22 January 1998


22 January 1998

Press Release


19980122 Biographical Note Juan Somavia, who was today elected President of the Economic and Social Council, has served as Chile's Permanent Representative to the United Nations since 1990.

The election marked Mr. Somavia's second term as President of the Economic and Social Council, a position he held in 1993 as well. He also served as Council Vice-President in 1991 and 1992 and as Chairman of its now- defunct Social and Economic Committees. Those committees, which have now been subsumed into the plenary, met for the last time in 1993. In addition to his work with the Economic and Social Council, Mr. Somavia was Chairman of the General Assembly's Third Committee (Social, Humanitarian and Cultural) in 1990. During Chile's membership of the Security Council (1996/1997), he served twice as President of the Council.

In March 1995, Mr. Somavia was elected Chairman of the Main Committee of the World Summit for Social Development. In May 1991, he had proposed the convening of a summit on social development, in a statement before the Economic and Social Council, and later that year was appointed Special Representative of the Secretary-General for consultations on the convening of such a summit. In 1992, after the General Assembly decided to convene the Social Summit, Mr. Somavia was elected Chairman of the Preparatory Committee, which produced the draft declaration and draft programme of action later submitted to the Summit, held in Copenhagen from 6 to 12 March 1995.

In a career spanning more than three decades, Mr. Somavia has held diplomatic, governmental, non-governmental, academic and political posts, including several positions in Chile's Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

From 1973 to 1975, he served as adviser to the Presidents of Mexico and Venezuela. He was consultant to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and Rapporteur of the Group of Eminent Persons studying the international implications of multilateral enterprises.

* This release supersedes Press Release BIO/2938-SOC/4342 of 6 March 1995.

- 2 - Press Release BIO/3131 ECOSOC/5746 22 January 1998

Between 1976 and 1987, Mr. Somavia served in the following capacities: founder and Executive Director of the Latin American Institute of Transnational Studies in Mexico City; Coordinator of the Third World Forum; member of the Board of Directors and Vice-President for Latin America of Inter Press Service (IPS); member of the Executive Committee of the International Foundation for Development Alternatives; member of the MacBride Commission on communication problems, convened by the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO); member of the World Association of International Relations; and member of the Committee for a Just World Peace.

In 1987, Mr. Somavia founded the South American Peace Commission and served as its Secretary-General, promoting the establishment of a South American zone of peace.

Among Mr. Somavia's political activities in Chile, he served, from 1983 to 1989, as President of the International Commission of the Democratic Alliance; the Civil Assembly; the "No" Plebiscite Campaign; and the Coalition of Political Parties for Democracy.

From 1961 to 1973, Mr. Somavia served Chile's foreign service in several capacities, among them, economic adviser to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador to the Andean Group. He also headed delegations to meetings of: the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC); the Organization of American States (OAS); the Latin American Free Trade Association; the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD); and the Second Committee (Economic and Financial) of the General Assembly.

Mr. Somavia is a recipient of the 1988 Leonidas Proano Peace Prize of the Latin American Human Rights Association for his contribution to peace and human rights. Educated in Chile, Netherlands, Belgium, United States, Ecuador and France, Mr. Somavia received a law degree from the Catholic University in Chile and a degree from the School of Law and Economic Sciences, University of Paris.

Born on 21 April 1941, Mr. Somavia is married and has two children.

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For information media. Not an official record.