Previous ASGs

Thomas Gass

Thomas Gass was appointed by the Secretary-General as Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs in UN DESA and took office on 3 September 2013. He left the post on 31 December 2017  to assume a new position as head of the of the South Cooperation Department of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation.

Mr. Gass has wide-ranging experience in bilateral and multilateral development cooperation. From 2009 to 2013, he served as Head of the Mission of Switzerland to Nepal (Ambassador and Country Director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation), where he established the Embassy of Switzerland in Nepal, and ensured the delivery of a development cooperation programme of up to 33 million dollars a year. He also chaired the Donors of the Nepal Peace Trust Fund, the main instrument for international support to Nepal’s peace process.

Before his posting to Nepal from 2004 to 2009, Mr. Gass was Head of the Economic and Development Section at the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN in New York, where he represented Switzerland’s interests, in particular in the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and its subsidiary bodies, the General Assembly and the Executive Boards of the major UN Funds and Programmes. During this time, Mr Gass was the Chair of the Donor Group of the UN Global Compact.

In 2006, he was the Vice-President for Western European and Other Group (WEOG) of the Commission on Population and Development, and in 2008 he was the Vice-President (WEOG) of the Executive Board of UNDP/UNFPA. In 2007, he successfully facilitated the landmark TCPR/QCPR Resolution, the periodic review of the General Assembly operational system for development.

Mr. Gass also served as Policy and Programme Officer for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, as Deputy Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Guyana, and as Regional Director for Europe with the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute in Rome.

Born in 1963, Thomas Gass holds a PhD in natural sciences from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and a MSc and engineering diploma in agricultural sciences from the same Institute.

Lenni Montiel

Mr. Lenni Montiel was appointed by the Secretary-General as Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at UN DESA and took office on 16 January 2015. He left his post on 30 June 2017 to assume a new position as Deputy Regional Director for Latin America and Caribbean at UNDP.

Mr. Montiel held strategic positions within the Government of Venezuela and in several international organizations, systematically involved in policy making and analytical work on issues related to economic and social development.

He shared his responsibilities in UN DESA also with the representation of the UN and of the Secretary-General to the G20 Meetings, as Sherpa. Mr. Montiel was previously Director of Economic, Social and Development Affairs in the Executive Office of the Secretary-General Mr. Ban Ki-Moon. He was United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Turkmenistan. He worked for several years as Senior Global Policy Adviser on Governance in UNDP, from where he performed different assignments around the globe.

Mr. Montiel was also Technical Assistant to the Director for Venezuela and Panama at the Executive Board of Directors of the Inter-American Development Bank in Washington, DC in the USA.

In Venezuela Mr. Montiel worked as Director of Social Policy in the Ministry of Planning and Director of Planning in the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs. He was also a member of the team that established the Social Investment Fund of Venezuela, and as such led the negotiation of the first ever loans for Venezuelan social sectors by the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

Mr. Montiel was trained as Economist and got a Master of Sciences in Economics from the Belorussian Institute of National Economic Planning (former USSR), a Master of Arts on Legislative Affairs from the University of Hull (UK) and a PhD in Public Policy from the University of Birmingham (UK).

Mr. Montiel has been a member of the academic staff at the Erasmus University, Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies in Rotterdam, The Netherlands; and also at the Central University of Venezuela, School of Political and Administrative Sciences.

Mr. Montiel speaks Spanish, English and Russian.

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Shamshad Akhtar

photo of desa's asg thomas stelzerShamshad Akhtar was appointed by the Secretary-General as Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at UN DESA and took office on 9 July 2012. She left her post on 31 January 2014 to assume her new position as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Asia and the Pacific, UNESCAP.

Her assignment with UN DESA was unique as she served concurrently as Secretary-General’s Senior Advisor on Economics and Finance and Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development in UN DESA. One of her primary responsibilities was to coordinate the efforts on Accelerating the Millennium Development Goals and delineating the Post-2015 Development Agenda, involving many actors including the Secretary- General’s High Level Panel, UN agencies, Member States and diverse international and national stakeholders.

