Executive Director of UNITAR


Nikhil Seth, United Nations Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director, UNITAR

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On 8 June 2015, Mr. Nikhil Seth was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as UN Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Before assuming the post of the UNITAR Executive Director, Nikhil Seth was the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. In this role he served as head of the Rio+20 secretariat and of the secretariat for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, spearheading the preparations for these conferences in Rio, Brazil, and Apia, Samoa. He was also closely engaged in coordinating and advancing their follow-up.

Mr. Seth’s Division was also responsible for supporting the intergovernmental negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, which was adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in September 2015.

During his career with the United Nations since 1993, Mr. Seth has served as Special Assistant and Chief of Office to the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (Sept 1993 – Jun 2001), Chief of the Policy Coordination Branch in the Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (Jun 2001 – Jan 2003), as Secretary of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Second Committee of the General Assembly (Feb 2003 – Aug 2006), and as Director of the DESA Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (Aug 2006 – Aug 2011), where he guided the ECOSOC's work in implementing several new key mandates, including its Annual Ministerial Review and Development Cooperation Forum.

Before joining the UN Secretariat, he was a delegate to the UN in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Sep 1990 – Sep 1993) and involved with various UN conferences and summits including the Rio Summit on Environment and Development and the climate change related process.   After joining the UN, he has been involved in the organization of the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the Mauritius Conference on Small Island Developing States, the Millennium Summit, World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN World Summit, beside the Rio+20 Conference.

He joined the Indian diplomatic service in 1980 and his diplomatic assignments included Geneva, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Before joining the Indian diplomatic service, he worked as a Lecturer in Economics in St. Stephen College, Delhi University for 2 years (Aug 1977 – Sep 1979).

Mr. Nikhil Seth holds a Masters degree in Economics from Delhi University.

ED interview on the Role of Online Learning and Education - WHF Talks

As part of the World Humanitarian Forum interview series (WHF Talks), Mr. Nikhil Seth - UNITAR Executive Director - discussed the role of online training, education and capacity building along with the challenges placed on education globally caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Seth also analyzed how online learning creates more flexible opportunities for students to advance their personal development, while keeping in mind the necessity to consider the digital divide.

Watch the full recording: https://bit.ly/unitarwebinars

Discover WHF Learning - a new collaboration between UNITAR and World Humanitarian Forum: https://www.whf.london/about/whf-digital-series/whf-learning

Interviews and Speeches


WHF Talks.Live: Mr Nikhil Seth, Executive Director, UNITAR, 13 August 2020, World Humanitarian Forum


Re-Imagining and Re-Narrativizing Multilateralism: Why NGOs and Civil Society Truly Matter - Keynote on the occasion of the 75th-anniversary celebration of CoNGO, 28 April 2023, UNOV-Vienna

The past, present and future of the SDGs - Talk to students, 12 September 2022, Sophia University

Women in STEM in Time of the Pandemic – Facing Challenges, Finding Resilience, 8 March 2021, Virtual conference

2020 Annual Assembly of Academic Council of the United Nations – Keynote Speech by Nikhil Seth, 25 June 2020, virtual conference

2019 Commencement Speech - Bahcesehir University (BAU), 28 June 2019, Istanbul, Turkey

The Geneva Interfaith Dialogue - Keynote Speech, Nikhil Seth, UNITAR Executive Director, Tuesday, 12 February 2019, 3 pm - Room VIII, Palais des Nations (PDF, 138KB)

Social Services and the SDGs - Keynote Address, UN ASG Nikhil Seth, UNITAR Executive Director, 9th Conference for the Social work and Sustainable Development Goals, Sharjah, UAE, 23 April 2018 (PDF, 406KB)

The importance of technology for achieving the SDGs - Keynote Address, Nikhil Seth, UNITAR Executive Director, G-STIC 2017 Conference, Brussels, Belgium, 23-25 October 2017  (PDF, 57 KB)

Statement to the Economic and Social Council, Item 20: United Nations Research and Training Institutes, United Nations Institute for Training and Research, Report of the Secretary-General, Geneva, Switzerland, 21 April 2017 (PDF, 40KB)

Plenary Statement United Nations Conference on Housing and Sustainable Urban Development (Habitat III), Quito, Ecuador, 18 October 2016 (PDF, 43KB)

Welcome statement "Fifteen years of UNOSAT operations", Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 11 October 2016 (PDF, 42KB)

"Planting ceremony for Hiroshima survivor Ginkgo biloba 2nd generation sapling", Palais des Nations, Geneva, Switzerland, 3 October 2016 (PDF, 16KB)

"Turning good intentions to concrete actions", at the 6th International Disaster and Risk Conference IDC Davos 2016, Davos, Switzerland, 30 August 2016 (PDF, 71KB)

Putting science, technology and Innovation at the service of the poor and for safeguarding our planet” At the occasion of 50th Anniversary Conference of the Rencontres de Moriond: Fundamental Science and Society, 7 – 8 July 2016, Quy Nhon, Vietnam (PDF, 68KB)

Former Executive Directors of UNITAR

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.

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