Committed to connecting the world


Mr. Houlin Zhao
ITU Secretary-General

Houlin Zhao was elected ITU Secretary-General at the 19TH Plenipotentiary Conference in Busan, Korea, in October 2014. He took up his post on 1 January, 2015. Prior to his election, he served two terms of office as ITU Deputy Secretary-General (2007-2014), as well as two terms as elected Director of ITU's Telecommunication Standardization Bureau (1999-2006).

A graduate of China's Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications, with an MSc from the UK's University of Essex, Mr. Zhao has spent most of his career working in the international arena. His leadership has been characterized by a tireless commitment to further streamlining ITU's efficiency and enhancing strategic partnership between Member States and Sector Members. He has boosted ITU's level of international cooperation with other international organizations, and is dedicated to harnessing technology to bridge the gap between developing and developed countries.

|As Secretary-General, Mr. Zhao is committed to further extending ITU's community to include academia from around the world, as well as promoting the greater involvement of small- and medium-sized enterprises in the work of the Union.

He is married with one son and two grandchildren, and is fluent in three official ITU languages: English, French and Chinese.

Mr. Nikhil Seth
Executive Director, United Nations Institute for Training and Research

On 8 June 2015, Mr. Nikhil Seth was appointed by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as UN Assistant Secretary-General, Executive Director of the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

Before assuming the post of the UNITAR Executive Director, Nikhil Seth was the Director of the Division for Sustainable Development, Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) at the United Nations Secretariat in New York. In this role he served as head of the Rio+20 secretariat and of the secretariat for the Third International Conference on Small Island Developing States, spearheading the preparations for these conferences in Rio, Brazil, and Apia, Samoa. He was also closely engaged in coordinating and advancing their follow-up.

Mr. Seth's Division was also responsible for supporting the intergovernmental negotiations for the post-2015 development agenda, which was adopted at the United Nations Sustainable Development Summit 2015 in September 2015.

During his career with the United Nations since 1993, Mr. Seth has served as Special Assistant and Chief of Office to the Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs (Sept 1993 – Jun 2001), Chief of the Policy Coordination Branch in the Division for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (Jun 2001 – Jan 2003), as Secretary of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) and the Second Committee of the General Assembly (Feb 2003 – Aug 2006), and as Director of the DESA Office for ECOSOC Support and Coordination (Aug 2006 – Aug 2011), where he guided the ECOSOC's work in implementing several new key mandates, including its Annual Ministerial Review and Development Cooperation Forum.

Before joining the UN Secretariat, he was a delegate to the UN in the Permanent Mission of India to the United Nations (Sep 1990 – Sep 1993) and involved with various UN conferences and summits including the Rio Summit on Environment and Development and the climate change related process.   After joining the UN, he has been involved in the organization of the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, the Monterrey Conference on Financing for Development, the Mauritius Conference on Small Island Developing States, the Millennium Summit, World Summit on Sustainable Development and the UN World Summit, beside the Rio+20 Conference.

He joined the Indian diplomatic service in 1980 and his diplomatic assignments included Geneva, Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.

Before joining the Indian diplomatic service, he worked as a Lecturer in Economics in St. Stephen College, Delhi University for 2 years (Aug 1977 – Sep 1979).

Mr. Nikhil Seth holds a Master's degree in Economics from Delhi University.

Dr. Rolph Payet
Executive Secretary, Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions

Rolph Payet was appointed as Executive Secretary for the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions Secretariat in October 2014. He was previously Minister of Environment and Energy, and in 2008 founded the first University in Seychelles, where he also served as its first President and Vice-Chancellor. He is also Associate Professor at the University of Linnaeus, Sweden. Previously, he has served on numerous global forums such as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the World Bank Blue Ribbon Panel, the UN Group of Experts for the Regular process for global reporting and assessment of the state of the marine environment, the Global Forum on Oceans, Coasts and Islands, and as the Interim Coordinator of the Nairobi Convention UNEP Regional Seas Programme.

He is also founding member of a number of conservation-oriented foundations such as the Global Island Partnership, the Sea Level Rise Foundation, the Seychelles University Foundation, the Seychelles Centre for Marine Research and Technology, the Island Conservation Society and the Silhouette Foundation.

