Mr Jamal Benomar is widely known as a pro-democracy activist, human rights defender, diplomat, and international mediator. His international career spans across 35 years, including 25 years at the United Nations, where he rose to the rank of Under-Secretary General in recognition of his achievements.
As a veteran United Nations senior leader, he brings to ICDI a deep understanding of political dialogue processes and international mediation. He served as the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, where he worked tirelessly to facilitate a peaceful democratic transition in the wake of the Arab Spring.
He was the United Nations mediator in the negotiations between former Yemeni president Ali Abdallah Saleh and the opposition, as well as the architect of the Transition Agreement in November 2011, which provided for a peaceful transfer of power and a road map for an inclusive transition process. He also facilitated, over six months, the preparations, the negotiations and the positive conclusions of the 10-months-long Yemeni National Dialogue Conference in 2014 and mediated other agreements. Mr Benomar also served from 2015 to 2017 as the UN Under-Secretary General for Conflict Prevention including Burundi, where he led UN efforts to respond to a serious political and human rights crisis.
Mr Benomar worked in a variety of capacities and senior positions since he joined the United Nations in 1993, including with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Executive Office of the Secretary-General and the Department of Political Affairs. He played a key role in establishing the United Nations Peacebuilding Commission and Peacebuilding Support Office, which he also directed. He also served in Afghanistan and Iraq including as the Secretary-General’s Envoy to support the National Dialogue Conference in 2004.
Prior to his career with the United Nations, Mr Benomar was a director at the Carter Center, where he worked closely with former United States President Jimmy Carter on human rights and mediation issues. He has also worked for Amnesty International in London. Over the course of his career, Mr Benomar has advised on rule of law, governance and conflict resolution issues in over 40 countries in Africa, Asia, Latin America and Eastern Europe.
Born in 1957, he has an academic background in international human rights law, economics and political science. He has studied in Morocco and the University of Paris, where he earned two master’s degrees. He obtained his doctorate from the University of London.
Mr Benomar never shies away from speaking truth to power. He is known to have opposed US policies on post-war Iraq and warned against their destabilizing effect. In March 2015, he warned against the disastrous military intervention of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, and chastised UN security council members for their complacency and warned them about war crimes.
Mr Benomar was a prisoner of conscience in Morocco, where he was tortured and detained for eight years because of his peaceful opposition to a repressive regime. After his release, he was harassed by Moroccan security, fled the country as a refugee in a fishing boat and remained in exile for 20 years. He continues to advocate for human rights and democratic change in his native country.