Angela King, a Jamaican diplomat who became the first woman to be appointed to the post of Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations, died on Monday of breast cancer. Appointed by Kofi Annan as his Special Adviser on Gender Issues, she was a champion of women’s rights both outside and within the United Nations. The International Herald Tribune story on her highlights some of her achievements:
During a 38-year career at the United Nations, King led efforts to end discrimination against women and promote gender equality within the organization and globally. She was also one of a handful of women to lead a U.N. peacebuilding mission : in South Africa from 1992-94 during the country’s first democratic, non-racial elections.
King participated in U.N. conferences to promote women’s rights in Mexico City in 1975, Copenhagen in 1980, and Beijing in 1995, where world leaders adopted a wide-ranging blueprint to achieve equality for women.
In 1997, former Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed her to a new post as his special adviser on gender issues and advancement of women with the rank of assistant secretary-general to help ensure U.N.-wide implementation of the Beijing platform. …
As the secretary-general’s special adviser, King organized a special session of the General Assembly in 2000 to review progress on implementation the Beijing blueprint. She pressed for an end to discrimination against women and the promotion of women to top U.N. jobs.
This latter area is a continuing struggle. Although the Charter of the United Nations provides in article 8 that “The United Nations shall place no restrictions on the eligibility of men and women to participate in any capacity and under conditions of equality in its principal and subsidiary organs, de facto discrimination abounds, and the number of women in professional staff positions remains very low.
King also played a key role with women’s rights groups in promoting adoption of a Security Council resolution in 2000 that called for women to be included in decision-making positions at every level of peacemaking and peacebuilding. It also called for increased protection of women and girls during war and prosecution of those who commit rape and other crimes against them. …
Shortly before she retired in 2004, King warned that without acceptance of women as full partners in critical areas such as peace negotiations and economic development, “there will be no true democracy, sustainable peace and enjoyment of human rights.”