Robert Fowler: CV

Peter Mansbridge has an exclusive interview with Robert Fowler, the Canadian diplomat held hostage in Africa by al-Qaeda earlier this year.

On 21 July 2008, The Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, appointed Mr. Fowler to be his Special Envoy to Niger, with the rank of Under-Secretary-General in the Secretariat of the UN.


In October 2006, Mr. Fowler retired from the Canadian Public Service after serving for 38 ½ years, and became a Senior Fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.


From October, 2000 to August 2006 he was Canada's Ambassador to Italy, where he was also accredited as High Commissioner to Malta, Ambassador to Albania, Ambassador to San Marino, and Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the United Nations organisations based in Rome; the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Food Program (WFP), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).


In March 2006, following the January 23 Federal Election, Prime Minister Harper confirmed Mr. Fowler’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for Africa.


In May 2005, Prime Minister Martin announced the creation of a Special Advisory Team on Sudan (with a particular focus on the security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur) reporting directly to the Prime Minister – to be led by Ambassador Fowler, and including Senators Mobina Jaffer and Romeo Dallaire. A fund of $200M (CDN), and a dedicated interdepartmental Task Force were established to support the work of the Advisory Team. Ambassador Fowler spent a month in the three Darfuri States of Sudan in 2005 and he and his colleagues made a number of recommendations regarding Canada’s significant participation in the search for a lasting peace in Sudan; all of which were accepted and implemented. The Special Advisory Team on Sudan was stood down as of the 23 January 2006 Federal Election.


In December 2003, shortly after becoming Prime Minister, Paul Martin confirmed Mr. Fowler’s appointment as the Prime Minister’s Personal Representative for Africa.


Shortly after taking up his assignment in Rome, Mr. Fowler was appointed Mr. Chrétien’s G8 Personal Representative (Sherpa), and asked by the Prime Minister, in the summer of 2001, to return to Canada for a year in order to plan and organize, both substantively and administratively, the 2002 G8 Summit in Kananaskis, Alberta.


In addition, Prime Minister Chrétien appointed Ambassador Fowler to be his Personal Representative for Africa; a position created at the G8 Summit in Genoa in July 2001. As both Chair of the G8 ‘Sherpas’ and Chair of a separate group of G8 Personal Representatives for Africa (APRs), Ambassador Fowler led the creation of the G8 response to Africa’s innovative New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD). That response was agreed by G8 Leaders, in the presence of the African authors of the NEPAD proposal, at Kananaskis, as the African Action Plan; a broad based engagement, including more than one hundred specific commitments, through which G8 governments undertook to end Africa’s growing marginalization.


Following the Kananaskis Summit, in June 2002, Mr. Fowler resumed his duties in Rome, while remaining the Personal Representative of the Canadian Prime Minister for Africa. In 2002 Ambassador Fowler also became the Canadian representative to the newly created Africa Partnership Forum, a semi-annual encounter which brings together the most significant stake-holders – donors, development partners and multilateral institutions – engaged in the effort to realize the NEPAD vision.


In January 1995 Bob Fowler was appointed to represent Canada at the United Nations in New York where he became Canada's longest serving Ambassador and Permanent Representative, remaining in that capacity until August 2000; a posting which included most of Canada's sixth term (1999/2000) as a member of the United Nations Security Council.


While serving on the Security Council, Ambassador Fowler, as chair of the ‘Angola Sanctions Committee’, introduced an innovative use of Expert Panels, and involved himself deeply in efforts to make sanctions finally work by exposing sanctions violators – including serving Heads of Government – and the operations of the diamond industry to detailed public scrutiny. This brought about an end to the rebel movement’s (UNITA) access to the arms bazaar through the illegal sale of Angolan diamonds, and laid the groundwork for the imposition of new discipline in the diamond industry (the "Kimberly Process"), and, within months, to the defeat of Jonas Savimbi and the end of the quarter century long civil war in Angola.


Mr. Fowler was appointed Deputy Minister of National Defence in May 1989, a position in which he served until January 1995. As Deputy Minister of National Defence – effectively Chief Operating Officer of Canada’s Defence Department - Mr. Fowler was directly responsible for 35,000 civilian employees, the administrative, materiel and support needs of 90,000 members of the Canadian Forces, a budget of $13 billion (CDN), and for the elaboration of defence policy.


In 1986, Mr. Fowler became Assistant Deputy Minister for Policy in the Department of National Defence.


In May 1980, Bob Fowler was appointed Assistant Secretary to the Cabinet (Foreign and Defence Policy) in the Privy Council Office (the Prime Minister’s Department) where, as Foreign Policy Advisor to the Prime Minister, he advised Prime Ministers Trudeau, Turner and Mulroney across the full range of foreign, defence and development policy issues from 1980 to 1986.


In December 1978, Mr. Fowler became Executive Assistant to the Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, Allan Gotlieb.


After joining the Department of External Affairs as a Foreign Service Officer in 1969, Mr. Fowler held various positions at Headquarters in Ottawa in the late 1960’s and 1970s, and was posted to Paris (1971 to 1973), and to the Permanent Mission to the United Nations in New York (1976 to 1978) where he was a member of the Security Council Team, during Canada’s fourth term on the Council.


Prior to joining the Public Service as an Administrative Trainee in the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in 1968, Mr. Fowler taught English at the newly created Université nationale du Rwanda in Butare.


Mr. Fowler was born in Ottawa, graduated from Queen's University, in Kingston, Ontario, and speaks English, French and Italian.  He and his wife Mary have four daughters and three grandchildren.