Elizabeth Dowdeswell has had an extensive career in government, education and international affairs. From 1993 to 1998 she served as Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program, where she led the agency’s transformation into a modern organization, developing programs in state-of-the-environment assessment and reporting, environmental law, and tackling new issues of trade and globalization.
Before joining the United Nations, Ms. Dowdeswell was the Assistant Deputy Minister of Environment Canada from 1989 to 1992, responsible for the national weather and atmospheric agency. In that capacity she played a leading role in global efforts to negotiate the treaty on climate change adopted at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development. She was also Canada’s permanent representative to the World Meteorological Organization; principal delegate to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; and Canadian Chair of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board.
Ms. Dowdeswell has worked as a management consultant to the Government of Canada and led a number of public inquiries into issues such as Canada’s unemployment benefits program, water policy and meteorological services. She has served as a member on numerous Canadian and international boards, advisory panels and commissions.
Early in her career, Ms. Dowdeswell served as Deputy Minister of Culture and Youth for the Province of Saskatchewan, directing a major public review of cultural policy and developing heritage legislation. Before that, she was a human rights ombudsman and educational consultant with the Department of Education, a university lecturer and a high school teacher.
More recently, Ms. Dowdeswell’s professional activities have included: management consulting; Visiting Professor in Global Health, Genomics and Ethics at the University of Toronto; Commissioner of the Commission on Globalization; and Associate Fellow of the European Centre for Public Affairs.
Ms. Dowdeswell serves as a Pierre Elliot Trudeau Foundation mentor, helping to guide the public policy research of Trudeau scholars. She is the author of numerous publications in both popular press and professional journals. She holds a Master of Science degree in behavioral sciences from Utah State University, a Bachelor of Science degree in home economics and a teaching certificate from the University of Saskatchewan. She is the recipient of nine honorary degrees including six Doctor of Law degrees from various universities, a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax and the Memorial Gold Medal awarded by Charles University in Prague.