Shamshad Akhtar takes charge of UN ESCAP
Key focus on promoting sustainable and inclusive growth, with emphasis on poverty eradication at its core in Asia-Pacific
Dr. Shamshad Akhtar, the new Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP), officially took office today in Bangkok. Under her leadership, ESCAP will place a greater emphasis on promoting higher, well-balanced and sustainable regional growth that helps eradicate poverty and generates jobs to improve prosperity in the region.
“The Asia-Pacific region stands out for its diversity, so no ‘one size fits all’ solution applies for its development,” said Ms. Akhtar. “The region has tremendous potential as evident from its growth and economic dynamism and proven resilience in the face of global crises. ESCAP will redouble its efforts in assisting countries to develop integrated development strategies that keep in perspective the interdependence of the social, economic and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.”
“Going forward,” Ms. Akhtar continued, “deepening national economic transformations, backed by strong governance and finance, will be critical to eradicating poverty and bringing prosperity, while accelerating and augmenting regional cooperation and integration. This will be key to unlocking the real potential of the region.”
Ms. Akhtar’s leadership at the helm of the UN’s regional development arm comes at a crucial time as global efforts gather momentum to develop an ambitious long-term sustainable development agenda to succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) after their 2015 deadline.
Drawing from the lessons of the MDGs, Ms. Akhtar noted: “Effective implementation of a futuristic sustainable development agenda will benefit from global recovery backed by macroeconomic stability, combined with the appropriate availability and mix of the right sources of public and private financing.
“Countries would additionally benefit greatly from knowledge-sharing, innovation, science and technology transfer, as well as from the strengthening of capacities to implement the emerging development agenda.”
Ms. Akhtar joined the United Nations in July 2012. Her assignment was unique as she served concurrently as the Secretary-General’s Senior Advisor on Economics and Finance and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in DESA. As co-chair of the United Nations Task Team on Post-2015, a platform in which sixty UN agencies are represented, she supported DESA’s and the United Nations System efforts to deliver as “ONE”. The United Nations Secretary-General’s document, “A Life of Dignity for All” benefited from their deliberations and served to set in motion work across all streams on Post-2015 sustainable development. The rich analytical framework offered the Open Working Group a solid terrain and setting to kick-start its work.
Ms. Akhtar supported the execution of DESA’s analytical, policy, normative and operational matters. She led and coordinated the intellectual and technical work and the intergovernmental dialogue on different economic, social and environmental dimensions. More recently, she strategically led the background work on sustainable development financing and supported the intergovernmental committee of experts that has to look at diverse sources and options to ensure proper financing of the future sustainable development agenda.
As the United Nations Sherpa to the G20, she has played a critical role in shaping and fostering the relationship between the United Nations and the G20, ensuring an effective representation and support for high priority United Nations Agenda issues. Accordingly, the G20 St. Petersburg Leaders’ Summit Communiqué recognized and expressed support for the Post-2015 Sustainable Development Agenda, as well as for the forthcoming Climate Change Summit and the United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries, to quote a few key areas. She will continue to serve as Sherpa to the G20 in her new assignment.
She previously served as Governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan (2006-2009), holding the rank of Federal Minister. In her capacity as Governor, Ms. Akhtar served as the Chairperson of the Central Bank Board and its affiliates and as Governor of the IMF. During her term, she was recognized for the conduct of the bank, which was restructured significantly, the introduction of an analytical framework for monetary policy and the development of a 10-year vision for the finance industry with a vibrant structure for the banking sector. For these accomplishments, she won two consecutive awards as Asia's Best Central Bank Governor from Emerging Markets and the Banker’s Trust. In 2008, The Asian Wall Street Journal also recognized her as one of the top ten professional women of Asia.
In the multinational arena, Ms. Akhtar served at the World Bank as Vice-President for the Middle East and North Africa (2009-2011) and the Asian Development Bank as Special Senior Adviser to the President (2009), Director and Deputy Director General, South-East Asia (2002-2005), as well as Director, Governance, Finance and Trade Division, concurrently heading the secretariat of APEC (1998-2002).
Ms. Akhtar has worked in several regions and countries dealing with fiscal and taxation policy, decentralization, poverty and inequality, financial and monetary policy, industrial and infrastructure policies and governance development. Additionally, she most recently served as a member of the Pakistan Economic Advisory Committee and of the Governing Council of Pakistan Statistics Bureau. In addition, Ms. Akhtar has advised development agencies on the operationalization of Pakistan’s New Economic Growth Framework, and has also worked on Private-Public Partnership (PPP) policy frameworks and governance issues. She is also a member of the “New Economic Thinking” Governing Council of the World Economic Forum.
Ms. Akhtar earned her post doctorate degree as a US Fulbright Fellow at the University of Harvard; a PhD in Economics from Scotland's Paisley University; and a Master in Development Economics at the University of Sussex, UK. She further holds a Master of Science in Economics from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.
Ms. Akhtar, a national of Pakistan, is the tenth Executive Secretary to head ESCAP. She was appointed by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on 10 December, 2013. She leads the organization at the level of Under-Secretary-General.