The Academic Council on the United Nations System inaugurated the John W. Holmes Memorial Lecture Series in 1989 in honor of a founding member of ACUNS.
About Margaret Anstee
Margaret Anstee served the United Nations for over four decades (1952-93), rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General in 1987, the first woman to do so. During her career she lived in fifteen different countries, visited over 130 on official mission and worked on many different aspects of the organisation’s work. From 1952-1987 she directed operational programmes of economic and social development in all regions of the world, for the first 22 years in developing countries themselves and then, in various capacities, from Headquarters in New York.. From 1987-1992 she served as Director General of the United Nations at Vienna, the third Headquarters of the organisation, serving concurrently as Head of the Centre for Social Development and Humanitarian Affairs and Coordinator of all UN narcotic drug control programmes. From 1992-3 she was the Secretary General’s Special Representative to Angola and Head of the UN peacekeeping mission there (UNAVEM II – the UN Angola Verification Mission), again the first woman to hold such a function.
During her field career Dame Margaret served successively as Resident Representative of the UN Development Programme in eight countries in Asia, Latin America and Africa. These included Bolivia (1960-65) where she now has a home on the shores of Lake Titicaca. From 1974-87 she occupied senior positions at UN Headquarters in New York, including that of Deputy UNDP Regional Director for Latin America (1974 -7), Assistant Administrator of UNDP for Programme Policy and Evaluation (1977-8) and Assistant Secretary General in the Department of Technical Cooperation for Development (1976-87). She was also given major responsibilities in a number of disaster relief operations (Bangladesh 1973, Mexican earthquake 1985, Chernobyl nuclear disaster 1991-2, Kuwait burning oil wells 1991-2) as well as special assignments for the Secretary General to assist countries in dire economic distress (Bolivia 1982-92, Peru 1990-2). In addition, she was involved in the design and implementation of several major reforms of the UN system.
Since leaving the UN in July 1993, Dame Margaret has worked ad honorem as an independent Consultant and, until 2005,as Special Adviser to the President and Government of Bolivia on matters relating to development and international finance. In 1994 she led an Inter-American Development Bank mission to Bolivia on socio-economic reform. She writes and lectures widely on the United Nations, particularly on issues related to development, peacekeeping, and UN reform. From 1996-2001 she advised the Secretary General and the UN Department of Political Affairs on operational aspects of post-conflict peace-building and from 1996-2002 also chaired the Advisory Board of the Lessons Learned Unit of the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations. For some years she has actively taken part in practical training in peacekeeping techniques for both military and civilian personnel, including simulation exercises in Europe, Latin America, Africa and Asia, organised by the Armed Forces of the UK, the United States, the Nordic countries and NATO. Her book “Orphan of the Cold War: the Inside Story of the Collapse of the Angolan Peace Process 1992-3” was published in the UK and the US in October 1996. Her autobiography entitled “Never Learn to Type: A Woman at the United Nations” was published in the UK in 2003 with a second edition in paperback the following year. An earlier book on Bolivia – “Gate of the Sun: A Prospect of Bolivia” – was published in 1970. Her latest book – “The House on the Sacred Lake (and Other Bolivian Dreams – and Nightmares)” – was published in October 2009.. She has also written many chapters for multi-authored books and articles for specialist journals.
Dame Margaret was educated at Newnham College, Cambridge, of which she is an Honorary Fellow, and at London University. In 1993 she was awarded the Reves Peace Prize by William and Mary College (USA) and has Honorary Doctorates in the UK from the Universities of Essex (1994), Westminster (1996), London (1998) and Cambridge (2004). In the 1994 New Year’s Honours List Queen Elizabeth II made her a Dame Commander of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George. She has also been honoured by the Governments of Austria, Bolivia, Chile and Morocco.