Former Executive Directors of UNITAR
It is striking to note that, since its inception, UNITAR has been headed by outstanding personalities originally from West Africa, with the exception of Mr. Marcel A. Boisard who has a long-standing professional experience on the African continent and the Middle East. The creation of UNITAR, which followed a spectacular wave of decolonization, and the objectives assigned to the Institute explain, to a large extent, the fact that the first four Executive Directors of the Institute were Africans.
By the time they headed UNITAR, they all had a remarkable record in guiding their respective countries during the transition period from colonial rule to independence. Recognizing the need for new political, economic and social organizational structures, they naturally supported the Institute’s goals in helping emerging countries and their officials to make better use of the United Nations in the increasingly complex arena of international affairs. The development of local capacities for the effective administration of national affairs and a successful diplomatic representation were seen as the surest ways to shape those countries’ own future.
The extensive experience of the former Executive Directors and their in-depth knowledge of the challenges facing the newly independent countries played a key role in the successful work of the Institute. In addition to their experience in the diplomatic service and their political activism – in particular, a forceful anticolonial stance – they had all distinguished themselves through their theoretical contributions, academic research and teaching. Their achievements also included contributions to literature or journalism.
- Mr. Carlos Lopes (Guinea-Bissau)
- Mr. Marcel André Boisard (Switzerland)
- Mr. Michel Doo-Kingué (Cameroon)
- Dr. Davidson Nicol (Sierra Leone)
- Chief S. O. Adebo (Nigeria)
- Mr. Gabriel d’Arboussier (Senegal)
2007 - 2012
Dr. Carlos Lopes was appointed Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR) at the level of Assistant Secretary-General on 1st March 2007. In addition, he has been serving as Director of the United Nations System Staff College (UNSSC) since November 2007, the parallel appointment that he received from the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon.
Dr. Lopes previously served as UN Assistant-Secretary-General and Director for Political Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General.
Dr. Lopes has actively contributed to research on development issues. Specialized in development and strategic planning, he has authored or edited 22 books and taught at Universities and academic institutions in Lisbon, Coimbra, Zurich, Uppsala, Mexico, São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro. He is affiliated with a number of academic networks, and has helped establish various non-governmental organizations and centers for social research, in particular in Africa. In August 2008, Carlos Lopes was elected to the Lisbon Academy of Sciences, Portugal. Dr. Lopes currently serves as Member of Governing Boards or advisory and editorial committees of several institutions including United Nations University, Kofi Annan Foundation, UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning, Bonn International Center for Conversion, Swiss Network for International Studies, ISCTE Lisbon University Institute, Instituto Ethos, Ecôle Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, King Baudouin International Development Prize Selection Committee and journals such as Géopolitique Africaine, African Sociological Review, African Identities, Cooperation South Journal.
Following his service in the public sector of his native Guinea-Bissau in areas of research, diplomacy and planning, Dr. Lopes joined the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), as a development economist in 1988. While at UNDP, he occupied various positions, including Deputy Director at the Office of Evaluation and Strategic Planning, Resident Representative in Zimbabwe, as well as Deputy, and later Director of the New York-based Bureau for Development Policy. Dr. Lopes was a member of UNDP’s executive team, in recognition of the role he played in developing UNDP’s decentralized policy advisory services and knowledge networking systems. He also managed UNDP’s global programme, with a portfolio of $1 billion. In June 2003, he became the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Brazil, the largest UNDP programme in the world at that time.
Carlos Lopes holds a PhD in history from the University of Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne and a research master from the Geneva Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies. He has also received an Honorary PhD in Social Sciences from the University of Cândido Mendes, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
1992 - 2007
Mr. Marcel A. Boisard served as Executive Director of UNITAR from March 1992 to February 2007. As of August 2001, he was also appointed, by the UN Secretary-General, as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations. Prior to these appointments, he occupied the position of Director of the UNITAR European Office after having joined the Institute as “Special Fellow” in June 1980. He works presently as an international consultant.
By the time of joining the United Nations, Mr. Boisard had already had a long record of international activities working with diplomatic and humanitarian missions and conducting academic research and teaching in the related fields.
He started his international career in early 1960s as a delegate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), He was recruited as an economic adviser first by the then Directorate for Technical Cooperation of the Swiss Ministry of Foreign Affairs and later by the Government of Burundi within the framework of the negotiations on the Treaty of Yaoundé. He was appointed Chairman of the African experts (from May 1966 to May 1967) and participated in numerous meetings.
As a delegate of the ICRC, Mr. Boisard served exclusively in the field and during armed conflicts (Algeria, Yemen, the Arab Republic of Egypt, Syria, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia). He was called upon to conduct several high-level negotiations and represented ICRC in multilateral meetings. He was concretely responsible to follow up on the implementation of the Geneva Conventions in various armed conflicts of the Middle East. He was often called upon to cross the front lines between the belligerent parties, negotiate and arrange cease-fires and humanitarian truces.
