Dr. Natalia Kanem was named Acting Executive Director of UNFPA, the United Nations Population Fund, on 5 June 2017, following the sudden death of Executive Director Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin. Dr. Kanem retains her duties as Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director (Programme), the post she assumed in July 2016.
Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than 25 years of strategic leadership experience in medicine, public and reproductive health, peace, 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 funded pioneering work in women’s reproductive health and sexuality as the Foundation’s representative for West Africa. She then served in the headquarters, becoming Deputy Vice-President for the Foundation’s worldwide peace and social justice programmes across offices in the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Dr. Kanem was founding president of the ELMA Philanthropies, Inc., a private institution focusing primarily on children and youth in Africa. She served there from its inception in 2005 until 2011. From 2012 to 2013, she was a senior associate of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies, which is dedicated to the development of the Caribbean.
Before assuming duties as Deputy Executive Director (Programme), Dr. Kanem served as UNFPA Representative in Tanzania.
Dr. Kanem holds a medical degree from Columbia University in New York and a Master’s in Public Health, with specialization in Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, from the University of Washington in Seattle. She is a magna cum laude graduate of Harvard University in History and Science.