Noeleen Heyzer, a social scientist, was an Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and the highest ranking Singaporean in the UN system during her term.
She was the first woman to serve as the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific since its founding in 1947. Under her leadership (Aug 2007-Jan 2014), the commission focused on regional co-operation for a more resilient Asia-Pacific, founded on shared prosperity, social equity, and sustainable development. She was at the forefront of many innovations including for regional disaster preparedness, inclusive socio-economic policies, sustainable agriculture and urbanization, energy security and regional connectivity.
She was also the United Nations Secretary General ’s Special Adviser for Timor-Leste, working to support peace-building, state-building, and sustainable development in fragile states.
As the previous Executive Director of the UN Development Fund for Women, she was widely recognized for the formulation and implementation of Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace, and Security.
Born in Singapore, she received a BA (Upper Hons) and an MA from the University of Singapore and a doctorate in social sciences from Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.
She has received several awards for leadership including the UNA-Harvard Leadership Award, the Woman of Distinction Award from the UN-NGO Committee on the Status of Women, NCRW “Women Who Make a Difference” Award in 2005 and the Dag Hammarskjöld medal in 2004 given to “a person who has promoted, in action and spirit, the values that inspired Dag Hammarskjöld as Secretary-General of the United Nations and generally in his life: compassion, humanism and commitment to international solidarity and cooperation.”