Dr. Natalia Kanem of Panama as new Executive Director, United Nations Population Fund

New York, October 3, 2017 – Following consultations with the Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres announced today the appointment of Natalia Kanem of Panama as the Fund’s new Executive Director. Dr. Kanem succeeds the late Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin of Nigeria. 

A champion of a life of dignity for all, Dr. Osotimehin was admired globally for his leadership of UNFPA and for his immense and invaluable advocacy for the world’s women and girls. 

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. 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 Senior Associate at the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies in Trinidad and Tobago (2012-2013). Before that, she was 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.