He has received numerous international awards and recognition for his work including sharing in the 2008 Nobel Peace Prize as an IPCC Lead Author, a Young Global Leader by the World Economic Forum and a Honorary Doctorate in Science from the University of London.

Mr. Hiroshi Kuniyoshi
Managing Director and Deputy to the Director General, Directorate of External Relations and Policy Research, United Nations Industrial Development Organization

Mr. Hiroshi Kuniyoshi holds a Master's degree in International Relations from the University of Cambridge and a Ph.D. in Energy Science from Kyoto University.

In April 1984, he joined the Government of Japan's Ministry of International Trade and Industry (now known as METI), where he planned and implemented a variety of industrial and technology policies in various sections, including the Planning Office of Minister's Secretariat, the Natural Resources and Energy Agency, the Small and Medium Enterprises Agency and the Kansai Bureau.

He served as an advisor to the Director General of UNIDO from 2000 to 2004, during which time he made a considerable contribution to UNIDO's strategic pursuits through the coordination of the Board of Directors' Retreats, Industrial Development Forums and other activities.

In August 2006, Mr. Kuniyoshi was appointed Professor at the Frontier Research Centre, Tokyo Institute of Technology, where he conducted research and initiated an education programme in policy studies related to industry, technology and innovation. He also contributed to the management of the Institute by working closely with the President and Vice-Presidents.

In September 2012, he was appointed Executive Director of the New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Organization (NEDO), one of Japan's largest public organizations in research and development. At NEDO, he was in charge of global collaborative projects for the development of low-carbon technologies such as renewable energy, battery storage and smart grids. He also served as Vice- Chairman of the Global Smart Grid Federation, a world-wide network of national associations for smart grids.

In January 2016, he was appointed Head of the UNIDO Investment and Technology Promotion Office, Tokyo, (UNIDO ITPO Tokyo), where he worked closely with Japanese industries in areas related to technology transfer and investments to developing countries.

Mr. Elliott Harris
Assistant Secretary-General, UN Environment

Mr. Harris joined UN Environment as Director of the New York Office and Director of the Environment Management Group (EMG) Secretariat in September 2013. In April 2015, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed Elliott Harris as Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment). Mr. Harris brings over 25 years of international experience in the fields of international economics and development policy analysis, coupled with knowledge of the United Nations system, multilateral and inter-agency coordination processes. Specifically, he will also share with the panel his perspective regarding UN Environment's functions related to the promotion of coordinated approaches to environmental issues in the UN system.

Ms. Alette van Leur
Director of the Sectoral Policies Department, International Labour Organization

Ms Alette van Leur is Director of the Sectoral Policies Department (SECTOR) at the International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva. SECTOR, whose work cuts across all four strategic objectives of the ILO’s Decent Work Agenda, promotes decent work and productive employment in 22 social and economic sectors and industries. 

The Department contributes to the ILO’s work on the promotion of decent work in global supply chains and the ILO Centenary Initiative on the Future of Work.

Ms van Leur leads the ILO’s policy outcome on the Promotion of Decent Work in the Rural economy.

Dr. María Mendiluce
Managing Director, World Business Council for Sustainable Development

Dr. María Mendiluce has over 20 years' experience in the energy, climate and sustainability areas. Since 2008, María has led the implementation of WBCSD's Climate and Energy strategy, guiding the work of over 200 member companies to influence the global climate landscape. María managed the development of the Low Carbon Technology Partnerships initiative, one of the flagship projects leading up to the success of COP21. She has created WBCSD's new program on circular economy (Factor10), and is now developing the new strategy for transport and cities. Prior to joining WBCSD, Maria held different roles at the International Energy Agency (Paris), Iberdrola and the Economic Bureau of the Spanish Prime Minister (Spain). María has taught at the University of Geneva, coaches students and is recognized for her contributions to scientific journals and international conferences.

Mr. ​James Pennington
Project Specialist, Circular Economy, World Economic Forum

James Pennington works on the World Economic Forum's Circular Economy initiative, leading work on policy engagement in emerging markets, institutional collaboration and reports. Prior to the Forum James worked for the London based think tank Chatham House, and consulted for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. James is a fluent speaker of Mandarin and has spent significant time working and studying in China, with a focus on Chinese urbanization trends and resource policy. James graduated from the University of Leeds and the University of Cambridge.