International Women's Day
8 March 1990 

Press Release SG/SM/4418


Following is the text of the statement from Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar at a meeting held at Headquarters in observance of the International Women's Day:

Since I become Secretary-General, I have taken every opportunity to give effect to my strong conviction that women must be able to participate fully in all aspects of the work of the United Nations on an equal basis with men and be fully involved in the decision making process. Let me say again today that the high priority which I attach to this matter is undiminished.

International Women's Day is a good occasion to take stock of what has been accomplish, and to reflect on what remains to be done to realize equal rights for women and to bring about an equitable representation of women at all levels of the Secretariat.

Over the past year, women staff members participated, for the first time in almost equal numbers with men, on the civilian side of a historic United Nations operation. They made a significant contribution to the United Nations Transition Assistance Group (UNTAG) - often in difficult and sometime in dangerous situations - paving the way for independence of Namibia later this month. These women acquitted themselves in a manner which should one and for all erase the doubts - which I for one never had - regarding the ability of women to perform as well as men in any and all areas of United Nations Observation Mission to verify the Elections in Nicaragua, nearly half of whose staff were women. Thus, new standards have been set for United Nations activities in the future. We can all, most happily and readily, pay tribute to those who have served in these missions and to those who, in their absence, have assumed additional responsibilities at Headquarters.

At the same time, and in the light of our recent experience, it seems to me that there is now a more widespread and clear recognition that far more needs to be done in order to reflect in the make-up of the Secretariat the equality of men and women spelled out in the Charter, and specifically to implement the targets set by the general Assembly.

In the period ahead, it will be important to ensure that the career advancement of women staff members is given the serious attention which it merits and that decisions on assignments, placement and promotion are untainted by prejudice or attitudes that are clearly our of date.

I welcome the special emergency measures which the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Resources Management has introduced with a view to attaining the targets set by the General Assembly for the representation of women in the secretariat. Let me stress here the importance both of reaching the 30 percent target Secretariat-wide and of placing more women in positions at policy-making levels. I am impressing on all departments the need to do their utmost to contribute to the implementation of these new measures.

As you know, the steering Committee for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat has resumed its work with a largely new membership I have noted that it is focusing on two areas: first, monitoring the compliance of those in the Organization responsible for implementing the policies and guidelines affecting the recruitment and career development of women; and secondly, assessing the status of implementation of its previous recommendations. In this connection, I wish again to assure you that the restructuring of the secretarial occupation has my particular support. I am asking those responsible to give this priority.

I may ad that the Commission on the Status of Women now meeting in Vienna has been actively considering matters relating to women in the Secretariat and has recommended a new goal of 35 per cent of Professional posts for women by 1995. Next week, the International Civil Service Commission will be discussing special measures for improving the status of women in all the organizations of the United Nations system.

In concluding, let me reaffirm my public message for international Women's Day: I made the point that the problems we are facing in an ever-more complex and interdependent world cannot be resolved by the efforts of only half of the population of the globe. Both men and women must work together as equal partners in order to ensure a sustainable future for the generation to come.

At a time when Member States are drawing together in support of the United Nations, and new responsibilities are being entrusted to us, I know that I can count on all members of the Secretariat - women and men - working together to meet the immense challenges that lie ahead.

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