International Women's Day
8 March 1984 

Press Release SG/SM/3534


Following is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar on the occasion International Women's Day (8 March) which was made today at a panel discussion sponsored by the United Nations Staff Union and the Secretariat's Ad Hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women:

I greatly appreciate your invitation to address you on the occasion of International women's Day. I am happy that the staff Council and the Ad Hoc Group on Equal Rights for women at Headquarters have co-operated in gathering together the distinguished personalities I see around the table. I would like to extend my welcome to Mr. Winn Newman and Ms. Anne Nelson and to thank them for giving us the benefit of their experience and wisdom in an area where, quite frankly - and I am sure you will agree with me - we need all the help we can get!

I am sorry that because of other commitments I cannot say here for the panel discussion. However, I very much look forward to having a report on this meeting. I am confident that concrete, constructive and action-oriented proposals will emerge from it.

In your candid and provocative letter of invitation, Madame President, you pointed out that the situation of women in the Secretariat has not improved measurably in the last two years. You indicated further that professional recruitment has not reached adequate levels and that there are demonstrable inequalities in promotion and career development.

At the same time, I note that it is not your intention to repeat the discussions held in previous years which pointed to the obvious - namely, the need to intensify our efforts to increase the proportion of women at all professional levels in the Secretariat. Rather, the discussions this year are meant to focus on assuring justice for women in our Organization.

I fully concur in you basic premise that, at this time, we have all the guidance we need to bring about change. This contained in the relevant General Assembly resolutions, reports of the Joint Inspection Unit and of other auditing and research groups, administrative instructions and Secretary-General's bulletins, and communications to heads of departments and to representatives of Member States. What we need now and for the foreseeable future, therefore, is concrete action to put into effect the existing legislation and directives on the subject. I do not wish to present carefully selected statistics to show that progress has been made in this or that area. The truth is that some progress has indeed been made, but it is by no means sufficient. More intense efforts are needed for greater progress.

As an immediate and concrete step in this regard, I have requested the Assistant Secretary-General for Personnel Services, Mr. Négre, to designate within his office, and responsible directly to him, a senior officer to act as supplanting or bypassing the existing functions of the units dealing with recruitment and career development, but by acting in close co-operation with, and support of, those units, it should be the responsibility of the at official to promote the efforts of the Secretariat aimed at increasing not only the proportion of women professionals but adequate representation of women at all levels in the professional and higher categories.

This will be a difficult and challenging task. Considering the existing structure and the accumulated practices and procedures of our Secretariat, progress will largely depend on the day-to-day ability t induce, to persuade and to overcome ingrained attitudes. I do promise you that in carrying out these responsibilities, the official, who will soon be designated, will enjoy my full support as well as that of Mr. Ruedas and

Mr. Négre. It is my fervent hope that this practical step, which I know is fully supported by the Staff Council and the Ad Hoc Group, will result in concrete and measurable improvement in the situation of women in the Secretariat.

Madame President, as I said earlier, prior commitments regrettably require me to leave this meeting now. Let me again express to you and to the Staff Council, as well as to the distinguished panellists who have honoured us with their presence, my appreciation for the contribution that you are all making towards furthering the goal of equal rights of men and women in our Organization.

Let me conclude by assuring you once again of my own best efforts and those of my colleagues towards bringing about full equality of opportunity and treatment of all staff of the United Nations. I count on you for active participation, advice and support in meeting this goal.

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