Ms. Akhtar has previously served as Governor of the Central Bank of Pakistan and recently also as Vice President of the Middle East and North Africa Region of the World Bank. 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 ten-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.

Ms. Akhtar has had a long standing career with the Multilateral Development Banks (MDBs). In her assignment for the World Bank she spearheaded the Bank’s response to the Arab Spring and the Arab regional integration strategy and its implementation. She has served the Asian Development Bank (ADB) for almost 15 years, rising from the ranks as Senior Economist, to attaining the highest professional positions including as Special Senior Advisor to the President of ADB and as the bank’s Director General of the East Asia region. During the Asian Financial crisis she also served as the ADB’s Coordinator to the APEC Finance Minister providing analytical support in a number of economic and social areas for crisis prevention and mitigation, while also leading the engagement with the Bank for International Settlement, and other standard setting bodies.

Ms. Akhtar has worked in several regions/countries dealing with fiscal and taxation policy, decentralization, poverty and inequality, financial and monetary policy, industrial and infrastructure policies and governance development. In the past few months she further served as a member of the Pakistan Economic Advisory Committee and of the Governing Council of Pakistan Statistics Bureau. In addition, Ms. Akhtar advised development agencies on the operationalization of Pakistan’s New Economic Growth Framework and worked on PPP policy frameworks and governance issues.

Ms. Akhtar has earned her post doctorate degree as a US Fullbright Fellow at the University of Harvard and prior, she obtained her PhD in Economics at the Scotland’s Paisley College of Technology and a Master in Development Economics at the University of Sussex in the UK. She also has an MSc in Economics from Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad.


Thomas Stelzer

photo of desa's asg thomas stelzerThomas Stelzer was Assistant Secretary-General for Policy Coordination and Inter-Agency Affairs at DESA from March 2008 to June 2013.

Previous to this appointment, Mr. Stelzer served as Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations Office in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) Preparatory Commission.

Earlier in his career, Mr. Stelzer held a number of diplomatic and international posts, including Special Assistant to the Executive Secretary of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission, Deputy Director of the Austrian Cultural Institute in New York and Minister-Counsellor at the Permanent Mission of Austria to the United Nations Headquarters in New York.

He was the Austrian Delegate to the Committee for Disarmament and International Security (First Committee) of the General Assembly and Representative to the governing bodies of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).

Mr. Stelzer was President of the UNIDO Industrial Development Board from 2005-2006, Chair of the CTBTO Preparatory Commission in 2003 and Facilitator and Chair of the Vienna Terrorism Symposiums in both 2002 and 2007.

Most recently, he served as a Vice-Chair of the Second Conference of States Parties of the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which he had also co-negotiated.

His academic pursuits have included services as a lecturer on multilateralism at the Department of Political Science at Vienna University.

Since 1999, Mr. Stelzer has been serving as President of Klangforum Wien, a leading ensemble for contemporary classical music.

Mr. Stelzer obtained his doctorate in law from Vienna University, a Master of Arts in Latin American Studies from Stanford University and a diploma in International Relations from the John Hopkins University, School of Advanced International Studies, Bologna Center.


Jomo Kwame Sundaram

photo of desa's asg jomo kwame sundaram

Jomo Kwame Sundaram was Assistant Secretary-General for Economic Development at DESA from January 2005 to June 2012.

Mr. Jomo has an extensive background in the field of economic development. He has taught at Harvard, Yale, Science University of Malaysia, National University of Malaysia, University of Malaya and Cornell. He has also been a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University and a Senior Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute in the National University of Singapore.

He was the Founder-Director of the Institute of Social Analysis (INSAN), Founder-Chair of IDEAs (International Development Economics Associates) and has served on the Board of the United Nations Research Institute on Social Development (UNRISD), Geneva.

Mr. Jomo has also served as the (Honorary) Research Coordinator for the G-24 Intergovernmental Group on International Monetary Affairs and Development since December 2006.

Over the years, Mr. Jomo has authored more than 40 monographs, edited more than 60 books and translated 12 volumes, in addition to writing numerous academic papers and articles for the media.

He studied at both Yale and Harvard. In 2007, he was awarded the Wassily Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought.


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