From national politics to world service

Ruud Lubbers assumed the post of UN High Commissioner for Refugees in 2001, taking over from Japanese diplomat and academic Sadako Ogata. Born in 1939 in Rotterdam, in the Netherlands, he first worked in his family’s business before embarking on a political career in 1973. He served as his country’s minister for economic affairs and was subsequently elected prime minister, a post which he held from 1982 to1994, the longest term in the postwar Netherlands. Lubbers then retired from active politics to teach globalization and sustainable development at Tilburg University and was a visiting professor at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard. He has also served as vice president of the Independent World Commission on the Oceans, president of Globus, the Institute for Globalization and Sustainable Development based in Tilberg, and head of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). He is married and the father of three children.