Thoraya Ahmed Obaid was the Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fundand an Under-Secretary General of the United Nations from 2000 to 2010. Obaid is from Saudi Arabia. The United Nations Population Fund is the world's largest multilateral source of population assistance. Ms Obaid was appointed to her position effective 1 January 2001, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations. She is the first Saudi Arabian to head a United Nations agency.
The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), formerly the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, is a UN organization. The UNFPA says it "is the lead UN agency for delivering a world where every pregnancy is wanted, every childbirth is safe and every young person's potential is fulfilled". Their work involves the improvement of reproductive health; including creation of national strategies and protocols, and birth control by providing supplies and services. The organization has recently been known for its worldwide campaign against child marriage, obstetric fistula and female genital mutilation.
Saudi Arabia, officially the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is a country in Western Asia constituting the bulk of the Arabian Peninsula. With a land area of approximately 2,150,000 km2 (830,000 sq mi), Saudi Arabia is geographically the largest sovereign state in the Middle East, the second-largest in the Arab world, the fifth-largest in Asia, and the 12th-largest in the world. Saudi Arabia is bordered by Jordan and Iraq to the north, Kuwait to the northeast, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates to the east, Oman to the southeast and Yemen to the south; it is separated from Israel and Egypt by the Gulf of Aqaba. It is the only nation with both a Red Sea coast and a Persian Gulf coast, and most of its terrain consists of arid desert, lowland and mountains. As of October 2018, the Saudi economy was the largest in the Middle East and the 18th largest in the world. Saudi Arabia also has one of the world's youngest populations; 50 percent of its 33.4 million people are under 25 years old.
Ms. Obaid also served as Chair of the High-level Committee on Management of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB). The Committee is the principal United Nations inter-agency body for coordinating administrative and management matters.
From 1998 to 2001, Ms. Obaid was Director, Division for Arab States and Europe, UNFPA. Before joining UNFPA, Ms. Obaid was Deputy Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) from 1993 to 1998. She was the Chief of the Social Development and Population Division, ESCWA, from 1992 to 1993, and Social Affairs Officer, responsible for the advancement of women, from 1975 to 1992. A central focus of Ms. Obaid's work at ESCWA and UNFPA was to cooperate with governments to establish programmes to empower women and develop their capacities as citizens with rights and responsibilities. She has also worked with women's non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to advocate for women's equality.
In 1975, Ms. Obaid established the first women's development programme in Western Asia. The programme helped build partnerships on women's issues between the United Nations and regional NGOs. Ms. Obaid chaired the United Nations Inter-Agency Task Force on Gender in Amman, Jordan, in 1996. In November 1997, she was a member of the United Nations Inter-Agency Gender Mission to Afghanistan. Between 1984 and 1985, she was a member of the League of Arab States Working Group for Formulating the Arab Strategy for Social Development.
In 1963, Ms. Obaid became the first Saudi Arabian woman to receive a government scholarship to study at a university in the United States. She has a doctorate degree in English Literature and Cultural Anthropology from Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan. She is a member of the Middle East Studies Association and of Al-Nahdha Women's Philanthropic Association, a Saudi NGO.
Throughout her career, Ms Obaid has emphasized the importance of development that emerges from the context of each society, taking into consideration the cultural values and religious beliefs that shape people and affect their actions. During her tenure as UNFPA Executive Director, she has introduced a special focus on culture and religion in the Fund's development work, thereby linking universal values of human rights to values of the human worth promoted by all religions and found in all cultures.
A value is a universal value if it has the same value or worth for all, or almost all, people. Spheres of human value encompass morality, aesthetic preference, human traits, human endeavour, and social order. Whether universal values exist is an unproven conjecture of moral philosophy and cultural anthropology, though it is clear that certain values are found across a great diversity of human cultures, such as primary attributes of physical attractiveness whereas other attributes are subject to aesthetic relativism as governed by cultural norms. This objection is not limited to aesthetics. Relativism concerning morals is known as moral relativism, a philosophical stance opposed to the existence of universal moral values.
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