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About David Nabarro

David Nabarro standing in a group of children and a few adults in Mozambique.

Dr Nabarro has over 40 years of experience in international public health as a community-based practitioner, educator, public servant, director and diplomat.

In the past 12 years, successive Secretaries-General of the United Nations have entrusted David to lead collective action on some of the most pressing and complex challenges – responding to avian and pandemic influenza, promoting food security, ending malnutrition, combating Ebola, promoting the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and advancing efforts relating to climate change.

Since January 2016 he has been the Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

Below, you will find a guide to Dr Nabarro's career so far, with key roles and responsibilities, information on Dr Nabarro's studies and qualifications, some of his most recent and significant publications, as well as awards received during Dr Nabarro's career.

Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary-General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change

January 2016 – Present

As one of the core advisers of the UN Secretary-General, Dr Nabarro helps to:

  • Promote implementation of the 2015 multilateral agreements on Sustainable Development, Financing for Development, Climate Action and Disaster Risk Reduction (a) within all nations; (b) among civil society, businesses, scientific community, investors, faith groups and creative community; and (c) across the United Nations system
  • Ensure early entry into force of COP 21 (Paris climate accord)
  • Promote effective UN system preparedness for, and response to, global health crises (including Zika, cholera, Ebola virus disease and yellow fever)
  • Oversee the UN’s contribution to Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health (through Every Woman Every Child), as well as the UN Global Pulse (Use of Big-Data in decision-making), UN Democracy Fund and UN Office for Partnerships
  • Ensure coordinated and comprehensive UN system action on (a) food security and (b) scaling-up nutrition
  • Oversee the new approach for the UN system’s response to Cholera in Haiti
  • Mobilize resources for, and manage, the teams that support this work in the office of the Secretary-General.

Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary General for Food Security and Nutrition

November 2009 – Present

Responsibilities are to:

  • Align UN system action on people’s food security, livelihood resilience and sustainable agriculture in the face of changing climates
  • Support functioning of the Committee on World Food Security as principal multi-stakeholder platform for universal food security and nutrition
  • Oversee UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge to champion comprehensive food security, nutrition, sustainable agriculture and food systems, resilience and inclusivity.

Chair, Advisory Group on Reform of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Work in Outbreaks and Emergencies with Health and Humanitarian Consequences

July 2015 – January 2016

Working for the WHO Director-General David’s responsibilities were to lead a high-level Advisory Group to guide reform of WHO’s response to outbreaks and emergencies, prepare reports based on the group’s recommendations and advise on the manner of their implementation.

Member of the WHO Commission on Ending Childhood Obesity (2016)

2013 – 2014


Special Envoy of the United Nations Secretary-General on Ebola

August 2014 – December 2015

At the request of the UN Secretary-General the responsibilities were to:

  • Provide strategic direction of UN system response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.
  • Establish and maintain the Global Ebola Response Coalition and the UN’s Ebola Information Centre.
  • Mobilize resources for the UN system Ebola response
  • Manage the UN Secretary General’s Ebola Response Multi-Partner Trust Fund (total resources USD $166m)
  • Oversee transition from the response phase to recovery

Coordinator of the Movement to Scale Up Nutrition

September 2010 – September 2014

Working for the UN Secretary-General the responsibilities were to:

  • Oversee this new multi-stakeholder movement of 55 countries and networks.
  • Provide the stewardship needed for the Movement to inspire political engagement, sustain multi-stakeholder collaboration, align the efforts of multiple actors and demonstrate significant impact

Coordinator of the UN System High Level Task Force on Food Security

April 2008 – April 2014

Working for the UN Secretary-General the responsibilities were to:

  • Coordinate the UN Secretariat’s High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security (HLTF) to ensure that the UN system and international financial institutions work together to offer robust and consistent responses to food insecurity
  • Convene and organize quarterly HLTF meetings, lead HLTF Senior Steering Group (SSG), produce Comprehensive Framework of Action for Food and Nutrition Security (2008, 2010), develop UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge (2012) and establish HLTF review (2012)

UN System Senior Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza (Assistant Secretary-General)

September 2005-2014

Working for successive UN Secretaries-General the responsibilities were to:

  • Ensure the UN system makes effective and coordinated responses to the worldwide avian influenza outbreak – coordinating among governments, UN agencies and civil society; supporting a global partnership on avian and pandemic influenza; and linking between sectors and within countries;
  • Support effective local and global preparations for human influenza pandemics so as to reduce mortality rates, minimize economic disruption and limit their social impact

Head of WHO’s Health Emergencies group (Health Action in Crises), and Special Representative of Director-General


  • Build the response capacity of WHO’s Health Emergencies group at local, national and regional level
  • Increase WHO participation in the humanitarian Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC)

