On 3 October 2017, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres appointed Dr. Natalia Kanem as Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund.
Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than 30 years of strategic leadership experience in medicine, public and reproductive health, social justice and philanthropy. She started her career in academia with the Johns Hopkins and Columbia University schools of medicine and public health.
While serving as a Ford Foundation Officer from 1992 to 2005, she helped pioneer work in women’s reproductive health and sexuality, in particular through her position as the representative for West Africa. She then served at the Foundation headquarters, becoming Deputy Vice-President for its worldwide peace and social justice programmes in Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, Latin America and North America.
From 2014 to 2016, Dr. Kanem served as UNFPA Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania. In July 2016, she was named Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA in charge of programmes. Dr. Kanem was founding president of ELMA Philanthropies Inc., a private institution focusing primarily on children and youth in Africa. She also has been a senior associate of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies.
Dr. Kanem holds a medical degree from Columbia University, New York, and a Master’s degree in Public Health, with specializations in epidemiology and preventive medicine, from the University of Washington, Seattle. She is also a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University, where she studied history and science.
Dr. Kanem becomes the fifth Executive Director of UNFPA since the Fund became operational in 1969.