment.

Awards and honours[edit]

She has received numerous awards and prizes, including:[40]

  • Hall of Fame, Singapore (March, 2014).
  • Aletta Jacobs Prize (2014), University of Groningen, Netherlands.
  • Plaque of Recognition on World Food Day (2013), Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN.
  • First woman to receive the Eminent Alumni Award (2011), National University of Singapore.
  • The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal (2004)[41][42] 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". Uppsala, Sweden.
  • Women of the Year Award (2008), Singapore Press Holdings.
  • Global Summit of Women's Global Women's Leadership Award (2005), Global Summit on Women, Mexico.
  • Global Tolerance Award for Humanitarian Service (2000), Friends of the United Nations, New York City, USA.


  1. ^ "Former Executive Secretaries".
  2. ^ "Noeleen Heyzer". Retrieved 13 December 2020.
  3. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Noeleen Heyzer of Singapore His Special Adviser for Timor-Leste | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases".
  4. ^ "Noeleen Heyzer". Singapore Women's Hall of Fame. Retrieved 14 December 2020.
  5. ^
  6. ^ United Nations ESCAP. "ISSUU - ESCAP Annual Report 2013 by United Nations ESCAP". Issuu.
  7. ^
  8. ^ "Addressing East Asia Summit, ESCAP chief outlines how Asian countries can better connect with each other".
  9. ^ "ESCAP's Role in Promoting Regional Connectivity and Development".
  10. ^ United Nations News Services Section. "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section.
  11. ^ "Documents | United Nations ESCAP" (PDF).
  12. ^
  13. ^ "Asia-Pacific Information Superhighway | United Nations ESCAP".
  14. ^ "Building the Silk Super-Highway in Central Asia".
  15. ^ "Creating the Silk Super-Highway in Central Asia".
  16. ^ "Theme study.html | United Nations ESCAP".
  17. ^ "Documents | United Nations ESCAP" (PDF).
  18. ^ "UN Makes Every Life Count on Human Rights Day".
  19. ^ "United Nations ESCAP Pacific Office".
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^ "ESCAP 69th Commission Session - Building Social, Economic & Environmental Resilience in Asia and the Pacific".
  23. ^ "ESCAP-Myanmar Partnership: Regional Support for Inclusive and Sustainable Development".
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^ "Meeting on Post-Nargis Recovery and Livelihood Opportunities in Myanmar".
  27. ^ "United Nations Official Document".
  28. ^ "Women War Peace The Independent Experts Assessment on the Impact of Armed Conflict on Women and Women s Role in Peace Building Progress of the World s Women 2002 Vol 1 - UN Women". headQuarters.
  31. ^ "Actress Nicole Kidman Joins UNIFEM as New Goodwill Ambassador". Archived from the original on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  32. ^ "UN Women - News: Goodwill ambassador Nicole Kiddman". Archived from the original on 8 December 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ "Noeleen Heyzer". Fung Global Institute.
  36. ^ "Grab co-founder joins NUS Board".
  37. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 10 November 2014. Retrieved 10 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  38. ^ "Civil Paths to Peace: Report of the Commonwealth Commission on Respect and Understanding".
  39. ^ "Civil Paths to Peace". OECD iLibrary.
  40. ^
  41. ^ "Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation". Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation.
  42. ^

External links[edit]