Prof. Awni Behnam


BehnamDr. Awni Behnam began his early public schooling and cadetship in the United Kingdom (1953-1959). He first served as an Officer in the Iraqi Navy (1962-1969), then held executive posts in the Shipping Administration in Iraq (1969-1971). Having earned a BA in business administration from Mustensiriya University (1968), he completed his higher education (Msc, PhD) at the University of Wales (UK) in 1972-76, and lectured in its Department of Maritime Studies (1974-1977).

In 1977 he joined the United Nations at UNCTAD, Geneva, as Economic Affairs Officer. He became Assistant to the Director in the Shipping Division before assuming responsibility as the Chief of Liaison with Developing Countries (Group of 77). In 1986 he was responsible for the political and diplomatic relations of the Secretary-General with the Permanent Representatives of developing countries and provided support and advice for negotiations and consensus building in multilateral diplomacy on trade and development. He was promoted to the rank of Principal Officer in 1992 as the Secretary of the Trade and Development Board of UNCTAD. In addition, he assumed the responsibility of Chief of Intergovernmental Support Services (Conference Services) and oversaw the management of intergovernmental processes and the organization of intergovernmental conferences and meetings in UNCTAD. He was promoted to the position of Senior Advisor to the Secretary-General of UNCTAD, a post he held until leaving UNCTAD in 2004.

As a UN diplomat, Dr. Behnam accumulated some 27 years of experience in the diplomatic service of the United Nations and in organizing international conferences and major events. He served on request as Secretary of the Ministerial meetings of the G77 prior to UNCTAD in Tehran , Havana , Morocco , South Africa and as Secretary of the G77 regional meetings in Bangladesh, Jordan, Lebanon. He assisted and advised the Government of Qatar in organizing the South Summit in Doha, 2004, and other countless events including the GATES conference in Shanghai and GPA in Beijing.

On leaving the UN, he was elected President of the International Ocean Institute (IOI), headquartered in Malta, and subsequently was the UN Pavilion’s Commissioner General at the Shanghai World Expo, 2010.

Awni is member of a number of Professional Societies and an awardee of the Life Achievement Award from the ILD (Canada).  He was presented by the President of Malta, the Honourable Fence Adami, with Foundation de Malte Gold Cross Medal for outstanding leadership. (5 November 2007).

Dr. Behnam has published widely. His publications include “Twilight of Flag States Control”, “Unfulfilled Promises of the Seventies” (Ocean Yearbook, vols.17 and 18, 2003, 2004) ; “Developing Countries in the Group of 77 : A Journey in Multilateral Diplomacy” (in R. Macdonald & D.M. Johnston, eds., Towards World Constitutionalism, Leiden, Brill Publishers, 2005) ; “Whither IOI ?” (Ocean Yearbook, vols. 21, 2007, and 26, 2011) ; and “The IOI and the MDGs – a Stakeholder Contribution to Achieving the Millennium Development Goals” (Ocean Yearbook, vol.22, 2008).

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