Angela King, champion of empowering women, dies aged 68

February 6, 2007

Jamaican diplomat Angela E. V. King, former United Nations assistant secretary general and special adviser on gender issues and advancement of women, died February 5 at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City after battling with breast cancer. She was 68.

Funeral arrangements, tentatively planned for her birthplace of Jamaica, and details of a memorial service in New York have not yet been announced.

King, an Anglican, served the UN as special adviser on Gender Issues and Advancement of Women from 1997 until her retirement in April 2004. In 2006, she delivered the keynote address at the orientation for Anglican delegates to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (UNCSW).

In expressing regret at King's death, Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller said the international community has lost a pioneering champion in the achievement of women.

King had a long history of active work for the advancement of women in the UN Secretariat: she was a founding member of the ad hoc Group on Equal Rights for Women (GERWUN) and chaired the Secretariat's High-level Steering Committee on Improving the Status of Women. She previously served as director of the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department for Economic and Social Affairs (1996), where she was responsible for the follow-up to the Beijing Conference and for managing the central UN program for the advancement of women. She also chaired the Inter-Agency Network on Women and Gender and Equality (IANWGE) and supervised the Division for the Advancement of Women (DAW).

King joined the UN Secretariat in 1966 from the Permanent Mission of Jamaica, where she worked on matters relating to human rights and social development. She was one of the first two women Foreign Service officers posted after Jamaica joined the UN. While at the UN, she held the positions of director of Recruitment and Placement, director of Staff Administration and Training, deputy to the Assistant Secretary General for Human Resources Management, and director of the Operational Services Division, where she worked closely with the Focal Point for the Improvement of the Status of Women in the Secretariat on issues such as special measures for women and sexual harassment. King attended the First, Second and Fourth Women’s Conferences in Mexico (1975), Copenhagen (1980), Beijing (1995) and organized and directed the Beijing+5 Special Session of the General Assembly (2000).

From 1992 to 1994, King was on assignment as chief of Mission of the UN Observer Mission in South Africa (UNOMSA), one of the first two women to head a UN mission on preventive diplomacy and peace-building. Her diplomacy and advocacy with the Security Council, in cooperation with other UN entities and non-governmental organizations, led to the adoption of the Council’s resolution 1325 (2000) on Women, Peace and Security.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon issued the following statement on King’s death:

"Angela King led the United Nations' efforts for the empowerment of women with knowledge, passion and courage as the United Nations worked to translate into practice the Beijing Platform for Action and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. A fervent champion of the equality of women and men, and women's enjoyment of their human rights, she knew that all parts of the United Nations had a responsibility to uphold those principles -- including in the area of peace and security. Ms. King's advocacy and partnership with civil society paved the way for the Security Council’s landmark resolution 1325 (2000) on women, peace and security -- the Council's first recognition of women's essential role in peacebuilding, peacemaking and peace negotiations. She was equally committed to championing the cause of women staff members in the United Nations, and their equal opportunities in the workplace. Her work for gender equality crowned an almost 40-year career with the United Nations, during which she also served as Chief of the United Nations Observer Mission in South Africa at the time of the country's first democratic, non-racial elections. She will be mourned with profound affection and respect by many friends and allies around the world."

King held a BA (Hons) in History from the University College of the West Indies and a MA in Educational Sociology and Administration from the University of London, as well as graduate studies in educational sociology at New York University. In November 1999, she received an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree from the University of the West Indies. She also was awarded the medal of Commander of Distinction by her country.

King is survived by her son Richard A. James.

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