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FEATURES  

A Woman of Substance: Ms. Carolyn McAskie
By Awareness Times
Mar 7, 2007, 18:15
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In continuation of our ongoing Features about Women of Substance, we are today departing from featuring Sierra Leonean Women and are featuring instead the visiting United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Ms. Carolyn McAskie and her pro-gender activism which recently earned her the enviable UNIFEM Canada's Annual Award. The Award recognized Carolyn McAskie's outstanding achievements on pro-gender work in the following areas:

* Institutional Issues

* Economic Issues

* Peace and Security Issues

Carolyn McAskie

Carolyn's Pro-Gender Work on Institutional Issues

One of Carolyn's big achievements is that she was instrumental in getting many of the multilateral organizations to take up gender as an issue:

a) She designed and launched the first Women in Development Division in the Commonwealth Secretariat in 1980.

b) She was an active member of the CIDA Committee for Women in Development in the early 1980s (long before it was called Gender in Development).

c) Between 1984 and 1986, Carolyn lead the charge in the UNDP Governing Council and the UNICEF Executive Board to take women's issues seriously. Along with a few other dedicated delegates, they were able to get UNDP/UNFPA/UNICEF to create their own Women in Development units.

d) She was the first Canadian manager who in 1985 was able to get Government of Canada approval to raise UNIFEM contributions from a few thousand dollars to a million dollars. At the time this was considered a big contribution and put Canada with Norway as the top two UNIFEM contributors.

e) Carolyn was one of the senior Canadian negotiators at the 1985 Women's Conference in Nairobi . Canada was the lead for the Western Group, under Maureen O'Neill, and Carolyn was the chief negotiator for the Western countries in Commission Two of the conference, responsible for some of the language in the final document.

f) During 1989 to 1993, while Director General at CIDA, Carolyn was responsible for getting women's issues into the replenishments for the Regional Development Banks, AFDB, ASDB, IADB, the GEF.

Carolyn's Pro-Gender Work on Economic Issues

She was a member of the Commonwealth Expert Group on Women and Structural Adjustment which published the report called "Engendering Adjustment" in 1989.

As CIDA Vice President for Africa between 1994 and 1996, Carolyn launched a programme to bring women's issues into the adjustment debate in Africa. This followed from Richard Jolly's ground breaking report entitled "Adjustment with a Human Face", and followed Canada 's Commonwealth work on "Engendering Adjustment".

At the time she was the Canadian delegate to the World Bank committee on the Special Programme for Africa (SPA). She was instrumental in launching the Structural Adjustment and Gender in Africa (SAGA) programme at CIDA and got the World Bank to take Canada seriously. SAGA has since been taken up by NSI as one of their major programmes, but it started with Carolyn's idea, CIDA funding and Carolyn's energy. SAGA is also a Norse word for a tale of epic proportions, which she thought was appropriate for women.

Also as CIDA Vice President for Africa between 1993 and 1995, she made substantive contributions to UNICEF's programme on the girl child, especially in education.

Carolyn's Pro-Gender Work on Peace and Security Issues

She has also spent her time in the United Nations getting women's issues into the Peace and Security debate.

a) As Vice Chair of Commission IV on development issues in Burundi, Carolyn used seminars and meetings as an excuse to invite women at Canada 's expense so that more women could be at the negotiating table. Getting women delegates was a UNIFEM triumph along with women's 30% representation in the constitution.

b) She testified before the Security Council on the terrible things happening to women in the Congo war, where rape is an instrument of war. While rape had already been classified a war crime from the Bosnia experience, her testimony on Congo helped to keep the issue in front of the Security Council.

c) She has also been part of the effort to remind people that in humanitarian crises the main victims are women and children. Thanks to HCR the world knows that 80 percent of refugees are women and children. But she feels that we also need to keep the focus on the fact that on the whole, men make war and women are the victims.

Before her appointment as the United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Peacebuilding Support, Ms. McAskie had been appointed Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of the UN Peacekeeping Operation in Burundi in June 2004. Her previous appointment (1999-2004) was Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator at the UN Secretariat in New York, serving as Emergency Relief Coordinator a.i., for the period 1999 to January 2001. Prior to her appointment with the United Nations, Ms. McAskie had a 30- year career with the Federal Government of Canada, in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). Her last positions were Vice-President for Africa and the Middle East Programmes and Vice-President of CIDA’s Multilateral Programmes Branch, where she held the rank of Assistant Deputy Minister (equivalent to Deputy Permanent Secretary) from 1993 until 1999.

Earlier posts with CIDA include: Director-General, International Financial Institutions; Director-General, Multilateral Technical Cooperation (United Nations and Commonwealth Programmes); and in the Canadian High Commission in Kenya. She has also served in the Commonwealth Secretariat in London as Assistant Director of Finance and Personnel (1975-1980), and as Canadian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and the Maldives (1986-1989).

Throughout her career, Ms. McAskie has played a prominent role in multilateral negotiations as a Canadian delegate to the UN Funds and Programmes and in the Governing Councils of the International Financial Institutions. She served as a member of the Facilitation Team of the Burundi Peace Process in Arusha (1999) under the late Julius Nyerere, the former President of Tanzania, and as Humanitarian Envoy of the UN Secretary General for the humanitarian crisis in Côte d’Ivoire.


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