Under-Secretary-General Bience GAWANAS, Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General

Bience Philomena Gawanas In January 2018, Ms. Bience GAWANAS (Namibia) was appointed Under-Secretary-General and Special Adviser on Africa to the United Nations Secretary-General.

Her former positions include that of Special Advisor to the Namibian Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare and Special Advisor to the Namibian Minister of Health and Social Services.

Other career achievements of which USG Gawanas is especially proud include her role as the African Union (AU) Commissioner for Social Affairs, a position for which she was elected for two terms by the AU Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2003 and 2008. In that capacity, she developed policy instruments, projects and programmes on social development, including the Social Policy Framework and the Maputo Plan of Action on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights. In partnership with Member States and UN agencies, she initiated pioneering activities such as the launch of the AU’s Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA), a movement for maternal and child health that mobilizes global, regional and country-level support from governments, civil society, and community leaders.

Secretary-General António Guterres swears in Bience Philomena Gawanas, Special Adviser on Africa

Secretary-General António Guterres (left) swears in Bience Philomena Gawanas, Special Adviser on Africa on 4 April 2018. UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

USG Gawanas’ career in law, human rights and social development spans more than 40 years and has been defined by multiple leadership roles that have earned her both a national and international reputation for effectiveness, creativity and an ability to build bridges connecting a wide range of actors such as the AU Commission, African Regional Economic Communities, UN agencies, as well as international and continental institutions, and civil society organizations.

During her distinguished career in her country, she also worked as an assistant teacher at a primary school; a lawyer at the Legal Assistance Centre, a human rights NGO in Windhoek; a Public Service Commissioner overseeing the transformation of the public service; and an Ombudswoman investigating human rights violations, maladministration, corruption and environment. She was also instrumental in the establishment of the African Ombudsman Association, for which she served as the first Executive Secretary.

USG Gawanas is well known among leaders in both the developing and developed world for her successful work in promoting social development, gender equality and women’s empowerment, human rights and governance. Among other initiatives, she has engaged key African political leaders in sustainable and strategic action to accelerate the HIV/AIDS response and promote maternal and child health, employment and poverty reduction, MDGs and SDGs.

In recognition of her achievements in the field of human rights and social development, she was awarded an honorary doctorate in law from the University of Western Cape in South Africa. She was also named amongst the 100 most influential individuals for women and children’s health, and was the recipient of the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) award for Most Outstanding Contribution on Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights.

USG Gawanas holds an LLB Honours degree from the University of Warwick, UK, and an Utter Barrister Degree from the Council of Legal Education School of Law/Lincolns Inn, UK. She also holds an Executive MBA from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, and an honorary Doctorate Degree in Law from the University of Western Cape.

She has four children and four grandchildren.

Former Special Advisers