For information only - not an official document.
Press Release No: UNIS/GA/1685
Release Date:  8 September 2000
 Women Heads of State, Government Convene at United Nations
On Eve of World Summit

 NEW YORK, 7 September (DPI Promotion Division) -- On 5 September, women heads of State and government met at the United Nations for the first time.  They met in a closed session just prior to the United Nations Millennium Summit.  The meeting, which was also attended by women heads of United Nations agencies and organizations, provided a forum for the women leaders attending the Millennium Summit to focus on issues  arising from the global theme, "The Role of the United Nations in the Twenty-first Century". 

At the present time, there are nine countries with a woman head of State or government:  Bangladesh, Finland, Ireland, Latvia, New Zealand, Panama, Saint Lucia, San Marino and Sri Lanka.  Current and former women leaders in attendance at the 5 September meeting included Prime Minister Helen Clark of New Zealand; President Tarja Halonen of Finland; President Vaira Vike-Freiberga of Latvia; and former Prime Minister of Canada Kim Campbell.  

Among the women heads of United Nations agencies funds and programmes who participated were Mary Robinson, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, and former President of Ireland, who chaired the meeting; Carol Bellamy, Executive Director, United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF); Catherine Bertini, Executive Director, World Food Programme (WFP); Nafis Sadik, Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA); Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM); Angela E.V. King, Assistant Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women; Gillian Martin Sorensen, Assistant Secretary-General for External Relations; and Sadako Ogata, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.  Nane Annan, the wife of the United Nations Secretary-General, and Laura Liswood, Secretary General of the Council of Women World Leaders, also participated.  United States Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright joined the group briefly.

 The women leaders made a number of recommendations in  areas that they considered critical to the advancement of women:  peace, security and disarmament; development and poverty eradication; protecting the environment; good governance; democracy and human rights; protecting vulnerable groups; and strengthening the United Nations.  Among the recommendations are those that call on the United Nations and Governments to: 

– Ensure the participation of women in peacekeeping operations, peace negotiating tables, and reconstruction and humanitarian assistance efforts; and acknowledge and promote the participation of women in the identification of solutions to prevent conflicts.
–  Focus on developing enabling conditions for women to combat poverty, among others by:  guaranteeing women's equal access to education; making girls' education a priority; encouraging national programmes for women's access to credit and information; and providing affordable healthcare to women and men.
– Reaffirm commitment to gender-sensitive development, and support women's role in sustainable and ecologically sound consumption and production patterns.
–  Support the advancement of women in government, and employ specific methods and target time to ensure more equal representation of women and men at each level of government.
–  Ensure the prevention and punishment of discrimination and violence against women, including in conflict situations; encourage international cooperation in combating all forms of violence and abuse, including trafficking in women; put into force the Statute of the International Criminal Court, which recognizes rape as a war crime; and recognize and take measures to prevent racist acts against women. 
–  Adopt policies to protect and promote the full spectrum of the human rights of indigenous women.
–  Improve women's representation at all levels within the United Nations system, especially at senior levels; fulfil the 50/50 quota of men and women among its staff; and appoint female permanent representatives to United Nations missions and in delegations.

The women leaders who gathered on the occasion of the Millennium Summit expressed their solidarity with the Burmese leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and called for her unconditional release and the recognition of her human rights to freedom of expression, freedom of movement and freedom of participation in the political life of her country.  

They also expressed their appreciation to United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan for his leadership in increasing the number of women senior officials, including the number of women heads of projects and agencies.

The event was organized by the Council of Women World Leaders located at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.  The Council includes in its mission bringing together women at the highest levels of policy-making.  Its members are the world's current and former women heads of State and government. 

For further information, contact Elisabeth Ružicka-Dempsey, Development and Human Rights Section, Department of Public Information, telephone: (212) 963-1742, fax: (212) 963-1186, e-mail:, or Laura Liswood, Secretary General, Council of Women World Leaders, telephone (617) 495-8060, e-mail:

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