Former UN Ambassador, al-Qaeda Hostage to Speak at U of G

February 16, 2011 - News Release

Canada's longest-serving ambassador to the United Nations, who was held hostage for 130 days in 2008 by al-Qaeda's North African branch, will speak at the University of Guelph March 1.

Robert Fowler will give the Winegard Visiting Lectureship in International Development at 5:30 p.m. in Room 104 of Rozanski Hall.

His talk, “Canada, the United Nations and Development — Time for a Little Modesty,” is free and open to the University community and general public.

Fowler was foreign policy adviser to prime ministers Pierre Trudeau, John Turner and Brian Mulroney, and deputy minister of national defence.

As UN ambassador, he represented Canada on the UN Security Council and issued two groundbreaking reports on sanctions-busting in Angola that helped end the country’s 25-year-long civil war.

He served as ambassador to Italy and to three Rome-based UN food agencies, and was personal representative for Africa for prime ministers Jean Chrétien, Paul Martin and Stephen Harper.

After 38 years in public service, Fowler retired in 2006. In 2008, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appointed him as a special envoy to Niger, which had then been threatened by an insurrection. In late December, Fowler and a colleague were captured by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and held in the Sahara Desert for 130 days.

Fowler is now a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.

The Winegard Visiting Lectureship in International Development was created in 2005 with an endowment from former University of Guelph president Bill Winegard and his family.

Winegard was U of G’s president and vice-chancellor from 1967 to 1975 and served as Guelph’s MP from 1984 to 1993. Besides being named Canada’s first minister of science, he chaired the House of Commons standing committees on external affairs and national defence and external affairs and international trade. He also served as parliamentary secretary to the minister of international trade. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1998.

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