Why Nathalia Kanem was appointed UNFPA Executive Director – Gates Foundation Chief
The Director, Global Development Programme for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Dr Chris Elias, has revealed why the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, appointed Dr Nathalia Kanem as the new Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
He gave the revelation while speaking at a reception programme recently in Abuja in honour of Family Planning 2020 Reference Group of which he is a member.
The group was in Nigeria to brainstorm on plans that would help it achieve its goal of making additional 120 million more women of reproductive age have access to family planning commodities and services across the globe.
Chris said he was a classmate of the UNFPA chief 30 years back, and had since monitored her career progression.
According to him, Nathalia clinched the top UN job to let the dreams and programmes of immediate past head of the UNFPA, Prof. Babatunde Osotimehin, continue without hitches. Nathalia was a deputy to Nigeria-born Osotimehin, who died on 5th June, 2017 while serving as the organization’s Executive Director at its New York headquarters office in the US.
“I am more than pleased to introduce co-chair one (as he fondly calls her) Nathalia Kanem. I have known Nathalia for years. Nathalia and I were classmates 30 years ago. I’ve known Nathalia and have followed her career for three decades. So, a few years ago when Dr Babatunde (Osotimehin) asked Nathalia to join us as Deputy Executive Director, I knew that my Director had made another great decision.
“And, she worked closely with him. I think the reason for her very recent appointment by the Secretary-General of the UN as Executive Director of UNFPA is not only in recognition of her incredible achievements, but also a recognition that ‘we don’t want a pause for a minute in carrying forward the momentum Babatunde Osomtimehin’s has created,” Chris said.
Kanem was previously Deputy Executive Director (Programme), and earlier UNFPA Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania from 2014 to 2016. She 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. She brought to those positions her expertise in direct programme implementation, mission advocacy and in building strong local, national, international and donor-partner alliances.
Before joining the United Nations, Dr. Kanem was Senior Associate at the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago from 2012 to 2013. From 2005 to 2011, she was the founding