Ms. Natalia Kanem of Panama, is Acting Executive Director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) since 6 June 2017. She was the Deputy Executive Director of UNFPA since 2016.
Dr. Kanem brings to the position more than 25 years of progressive leadership experience in the fields of medicine, public and reproductive health, peace, social justice, and philanthropy. She began her career in academia with the Johns Hopkins and Columbia University schools of medicine and public health. Subsequently at the Ford Foundation from 1992 to 2005, she funded pioneering work in the areas of women’s reproductive health and sexuality as Representative for West Africa. She later served at the Foundation’s headquarters as Senior Director in the Office of Management Services, and as Deputy Vice President for its worldwide peace and social justice programmes across offices in the United States, Asia, Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Beginning at inception until 2011, Dr. Kanem served as founding president of ELMA Philanthropies Inc., a private institution focusing primarily on children and youth in Africa. From 2012 to 2013, she was a Senior Associate of the Lloyd Best Institute of the West Indies, a non-profit, independent entity dedicated to development in the Caribbean. From 2014 to 2016, Dr. Kanem served as UNFPA Representative in the United Republic of Tanzania. She has extensive skills in direct programme implementation, advocacy, and strategic planning, alongside her in-depth experience of building strong local, national, international and donor-partner alliances.
Dr. Kanem graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University in history and science. She also holds a medical degree from Columbia University and a master’s degree in public health with specialization in epidemiology from the University of Washington in Seattle.