New Head of UNDP in Asia Pacific Region ready to support countries accelerate on their sustainable development pathways

December 1, 2019

Kanni Wignaraja is set to assume her role as Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), on 1 December 2019.

Ms. Wignaraja, who is from Sri Lanka, was appointed as Assistant Secretary-General and Assistant Administrator of the UNDP by the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. She brings to the Asia-Pacific Bureau and region a wealth of experience in the field of development that includes a long and distinguished career with the UN system.

“The Asia-Pacific region is an economic powerhouse, a driver of innovation and invention, and is endowed with immense human capacity, societal energy and natural resources, making it one of the most dynamic regions in the world in the drive towards greater sustainability,” said Ms. Wignaraja. “At the same time, it is challenged by deep-rooted inequalities, pockets of conflict that threaten stability, and growing risks from rapid climate change. My goal is to work with the countries of this dynamic region to harness its’ exciting potential and address challenges to achieve their national development priorities and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”

Stressing the importance of financing the sustainable development agenda, she added “UNDP in the region will continue to work with member states, international financial institutions and the private sector to diversify and leverage the public and private investments needed to ensure the SDG targets are being met and that no one is left behind.”

Recognizing the region’s diversity and the complexity of the development agenda at hand, Ms. Wignaraja added that innovation will play a key role in addressing both current and emerging development challenges with solutions that learn globally, and are tailored locally. “We are changing the way we work, building new and exciting partnerships, engaging the public and private sector, demonstrating the digital future, and calling on young people to come up with the next generation of development solutions,” she said. “Governments continue to play a fundamental role in shaping the future by fostering and embracing such policies and peoples’ energy towards new ways of working to advance sustainable development for all.”

Ms. Wignaraja recently served as UNDP’s Acting Assistant Administrator and Director of the Bureau for Management Services, as well as Special Adviser to the UNDP Administrator. Before this, she worked as the Director of the United Nations Development Operations Coordination Office (UNDOCO), from 2014 to 2018. She has worked at the country, regional and global levels, serving in both Asia and Africa.  She was also Director in the Bureau for Development Policy, Deputy Resident Representative in Vietnam and the United Nations Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Zambia.

Ms. Wignaraja holds a Master’s in Public Administration (MPA, Development Economics) from Princeton University, and a Bachelor of Arts (Economics) from Bryn Mawr College, in the United States.