Mr. Nitin Desai has had a long and distinguished career in the Government of India and the United Nations. He has also worked for some time in private industry and taught at two UK Universities.
In the Government of India Mr. Desai worked at senior levels in the Planning Commission from 1973 to 1987. From 1988 to 1990 Mr. Desai was the Chief Economic Adviser and Secretary in the Department of Economic Affairs in the Ministry of Finance.
Mr. Desai joined the United Nations in 1990 as Deputy Secretary General of the Rio Earth Summit and was Under Secretary General from 1993 to 2003 dealing with economic and social affairs. Mr. Desai’s international involvement has been most prominent in the development and promotion of sustainable development as the goal of policy, first as Senior Adviser and key draftsman for “Our Common Future”, the Report of the Brundtland Commission on Environment and Development and then as Deputy Secretary-General for the Rio Earth Summit, the manager of the Commission on Sustainable Development for its first decade and as the Secretary General for the Johannesburg Summit. He was also responsible for the organisation of the Copenhagen Summit on Social Development, the Monterrey Summit on Finance for Development and many other global events.
After his retirement from the UN Mr. Desai continued to remain a Special Adviser to the UN Secretary General for Internet governance and chaired the Advisory Group that organizes the annual UN Internet Governance Forum till December 2010.
He chaired a Committee on Venture Capital and Technology Innovation set up by the Planning Commission in 2005-06 and the Advisory Panel on Transparency Standards set up by the Reserve Bank of India in 2007-08. He is also the Indian co-chair with Lord Chris Patten of the Indo-UK Roundtable set up by the two governments. He is a member of the Council on Climate Change chaired by the Prime Minister and was a member of the National Security Advisory Board 2008-10. He is also a member of the News Broadcasting Standards Authority.
He is an Honorary Fellow of the London School of Economics and Political Science, UK. In India he is a Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) and Honorary Professor at the Indian Council for Research in International Economic Relations (ICRIER). He is connected with the governing bodies of several NGOs and research institutions including the Institute of Economic Growth whose Governing Body he chairs. He is a trustee of Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) International. He writes a monthly column for the Business Standard, an Indian daily.