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John W. McArthur is senior fellow and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution. He co-founded and co-chairs the 17 Rooms initiative, a new approach to catalyzing action for the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also a senior adviser to the United Nations Foundation and a board governor for the International Development Research Centre. He serves as a member of the UNICEF Advisory Group and of Policy Horizons Canada’s Deputy Minister Steering Committee.

He was previously the chief executive officer of Millennium Promise Alliance, the international nongovernmental organization. Prior to that he served as manager and then deputy director of the U.N. Millennium Project, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s independent advisory body mandated to recommend an action plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

He has also been a senior fellow with the Hong Kong-based Fung Global Institute, a faculty member at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, and policy director at the University’s Earth Institute. Earlier in his career he was a research fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, where he supported the World Health Organization’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health and co-authored the “Global Competitiveness Report.”

In 2006 he proposed a new form of graduate degree to provide rigorous cross-disciplinary training for a new generation of sustainable development practitioners. This led to him co-chairing, in 2007-08, the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, an initiative sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation (no relation). He then co-founded the global network of Masters in Development Practice programs that has since been launched across five continents.

He has chaired Global Agenda Councils for the World Economic Forum and served as a member of the Forum’s Advisory Board on Sustainability and Competitiveness. In 2014-15 he co-chaired a working group convened by the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies, leading to the final report, “Towards 2030: Building Canada’s Engagement with Global Sustainable Development.” In 2016 he was an adviser to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. He has served as a member of the Global Nutrition Report's Independent Expert Group and of Grand Challenges Canada’s Scientific Advisory Board. In 2009 he was recognized as a Young Global Leader. In 2021 he was named as one of Apolitical’s 100 most influential academics in government.

He recently co-edited the books “Breakthrough: The Promise of Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development” (Brookings Press, 2022) (see chapter 1 for an overview), “Leave No One Behind: Time for Specifics on the Sustainable Development Goals” (Brookings Press, 2019), and “From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals” (Brookings Press, 2018). His research has been published in a variety of academic journals, including Journal of Development Economics, World Bank Economic Review, The Lancet, The British Medical Journal (BMJ), World Development, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Global Policy, and Ecological Economics. His writing for more general audiences has appeared in venues such as Foreign Affairs, Project Syndicate, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, the South China Morning Post, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Horizons, and Stanford Social Innovation Review.

McArthur grew up in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen. He completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) at the University of British Columbia; a Master’s in Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and then an M.Phil. and D.Phil. (Ph.D.) in economics at Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar.

John W. McArthur is senior fellow and director of the Center for Sustainable Development at the Brookings Institution. He co-founded and co-chairs the 17 Rooms initiative, a new approach to catalyzing action for the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also a senior adviser to the United Nations Foundation and a board governor for the International Development Research Centre. He serves as a member of the UNICEF Advisory Group and of Policy Horizons Canada’s Deputy Minister Steering Committee.

He was previously the chief executive officer of Millennium Promise Alliance, the international nongovernmental organization. Prior to that he served as manager and then deputy director of the U.N. Millennium Project, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s independent advisory body mandated to recommend an action plan for achieving the Millennium Development Goals.

He has also been a senior fellow with the Hong Kong-based Fung Global Institute, a faculty member at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs, and policy director at the University’s Earth Institute. Earlier in his career he was a research fellow at the Center for International Development at Harvard University, where he supported the World Health Organization’s Commission on Macroeconomics and Health and co-authored the “Global Competitiveness Report.”

In 2006 he proposed a new form of graduate degree to provide rigorous cross-disciplinary training for a new generation of sustainable development practitioners. This led to him co-chairing, in 2007-08, the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, an initiative sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation (no relation). He then co-founded the global network of Masters in Development Practice programs that has since been launched across five continents.

He has chaired Global Agenda Councils for the World Economic Forum and served as a member of the Forum’s Advisory Board on Sustainability and Competitiveness. In 2014-15 he co-chaired a working group convened by the University of Ottawa’s Centre for International Policy Studies, leading to the final report, “Towards 2030: Building Canada’s Engagement with Global Sustainable Development.” In 2016 he was an adviser to the Business and Sustainable Development Commission. He has served as a member of the Global Nutrition Report’s Independent Expert Group and of Grand Challenges Canada’s Scientific Advisory Board. In 2009 he was recognized as a Young Global Leader. In 2021 he was named as one of Apolitical’s 100 most influential academics in government.

He recently co-edited the books “Breakthrough: The Promise of Frontier Technologies for Sustainable Development” (Brookings Press, 2022) (see chapter 1 for an overview), “Leave No One Behind: Time for Specifics on the Sustainable Development Goals” (Brookings Press, 2019), and “From Summits to Solutions: Innovations in Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals” (Brookings Press, 2018). His research has been published in a variety of academic journals, including Journal of Development Economics, World Bank Economic Review, The Lancet, The British Medical Journal (BMJ), World Development, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Global Policy, and Ecological Economics. His writing for more general audiences has appeared in venues such as Foreign Affairs, Project Syndicate, The Globe and Mail, The Guardian, the South China Morning Post, The Ottawa Citizen, The Vancouver Sun, Toronto Star, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Horizons, and Stanford Social Innovation Review.

McArthur grew up in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen. He completed a Bachelor of Arts (Honors) at the University of British Columbia; a Master’s in Public Policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government; and then an M.Phil. and D.Phil. (Ph.D.) in economics at Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar.

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