Head, WHO Cluster on Sustainable Development and Healthy Environments


Lead WHO’s work on environmental health, food safety, nutrition and health emergencies

Executive Director, Office of the WHO Director General


Manage the front office of Director-General (DG) Gro Harlem Brundtland and undertake strategic and operational functions on behalf of DG (including WHO contribution to the Global Fund to fight AIDS Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Commission on Macroeconomics and Health)

Executive Director, WHO Roll Back Malaria (RBM) Programme


Transform and amplify WHO’s contribution to Malaria control

Director, Human Development, Chief Health and Population Adviser, UK Government Department for International Development (Formerly Overseas Development Administration)

1990 – 1999

Lead the transformation of UK Government contribution to International Health and Human Development

Additional positions

  • Coordinator, UK Government Relief for Northern Iraq (1991)
  • Health and Population Adviser, East Africa, UK Government Overseas Development Administration (1989-90)
  • Senior Lecturer in International Health, Liverpool University Medical School (and Hon Consultant, Mersey Regional Health Authority) (1985-89)
  • Regional Medical Adviser (South Asia), Save the Children Fund, (1982-85)
  • Lecturer in Nutrition and Public Health, London University (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) (1980-82)
  • District Medical Officer, Dhankuta, East Nepal, Save the Children (1977-79)
  • House Officer and Senior House Officer posts in the National Health Service (Hillingdon, Northampton, Oxford) (1975-77)
  • Medical Officer, Relief Expedition, North Iraq (Save the Children) (1974-75)
  • Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians of London (FRCP)
  • Membership of the Faculty of Public Health Medicine (MFPHM) Royal College of Physicians (by distinction)
  • Master’s (MSc) in Public Health (Developing Countries), London University
  • Medical Degree (BM BCh), Oxford University (Clinical training at University College Hospital, London)
  • Master’s (MSc) in Medicine (Research in Reproductive Endocrinology), Oxford University
  • First degree (BA, later MA) in Animal Physiology and Biochemistry, Oxford University

The Links Between Public and Ecosystem Health in Light of the Recent Ebola Outbreaks and Pandemic Emergence.
Nabarro, D., & Wannous, C. (2016)
EcoHealth, 1-3.

Global child and maternal nutrition—the SUN rises
Nabarro, D. (2013)
The Lancet, Volume 382, Issue 9893, 24–30 August 2013, Pages 666-667

One Health: Towards safeguarding the health, food security and economic welfare of communities.
Nabarro, D. (2012)
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research, 79(2), 01-03.

The potential contribution of Livestock to food and nutrition security: the application of the One Health approach in livestock policy and practice.
Nabarro, D. & Wannous, C. (2012)
Revue scientifique et technique (International Office of Epizootics), 33(2), 475-485.

Putting it together: stronger public health capacity within disaster management systems.
Nabarro, D. (2005)
Prehospital and disaster medicine, 20(06), 483-485.

The challenges of securing health in humanitarian crises.
Musani, A., Sabatinelli, G., Koller, T. & Nabarro, D. (2004)
Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 82(9), 642-642.

Economic recession and infant health.
Cassels C and Nabarro D (1989)
Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, Volume 83, Issue 1, January–February 1989, Pages 3-4

Growth monitoring—inappropriate promotion of an appropriate technology.
Nabarro, D. & Chinnock, P. (1988)
Social Science & Medicine, 26(9), 941-948.

Self Care – Self Blame.
Graham-Jones S and Nabarro D (1981)
The Lancet, Volume 318, Issue 8253, 31 October 1981, Page 990

Helen Keller Humanitarian Award
Awarded for work on positioning malnutrition within the development dialogue and for ensuring an effective response to Ebola.
Sight and Life Nutrition Leadership Award
For work in catalysing sustainable change in global nutrition (together with the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement).
Distinguished Service Award from Health Policy Institute, Kansas University of Medicine & Biosciences
For outstanding Health Policy Leadership.
CBE (Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire)
Awarded for work on international public health.
David Nabarro walking with a group of people next to a United Nations airplane with text: Over forty years of Experience in More than fifty countries.

Changing climates, violent conflict, persistent poverty and mass migration – the world is changing and the benefits of globalization remain unequally shared. As a result, people face an ever-growing avalanche of threats to their health. The need for a robust, reliable and responsive World Health Organization has never been more urgent.

My commitments as a successfull candidate

  • I will make the WHO the undisputed leader on all health issues and advance people-centred health policies
  • I will make sure the WHO constantly strive for excellence and is aligned with the Sustainable Development Goals
  • I will improve the way and speed at which the WHO responds to outbreaks and emergencies
David Nabarro standing in a group of children and a few adults in Mozambique.

Why Dr Nabarro is the Right Choice