Volume 7, No. 4,   29 August 2003- Mr. Desai's Festschrift

  In this issue:



  Selected speeches

Valedictory of Mr. Nitin Desai,
Under-Secretary-General for
Economic and Social Affairs,
to the staff of the Department

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Mr. Nitin Desai leaves the helm of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs at the end of August 2003.

Mr. Desai’s visionary and dynamic leadership has had an indelible impact on the Organization’s work in the economic, social and environmental spheres. Under his stewardship a series of groundbreaking United Nations conferences were held which made major contributions to global policy development. The dramatically strengthened involvement of non-governmental organization in the United Nations’ work largely occurred in the context of these conferences.

His United Nations career began in 1990, when he was asked to serve as Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED). In this capacity he coordinated the work of the UNCED Secretariat relating to the development of Agenda 21, the principal programmatic outcome of the milestone 1993 conference, held in Rio de Janeiro.

In February 1993 he was appointed at the Under-Secretary-General level to head the newly created Department for Policy Coordination and Sustainable Development (DPCSD). This Department supported various intergovernmental bodies, including the Economic and Social Council and the newly created Commission on Sustainable Development (a key outcome of UNCED). DPCSD was also responsible for the Fourth World Conference on Women, the World Summit for Social Development, the Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States, and the International Conference on Population and Development, as well as the follow-up to these conferences.

In March 1997 Mr. Desai was asked to coordinate the consolidation of the three economic and social departments in the United Nations Secretariat in New York into the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), charged with providing substantive support to the normative, analytic, statistical and relevant technical cooperation work of the United Nations in the economic and social sphere. Subsequently he was asked to head this department. He was also designated the Convenor of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs, which brings together the heads of all UN Secretariat entities directly concerned with economic, environmental and social issues.

In his capacity as Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs, Mr. Desai provided vital leadership to the special sessions of the General Assembly which reviewed progress made five years after the global conferences on sustainable development (1997), and on population and development, small island development states, advancement of women, and social development (2000). Under his guidance, in 2002 DESA organized three other major conferences, the International Conference on Financing for Development in Monterrey, Mexico, the Second World Assembly on Ageing in Madrid, Spain, and the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, South Africa, for which hei served as Secretary-General.

In July 2003 Mr. Desai was appointed Special Adviser to the Secretary-General for the World Summit on the Information Society, to take place in December 2003 (Geneva) and in 2005 (Tunisia).

Mr. Desai was educated in India, at the University of Bombay and the UK, at the London School of Economics and Political Science. Before joining the United Nations he worked for the Tata Economic Consultancy Services and lectured in economics at the universities of Southampton and Liverpool in the UK. His career in the Indian government began in 1973 in the Planning Commission. In 1983 he served concurrently as Secretary of the Economic Advisory Council to the Primer Minister of India. Moving to the international arena, from 1985 to March 1987 he was Senior Economic Adviser for the World Commission on Environment and Development (the Brundtland Commission). From 1988-1990 he served as Secretary and Chief Economic Adviser in India’s Ministry of Finance.


Selected speeches


Commission on Sustainable Development, 11th Session, 28 April - 9 May 2003

World Social Forum, Porto Alegre, Brazil, 23-28 January 2003


General Assembly, 57th Session, New York, 10 September - 20 December 2002

World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg, South Africa, 26 August - 4 September 2002

Commission on Sustainable Development acting as Preparatory Committee for the World Summit
on Sustainable Development, Fourth Session, Bali, Indonesia, 27 May - 7 June 2002

Beijing Forum on New and Emerging Technologies for Sustainable Development, 15-17 April 2002

Commission on Sustainable Development acting as Preparatory Committee for the World Summit
on Sustainable Development, Third Session, New York, 25 March - 5 April 2002

Summit on Sustainable Development, New Delhi, India, 8 - 11 February 2002


International Conference on Freshwater, Bonn, Germany, 3-7 December 2001

General Assembly, 56th Session, New York, 11 September - 23 December 2001

Commission on Sustainable Development acting as Preparatory Committee for the World Summit
on Sustainable Development, First Session, New York, 30 April - 2 May 2001


General Assembly, 55th Session, New York, 5 September - 23 December 2000

Commission on Sustainable Development, 8th Session, New York, USA, 24 April - 5 May 2000


General Assembly, 54th Session, New York, 14 September - 23 December 1999


General Assembly, 53rd Session, New York, 9 September - 23 December 1998

International Year of Older Persons 1999

Third Ministerial Conference on the Protection of Forests, Lisbon, Portugal, 2-4 June 1998


General Assembly, 52nd Session, New York, 16 September - 20 December 1997


General Assembly, 51st Session, New York, 17 September - 20 December 1996

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DESA News is an insider's look at the United Nations in the area of coordination of economic and social development policies. This issue was produced by the Information Support Unit of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) in collaboration with DESA Divisions. DESA News is issued every two months

Luciana Marulli-Koenig, Editor 
Room DC2-1436, Tel. (212) 963-0060, E-mail: esa@un.org