From October 1975 to June 1980, Mr. Boisard was appointed Fellow of the Graduate Institute of International Studies, in Geneva. This included, notably, lecturing and conducting a major programme of research and training that dealt with the so-called “Third Basket” of the Helsinki Final Act on Security and Cooperation in Europe (culture, human rights, liberty of movement, of information and beliefs) funded by the Ford Foundation.
He was among the founders and served as Secretary-General of the International Cultural Association “Islam and the West”. During this academic period, Mr. Boisard published rather extensively: over 30 titles (books and articles) dealing mainly with international cross-cultural relations, Arab and Muslim worlds, multilateral negotiations and inter-governmental organizations.
Born in Geneva and a Swiss citizen, Mr. Boisard completed his university studies in Switzerland (Geneva), Germany (Hamburg) and the United States (Connecticut). He holds a PhD from the Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva.
1983 - 1992
Born in Cameroon, Michel Doo-Kingué devoted an important part of his life to the United Nations and to the promotion of democracy and development in the countries of the South and, more specifically, in Africa. He started his career at UNESCO as the head of the Africa Department in 1963. He then became Director of the Division of Relations with International Organizations and Programmes at UNESCO. He served as chief advisor on African Affairs to the Director-General of UNESCO from November 1963 to January 1969.
In 1971, Michel Doo-Kingué was appointed as the first Director of the Regional Office for Africa at UNDP. In this position, he was in charge of planning, financing issues as well as management of all UNDP activities in Africa. In 1983, Michel Doo-Kingué was appointed UN Assistant Secretary-General and Executive Director of UNITAR. He headed the Institute throughout its restructuring period and remained the Institute’s Director until 1992. In 1991, he was a candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General.
Michel Doo-Kingué issued several publications. His most famous work is entitled “What democracy in Africa? An essay”, first published in 1999 in French.
1972 - 1982
Davidson Sylvester Hector Willoughby Nicol had a multifaceted personality and made outstanding contributions in a number of fields such as diplomacy, medical practice, teaching and research, and literature.
Born in Sierra Leone, he studied medicine at Cambridge and London Universities. He later taught medicine in Great Britain and Nigeria and did medical research, most famously in the structure of insulin. He was also a Vice-Chancellor at the University of Sierra Leone.
From 1969 to 1971, he served as Permanent Representative of Sierra Leone to the United Nations. He was head of the UN Committee on decolonization and president of the UN Security Council during the 1970 hostages’ crisis. Following these appointments, he also represented his country as High Commissioner in London, and as Ambassador in Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In 1972, he was appointed Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations and Executive Director of UNITAR and remained at this post until 1982. From 1983 to 1987, he held the position of president of the World Federation of the UN Associations.
Davidson Nicol published extensively on Africa and the United Nations. He also wrote short stories and poems under the name Abioseh Nicol.
1969 - 1972
Simeon Olaosebikan Adebo (1914-1994) was appointed United Nations Deputy Secretary General and Director General of UNITAR in 1969, and stayed with the Institute until 1972. Born in Western Nigeria, he became an Okanlomo (Chief) of the Yoruba people. After obtaining a degree in law from London University and being admitted to the bar, he continued his career at the Nigerian Ministry of Finance and the Treasury and in 1961 became head of the Civil Service and Chief Secretary to the Government of Western Nigeria. In 1962, Chief Adebo moved to New York to represent his country at the United Nations. After having served as Ambassador, he took up, in 1969, an appointment with UNITAR. As head and member of a number of associations, he was actively engaged in a variety of activities targeting the promotion of democratic values and the enhancement of the effectiveness of development policies. Upon return to his home country, he headed several corporations as well as the National Universities Commission and the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies. He had also served as chancellor, first, of Obafemi Awolowo University and, later for eight years, of Lagos University.
1965 - 1967
Born in Sudan, the son of a French governor and descendant of an influential African family, Gabriel D’Arboussier had lived in many African countries and countries of the Pacific region that were a part of the French empire. After having studied law in France, he took an active part in the political life of the African continent as a member of various parliaments and as a civil servant and diplomat following the independence of Senegal in 1960.
Elected to the Constituent National Assembly of France in the aftermath of World War II, he contributed to the adoption of numerous laws that aimed to introduce more equality for indigenous populations in the dependant territories of the French empire. Appointed later Vice-President of the French Union, he urged the necessity to extend the powers of local assemblies and supported policies that promoted social and economic development in the territories of the Union.
Gabriel D’Arboussier was Secretary-General of the Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (African Democratic group) from its inception. He tried to reconcile leanings towards autonomy from the metropolitan government in the dependant territories with a search for an African unity based on federalist principles. In 1958, Gabriel D’Arboussier became, first, Vice-President and, later on, President of the Grand Council of the French Western Africa where he continued to promote African solidarity.
In 1960, he was appointed Minister of Justice of a newly independent Senegal and, two years later, he became Ambassador of Senegal to France. In 1965, Gabriel D’Arboussier was appointed Executive Director of a newly created UNITAR and occupied this position until 1967.