International Women's Day
8 March 1992 

Press Release SG/SM/4712//Rev. 1
(Revised to include English translation of that portion of Secretary-General's statement delivered in French)


The following is the text of the statement made today by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali at an assembly marking International Women's Day 1992:

Since I became Secretary-General, I have had many "first time" experiences. This is my first International Women's Day at the United Nations. I am pleased to be able to take part in this assembly and share with you my views.

Let me begin by saying that I have always been totally committed to equality between women and men. Equality is important tome not only because Article 8 of the Charter requires that women and men participate under conditions of equality in the Secretariat but because discrimination of any kind is abhorrent.

I am proud of my record on this score: in the fifties, I appointed Horeya Magahed, as the first woman assistant in the department o of Political Science in Cairo University. Today Professor Megahed is not only the Head of the Department but also a member of the People's Assembly.

When I started the International relations Quarterly Journal, Al Syassa Al Dawliya, in the sixties, I appointed two women as associate editors Nabeya El-Asfahani and Sawassan Hussein.

During my time at Cairo University, the number of women on my staff increased to 50 per cent.

Throughout the seventies and the eighties, when I assumed responsibilities of Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and then deputy Prime Minister for Foreign Affairs, I consistently appointed women to my Cabinet. I also point out that during that period, 22 per cent of those recruited to the Egyptian Foreign Service were women.

When elected Secretary-General of the United Nations, the only Egyptian I have appointed in my Office is a woman - Fayza Aboulnega.

I am fully aware that a great deal still needs to be done to achieve equality in the United Nations Secretariat.

The General Assembly has reiterated time and again the seriousness it attaches to this issue. Personnel policies have been promulgated to fulfil the goals set by the General Assembly, and I wish to take this opportunity to underline the importance I attach to the full implementation of these policies.

Clearly, talented and effective staff can only be attracted to an Organization that rewards their achievements and gives them prospects for advancement. Unless women are assured of a workplace free of discrimination, in which they can compete under conditions of equality, we cannot expect to attract the calibre of women we need.

As you know, I have begun a process of restructuring of the Secretariat and have eliminated a number of posts in the top echelons. Unfortunately, I do not foresee an increase in the number of women at senior levels in the very near future. But I can assure you that, given the time, I will include a greater number of women in policy-making policies.

I am aware of the concerns of the General service staff, most of whom are women, and understand their frustration over limited prospects for advancement. The restructuring of the secretarial occupation which has been under way for some time now has not yet produced an occupation which has been under way for some time now has not yet produced an acceptable overall solution. While I am pleased that a number of posts are in the process of being upgraded, it will be essential to ensure that there is a satisfactory resolution of this matter.

Women will be given every opportunity to serve in the new large-scale peace-keeping operations that are being prepared. As in the Namibia Operation, or the El Salvador operation, where nearly half of the professional staff were women, I expect them to participate in large numbers and at senior levels. At the same time, women will be asked to serve at higher levels as replacements for staff who have left for mission service.

Six years ago, my predecessor Mr. Javier Pérez de Cuéller, established the Steering Committee for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat. Thanks to the Steering Committee's work, a number of positive steps have been taken, to which I attach the greatest importance. I shall continue to rely on the Committee to propose new remedial action and shall be monitoring progress in this area. I have accordingly extended the Steering Committee's mandate until 31 December 1992.

In co-ordination with the Steering Committee, senior Secretariat officials were entrusted with responsibility for enhancing the status of women within the secretariat, namely, the Co-ordinator for the Enhancement of the Status of Women in the Office of Human Resources Management and a Director in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General, who have worked closely with the office of the Under-Secretary-General for Administration and Management. Their effectiveness is certain to be increased within the framework of the new, expanded Department of Administration and Management.

I wish to reaffirm my strong determination to improve the status of women in the Secretariat. Women and men must, and will, have the same career prospects on equal terms. The importance of the role which you will play in the Organization will depend solely on your efforts, on your dedication and on the way in which you carry out the new responsibilities entrusted to you. Our Organization will be facing new challenges and your contribution is essential if, together, we are to be able to meet those challenges. Women and men, men ad women, together, we shall make this institution an instrument for defending peace, for building peace and for institutionalizing peace.

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