Chancellor, Mrs. Mary Chinery-Hesse, Receives Honorary Doctorate Degree from University of London

The Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Mrs. Mary Chinery-Hesse, has been awarded an honorary Doctor of Science, Economics Degree from the University of London at that University’s Foundation Day Ceremony held on Tuesday, November 23, 2021.

The University of London honorary degree is the highest honour conferred on exceptional individuals to celebrate their contribution to advance human progress and welfare. To qualify for this award, the nominee should be an outstanding individual with significant achievement and distinction, must have excelled in their field of endeavor and command international and/or national recognition. The candidate may have a specific connection to the University or to London and have substantial achievements in their lifetime. These achievements could relate to academia, public service, business or the arts. The nominee should also be a person who has made an outstanding contribution to the University’s reputation, mission or objects over a period of time.

Mrs. Mary Chinery-Hesse’s distinguished career and outstanding achievements over the years match the objectives of the award. A staunch defender of human and women’s rights, and an advocate for African issues including conflict resolution and humanitarianism, Mrs. Chinery-Hesse has been an extremely influential and important voice on economic development issues.

Her early career saw her as the Senior Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning in Ghana, as well as a Member of the National Council for Higher Education.

Among her numerous high-level posts was Membership on the Council of African Advisors of the World Bank and the Eminent Persons’ Advisory Panel of the Organisation of African Unity, which crafted the strategy to convert the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union.

Mrs. Chinery-Hesse’s worldview and natural leadership instincts have enabled her to chalk many historic roles. She was the first ever African woman appointed by the United Nations to assume the position of Resident Coordinator of the UN Systems and Resident Representative of the United Nations Development Programme, serving in New York, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, the Seychelles and Uganda.

Her next role, equally historic, was her appointment as the first ever woman Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO), after seventy years of the founding of that UN Agency, a position with the rank of Under Secretary-General of the UN. Again this gave her the distinction of being the first African woman to attain the position of Under Secretary-General in the history of the United Nations.

Mrs. Chinery-Hesse has served in various capacities within the United Nations system and other international bodies including serving as Chairperson of the UN’s Consultative Committee on Programme and Operational Questions for several years, Membership of the Zedillo Commission of Eminent Persons on Financing for Development, and the UN Blue Ribbon Panel of sixteen wise world leaders on Threats, Challenges and Change, which was tasked to rewrite the global security architecture and reform of the United Nations, in particular the Security Council.

Mrs. Mary Chinery-Hesse with HRH, The Princess Royal - Chancellor of the University of London

For many years, the Chancellor was a Member and Chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the Voluntary Fund for Technical Cooperation of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Her advice continues to be actively sought and valued by many governments and international organisations on a variety of themes. She also served as the Chairperson of the Commonwealth Expert Group of Eminent Persons on Structural Adjustment and Women, which produced the landmark Report, “Engendering Adjustment”. She was a Member of the Board of the prestigious Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva, Switzerland, on which she served with several Nobel Peace Prize Laureates.

Additionally, Mrs. Chinery-Hesse is the Chair of the Goodwill Ambassadors of the Kofi Annan International Peace Keeping Training Centre, as well as Chair of the Board of the Centre for Regional Integration in Africa.

She serves, among others as Friend on the African Union Panel of the Wise and on the Pan-African Network of the Wise (Panwise), an integral component of the African Peace and Security Architecture. She is also the immediate past Chair of the Board of Zenith Bank, Ghana.

The Chancellor was appointed to the Office of the Chief Advisor to the President under former President John Agyekum Kufuor’s government. She was also Vice-Chairperson of the National Development Planning Commission, and a Member of the Board of the Centre for Policy Analysis.

Mrs. Chinery-Hesse has received several prestigious awards and decorations, both nationally and internationally, including Ghana’s highest National Award, the Order of the Star of Ghana as well as the Gusi Peace Prize, the Asian equivalent of the Nobel Peace Prize, for International Diplomacy and Humanitarianism in 2010, making her the first African woman to be awarded this prize.

The Chancellor holds a degree from the University of London, the largest university in the United Kingdom, which nurtured the University College of the Gold Coast, the premier University in Ghana for 13 years, until it gained full university status to award its own degrees.

The University of London’s Foundation Day is an annual celebration of its first royal charter in November 1836. Starting from June 1903 the honorary degrees have been bestowed on a wide range of distinguished individuals from both the academic and non-academic worlds. Recipients have included the Prince of Wales, King George V and Queen Mary, Winston Churchill, Judi Dench, TS Elliot, Margot Fonteyn and Henry Moore.

Chancellor (UG) in a pose with HRH, The Princess Royal - Chancellor of the University of London, Prof. Wendy Thomson - VC of the University of London (seated left) and other Awardees

By this honorary award, Mrs. Mary Chinery-Hesse, the first female Chancellor of the University of Ghana, chalks another historic achievement as she becomes the first Ghanaian to be so awarded. She joins the ranks of distinguished Africans such as the late President Nelson Mandela of South Africa, who have also received the University of London’s Honorary Graduate Degree.

The Vice-Chancellor of the University of Ghana, Professor Nana Aba Appiah Amfo, in a congratulatory message to the Chancellor, stated that the University is proud that the Chancellor’s lifetime of service on the national and international stage has been recognised by the University of London, an institution with which the University of Ghana has a special relationship. She looked forward to a revamping of this relationship, and mutually beneficial collaboration between the two institutions.

Hearty Congratulations to our Chancellor on her receipt of this prestigious award.


Please click here to read the Chancellor's Acceptance Speech.