Lakshmi Puri

Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women

Ms. Lakshmi Puri (India) is Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and Deputy Executive Director of UN Women. Having joined the leadership team in 2011 at the inception of UN Women she has contributed strategically and vitally to building this new and dynamic entity. She is directly responsible for the leadership and management of the Bureau for Intergovernmental Support, UN System Coordination, and Strategic Partnerships, and was the Acting Head of UN Women from March to August 2013.

Ms. Puri has multifaceted experience in bilateral and multilateral diplomacy, negotiations of international agreements and public advocacy spanning peace and security, countering violent extremism and terrorism, human rights, key areas of sustainable development including energy, food security and agriculture, water, sanitation and hygiene, trade in goods and services, investment and intellectual property rights regimes, migration and refugees, climate change and humanitarian action. She has contributed to publications and think tanks in these areas and to opinion editorials.

She was involved in the negotiations of some seminal Human Rights conventions including the Conventions Against Torture, Convention on the Rights of the Child, Declaration on the Right to Development and on instruments and conferences on Indigenous peoples and minority rights and participated in the 1983 World Conference Against Racism in Geneva.

Throughout her career, Ms. Puri has interacted with global leaders, decision-makers and opinion influencers at the highest levels. She has developed transformative partnerships with governments, civil society, academia, youth, private sector and the media.  She has been a dynamic mobilizer of resources for UN Women and the gender equality agenda.

Ms. Puri significantly contributed to positioning UN Women as the global advocate for gender equality and women’s empowerment, particularly in the intergovernmental and public spheres. She has been instrumental in UN Women’s successes in prioritizing gender equality and the empowerment of women in key intergovernmental outcomes and in securing high level political commitments.

Notably, she played a key role in ensuring that gender equality was prioritized in the outcome of the Rio + 20 Conference on Sustainable Development and in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. She also advocated for the centrality of investments in gender equality work to be prioritized in the Addis Ababa Action Agenda of the third United Nations conference on Financing for Development; the Humanitarian Agenda; HIV and AIDS; the Climate Change Conference of the Parties 17 through 22; HABITAT III Conference and the New Urban Agenda; the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) + 10; the United Nations General Assembly Summit and New York Declaration on Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants in 2016.

She has been active in the Women, Peace and Security agenda in the Security Council in the last six years including in the run up to and in the context of the Global Study and the High-level Review of the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the adoption of the historic Resolution 2242 in October 2015; including in the updating of that agenda to include countering violent extremism and terrorism and humanitarian action.

Ms. Puri has guided the work of UN Women with the Commission on the Status of Women, including in ensuring the landmark outcomes of the 57th session (2013) on Ending Violence Against Women; the 58th session (2014) on implementing the Millennium Development Goals for Women and Girls; the 59th session (2015) on the 20-year anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action (Beijing+20); and the 60th session (2016) which set out a roadmap on the gender-responsive, full, effective and accelerated implementation of the 2030 Agenda.

Her leadership for the Beijing+20 review and commemoration was critical to the comprehensive process which resulted in national reports from 167 Member States, over 100 consultations with civil society, dozens of global thematic events, and unprecedented public mobilization, including on social media. She played a key role in supporting the development of the Beijing+20 Political Declaration — a major milestone for gender equality and the empowerment of women. She led the organization of the historic Global Leaders’ Meeting on Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment: A Commitment to Action, the first meeting of Heads of State and Government with ever held on gender equality.

In the context of UN Women’s chairing of the UN Global Migration Group, Ms. Puri brought to bear her considerable experience in this area and played a key role in coordinating UN efforts to provide substantive, advocacy and civil society mobilization support. to Member States for the historic outcomes of the United Nations Summit on Migration and Refugees.

She worked to build synergies with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on Migration and the intergovernmental Global Forum on Migration and Development. She also contributed to ensuring that a human rights and gender perspective is integrated into the policies and programmes on migration and refugees and that the agency of women and girls is fully harnessed as the world grapples with the largest movement of refugees and migrants since the second World War.

She is a passionate and committed global advocate and has led many global campaigns and movements. She has helped conceptualize and support UN Women’s Planet 50-50 by 2030: Step It Up for Gender Equality, HeForshe and the Men and Boys solidarity movement for gender equality and the UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaigns as well as UN Women’s Youth and Gender Equality Strategy and its celebrated LEAPs framework.

Ms. Puri has helped develop and leverage UN Women’s convening power at an unprecedented, highest political level with governments and with civil society, the private sector, academia and other stakeholders. She has built strong partnerships with other UN organizations and led and contributed to UN system, interagency mechanisms and initiatives including in the HLCP, ECESA and CEB.

Ms. Puri joined the UN in 2002 as Director of UNCTAD’s International Trade in Goods, Services and Commodities Division. She became Acting Deputy Secretary General of UNCTAD and steered two important UNCTAD Conferences -UNCTA XI and XII in Sao Paolo and Accra.

She was Director of the UN Office of the High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (SIDs) in New York from 2009 and steered the preparations for the 4th World Conference on LDCs in Istanbul and the adoption of the ambitious Istanbul Program of Action for the LDCs in 2011. She also contributed to the 5-year Review of the Mauritius Strategy for the further implementation of the Barbados Program of Action in 2010 and to the Samoa Pathway engendering in 2014.

During her 28-year distinguished career in the Indian Foreign Service she has held politically sensitive posts including in relation to the United Nations. She was Under Secretary for Pakistan during crucial a period of Indo Pakistan Relations in 1978-1981. Her human rights, political advocacy and media related work in Sri Lanka in the lead up to and after the Indo-Sri Lanka Peace Agreement of 1987 were a professional high watermark and her involvement in the deployment of the largest Indian contingent in the United Nations International Police Task Force (IPTF) in Bosnia as Indian Ambassador in Hungary and Bosnia enabled her to contribute to international and UN peacemaking and peace building on the ground.

Over the years, Ms. Puri has received awards and accolades for her work as a human rights advocate since she first became engaged in the global development, human rights, and humanitarian discourse, policy making and norm setting. She has been the recipient of the innovative NOVUS Award for championing the SDGs – especially for Excellence and Leadership on Gender Equality as well as the Millennium Campus Network 2015 Global Generation Award as Inspiration for Youth.

In recognition of her contribution to furthering the mission of the United Nations, her deep-seated commitment to human rights, as well as the global impact of her work, Ms. Puri was awarded the prestigious Eleanor Roosevelt Human Rights Award 2016 by the United Nations Association of the United States of America, San Diego Chapter which the architect of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had founded.

Learn more from Ms Puri here:

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: Violence against women has high costs – Ending it provides transformative prosperity

EXECUTIVE PERSPECTIVE: No more denying: climate change action and gender equality and women’s empowerment are two sides of the same coin

Insights from Lakshmi Puri