13 September 2006

Biographical Note

Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa of Bahrain President of the Sixty-First UN General Assembly

NEW YORK, 12 September (UN Headquarters) -- Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa was elected President of the Sixty-First session of the United Nations General Assembly on 8 June.  At the time, she was serving as Legal Adviser to the Royal Court in the Kingdom of Bahrain.  She is only the third woman to serve as President of the General Assembly, and the first since the Twenty-Fourth session in 1969.

As one of the first two women to practice law in Bahrain, Sheikha Haya brings to her United Nations post three decades of distinguished legal experience at both the national and international levels.  She has held many senior positions at some of the world's top legal organizations, including the International Bar Association, where, from 1997 to 1999, she was vice-chairwoman of the arbitration and dispute resolution committee -- the first woman from the Middle East to serve in this capacity.

More recently, she has carried out a number of prestigious diplomatic assignments, including serving as her country's Ambassador to France, from 2000 to 2004, and as non-resident Ambassador to Belgium, Switzerland and Spain.  During the same period, she was Bahrain's Permanent Representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).  She also was a member of the World Intellectual Property Organization's (WIPO) Arbitration Centre Consultative Committee and she represented Bahrain on the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce, in appointment she still holds today.

A champion of women's rights, particularly in the legal sphere, Sheikha Haya has been an active participant in the movement to elevate the position of women in Bahrain before the Islamic sharia courts and is an advocate of a progressive interpretation of Islamic texts as they apply to women.  She was a vice-president of the Bahrain Bar Society, as well as a member of the Supreme Council of Culture, Art and Literature.  She is currently a member of her country's Child Development Society and the Arab Women's Legal Network.

Sheikha Haya, who is trilingual in Arabic, English and French, holds an LLB degree (Bachelor of Laws) from the University of Kuwait and has studied international public law at the University of Paris I:  Panthéon-Sorbonne.  She also holds postgraduate degrees in civil private law from Alexandria University and in comparative law from Ain Shams University in Egypt.

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