Noeleen Heyzer

Noeleen Heyzer is the first woman to head the UN Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) as Executive Secretary. She was also the first Executive Director from the South to lead the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM). Ms.Heyzer also played a key role in the preparatory process for the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing.

A question that is sometimes posed is whether women in Muslim contexts are entitled to equal rights. Are their culture and religion opposed to women having equal rights? To answer this, let us recognize the fact that nearly all the countries with Muslim majorities are signatories to international agreements advancing women's rights.

Progress in achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the Asian and Pacific region is uneven. We achieved success in some, but faltered in others. Even in areas of success, in-country and intra-country disparities persist. The pace of progress is too slow.

Change is accelerating in the Asia-Pacific region, including in rural areas, as it becomes the global economy's growth driver. In 2010, the region's developing countries grew at an impressive rate of 8.8 per cent compared to 2.7 per cent for the world's developed economies.