29 September 2017

Dr. Natalia Kanem – New UNFPA Executive Director

On 3 October, dr. Natalia Kanem was appointed as the new Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) by Secretary-General António Guterres. She will serve in this position for the upcoming four years.


We are pleased to hear that Dr. Natalie Kanem, a champion with a long-standing experience in the area of sexual and reproductive health and rights, human rights and global justice, will lead UNFPA in the coming years. EuroNGOs had a close collaboration with her predecessor, Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, and we look forward to continuing our tradition of mutual cooperation and working together towards the realisation of SRHR for all, ensuring that no one is left behind.

According to the UN Secretary-General’s statement, Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than three decades of strategic leadership and management in the fields of medicine, public health, international peace and development, human rights and social justice applying her expertise in direct programme implementation, mission advocacy, and building strong local, national, international and donor partner alliances. She currently serves as Acting Executive Director of UNFPA (after the sudden death of dr. Babatunde Osotimehin in June). Prior to this position, she was Deputy Executive Director (Programme) and earlier UNFPA Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania (2014-2016). 

Prior to joining the United Nations, Dr. Kanem was a Senior Associate at the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago (2012-2013). Before that, she was the founding President of ELMA Philanthropies Services (2005-2011), a private institution focusing primarily on children and youth in Africa. She served the Ford Foundation from 1992 to 2005 in various capacities, including:  Deputy Vice President and Senior Director of the Peace and Social Justice Programme; Senior Director of the Office of Management Services; Representative for West Africa (based in Lagos and Dakar); and Programme Officer in the Nigeria office for Women’s Reproductive Health and Sexuality. Dr. Kanem began her career in academia with the Johns Hopkins and Columbia University schools of medicine and public health.

Dr. Kanem holds a Bachelor of Arts magna cum laude in History and Science from Harvard University; Doctor of Medicine from Columbia University; Certification in Tropical Medicine from Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; and Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from the University of Washington.