Dr. Noeleen Heyzer served as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations from 2007 – 2009. She is the first woman to lead the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) since it was founded in 1947. She also worked as ESCAP’s Executive Secretary to build a better Asia-Pacific leadership in responding to the challenges of sustainable development today.
Noeleen was also the first woman from outside North America to head the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). She was UNIFEM’s longest serving Executive Director for 13 years (October 1994–August 2007), transforming it from something small to an organization leading in women’s empowerment and gender equality.
Noeleen has served on many international boards and advisory committees, including the UNDP Human Development Report, the UNDP Eminent Persons Group on Trade and Sustainable Development, and convening and chairing the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace.
Noeleen holds a Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) and a Master of Science from the University of Singapore. She obtained a Doctorate in social sciences from Cambridge University.
In 2005, Noeleen was among nominees for the Nobel Peace Prize, in recognition of her struggle to improve the lives of women. In 2000, the Earth Times named Noeleen as one of the most influential voices in the UN system. She was also Her World magazine’s “Woman of the Year” in 2007.