International Women's Day
8 March 1986 

Press Release SG/SM/3837


Following is the text of a statement by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar at a panel discussion on "Women and Change" being held on the occasion of International Women's Day, 8 March 1985:

This year, as we observe International Women's Day together, we may well ask ourselves: how can we consolidate the progress we have made? Now, at the end of the United Nations Decade, we have set out with new goals and detailed strategies to ensure a future for women and men on terms of full equality, and we are carrying the spirit of the Decade into the year 2000. The Decade, and especially the Nairobi Conference, has given us a lasting impulse, and has transformed our mental landscape. Its achievements are as impressive as they are real, and now is the time to grasp the opportunities it has created for further advancement.

I have said in Nairobi, and I repeat it here, that I am deeply committed to the full integration of women into society. My commitment is founded on the conviction that women are an important and integral part of our world, and that their full participation is essential for the achievement of peace, justice and development. For that very same reason, women's full participation in the work of our organization is a prerequisite for us to be effective. This conviction has always shaped the approach I have taken, and it is a commitment which I am determined to maintain.

The ability of the United Nations to respond to its numerous mandates, can only be enhanced by the presence of women in substantive and decision-making positions. Only when women participate fully in all aspects of the Secretariat's work, and only when women's experience is sufficiently reflected in the composition of the organization's staff, will the Secretariat's work, and only when women's experience is sufficiently reflected in the composition of the organization's staff, will the Secretariat improvement of the status of both men and women worldwide.

At the last session of the General Assembly, I presented a detailed analysis of the current situation, prepared by the Co-ordinator for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat, together with an equally detailed action programme to overcome the obstacles that remain. I was gratified, as I am sure you were, that the reaction of the General Assembly was most supportive. The assembly welcomed the action programme, and the mandate of the Co-ordinator was extended through the end of 1987. The action programme is now being implemented, in close co-operation with the Office of Personnel Services, and I intend to report to the Assembly at its next session on the progress made.

As we are beginning to carry out the action programme, however, we are facing new constraints that place an immense burden on the whole Organization. In the next few months, the impact of the present financial deficit will be felt throughout the Secretariat, and there may be a large array of conflicting priorities, each with its own claim on the Organization's scarce resources.

I wish to assure you that I shall do as much as I can to continue to ensure, at this difficult time, the bringing of women into the forefront of the Secretariat's work. At the same time, I would be less than candid if I did not point out that the crisis which confronts us will require in all probability sacrifices by all programmes and y every staff member, regardless of nationality, location and sex.

I trust, however, that these sacrifices will be short lived. I expect that the General Assembly will at its forty-first session, reach broadly agreed conclusions which will place this Organization on a firm footing. We must throughout this time clearly keep in mind that ideals we strive for including the fact that the role of women is fundamental in today's world.

We have, in the secretariat, a unique group of men and women, who bring together a wealth of experience and expertise that is not duplicated in any other organization, be it national or international. At this time, more than ever, the contribution of each and every one of you is vital to enable us to overcome this difficult period, and to turn it into a process form which we will all emerge stronger. For this reason, we cannot afford to neglect the contribution that women make to this Organization, and not to use their resourcefulness to the utmost.

I have, in the action programme, set a number of gaols and targets that do not require additional resources to implement, but that depend on the Secretariat's ability to integrate the priorities determined by the Member States into its own value system and its actual behaviour. The General assembly, through resolution 40/258, has reaffirmed its conviction that special measures are required to increase the participation of women in our work, both in quantitative and qualitative terms. I have made a commitment in the action programme to hold senior members accountable to me directly for the progress that they make in this respect, and the Steering Committee that I am establishing to monitor and guide the implementation of the action programme is now starting its important work.

Many may ask: why yet one more committee? Because the improvement of the status of women is not the task of one single official, but of the whole Organization. I want to ensure that progress is made in a balanced manner. I want to bring about a process that is lasting and incremental. The Steering Committee will help to strengthen the commitment throughout the Organization. It will consist of a group of prominent staff members from various parts of the Organization, who will be appointed in personal capacity. They will work closely with the Co-ordinator, on the development of alternatives to those policies and procedures that prevent the full integration of women into our Organization, particularly in the areas of career development and recruitment. Moreover, the Steering Committee will closely monitor the compliance of all offices and departments with the action programme. Through the Steering Committee, I intend to remain fully involved in all phases of the action programme.

I appeal to each of you to support my efforts. If we are able to perceive the problems which we will undoubtedly be facing in the near future as our common concern and as our common responsibility, we will also find that this perception will strengthen our solidarity as international civil servants, men and women, different in many ways, but joined together by a common commitment to the goals of the United Nations.

I am most grateful to the Ad Hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women for its invitation to address you today. The Ad Hoc Group has been in the forefront of our efforts to improve the status of women in the Secretariat, and I wish to pay tribute to its constancy and idealism. On this International Women's Day, we take stock and we look to the future. We are entering into a new era with the certainty of our common goals. We share a common vision of how the increased participation of women can enhance the effectiveness of our increased participation of women can enhance the effectiveness of our Secretariat. Now it is up to us to convert that vision into reality.

Contact: Send us your comments and suggestions
Sitemap | Follow us: Twitter | Facebook | RSS feed
Copyright © 1997-2010, United Nations