The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Mourns Death of former UNDP Administrator Kemal Derviş

May 8, 2023


The staff of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) join family and friends in mourning the passing of former UNDP Administrator Kemal Derviş who died on 8 May 2023 at the age of 74. 

Mr. Derviş, an economist and politician, dedicated his life to sustainable development guided by clear principles of equality and social justice, including efforts to eradicate multidimensional poverty, and was the only Turkish national who served as UNDP Administrator. Notably, he also advanced the global conversation on strengthening multilateral cooperation, advocating for tangible ways to make it more inclusive, including through his work as an academic.

During his tenure as the head of UNDP between 2005 and 2009, Mr. Derviş took a lead role in efforts to tackle some of the world’s most pressing challenges. That included supporting countries to fight poverty; overcoming crises and fragility; tackling climate change; reforming the United Nations development system; and driving progress across the Millennium Development Goals. 

“On behalf of UNDP, I would like to extend our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Kemal for this devastating loss,” said Achim Steiner, UNDP Administrator.  “As head of UNDP, he was a charismatic and beloved figure, who combined academic acumen with a practical approach to tackling the world’s biggest issues. Ahead of his time, he was a champion for multilateralism in his efforts to bring the UN system together to deliver as one, and fight poverty with a multidimensional and future-forward perspective.  He will be dearly missed by his family, friends, and colleagues across the world”. 

Kemal Derviş was born in Istanbul, Türkiye, on 10 January 1949. He was the seventh UNDP Administrator and Chair of the United Nations Development Group, serving from 2005 to 2009. 

Prior to joining UNDP, he worked at the World Bank from 1977 to 2001. He held various positions, including Division Chief for Industrial and Trade Strategy and Director for the Central Europe Department after the fall of the Berlin wall.  In 1996, he became Vice-President of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa Region, and in 2000, Vice-President for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management.

From 2001 to 2002, Mr. Derviş was Turkish State Minister of Economic Affairs, without party affiliation, of the Republic of Türkiye. He was responsible for Türkiye’s recovery programme after the devastating financial crisis that hit the country in February 2001. From 2002 to 2005, Mr. Derviş was a member of the Turkish Parliament representing Istanbul. 

Mr. Derviş also had a prolific academic career, publishing several books and articles on current affairs. He was a professor at Middle East Technical University, Princeton University and Columbia University. From 2009 to 2017, he was vice president and director of the Global Economy and Development program at the Brookings Institution, and a nonresident distinguished fellow of the program.

His lifelong work brought tangible benefits to the lives of millions of people across the globe.