John W. McArthur is an economist and optimist focused on interrelated issues of economic growth, poverty reduction, global health, food and agriculture, technological advance, sustainability, and cross-border collaboration. He is a Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Global Economy and Development Program and a Senior Fellow with the United Nations Foundation. He was previously the CEO of Millennium Promise, the international non-governmental organization committed to supporting the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to cut the many forms of extreme poverty by half by 2015. 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.
From 2002 to 2006 John served as Manager and Deputy Director of the United Nations Millennium Project, Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s independent advisory body mandated to recommend an action plan for achieving the MDGs. In that role he coordinated a global network of nearly 300 experts who served on ten thematic Task Forces, oversaw a policy team that provided integrated technical advice to governments in low-income countries around the world, and served as lead editor of the Project’s final report to the Secretary-General, Investing in Development: A Practical Plan to Achieve the Millennium Development Goals. Prior to that 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, John proposed a new form of graduate degree to provide rigorous cross-disciplinary training for the next generation of sustainable development practitioners. In 2007 and 2008 he then co-chaired the International Commission on Education for Sustainable Development Practice, an initiative sponsored by the MacArthur Foundation (no relation). He subsequently co-chaired the board of the new global network of Masters in Development Practice programs that have been launched across two dozen universities spanning five continents.
In 2013-2014 John chaired the World Economic Forum’s Global Agenda Council on Poverty and Sustainable Development and he previously chaired the GAC on Benchmarking Progress. He serves as a member of the Forum’s Advisory Board on Sustainability and Competitiveness. In 2009 the Forum recognized him as a Young Global Leader.
John’s research and writing has focused on how factors like agriculture, health, geography, institutions, technology, and public finance link to economic growth and development. He has published in a variety of journals including The Lancet, Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Foreign Affairs, Ecological Economics, Advances in Agronomy, and the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. His work has been profiled in The Economist and his writing for more general audiences has appeared in publications such as The Bangkok Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Global Brief, The Globe and Mail, The National Post, The Ottawa Citizen, SEED Magazine, the South China Morning Post, and Stanford Social Innovation Review.
John completed a DPhil (PhD) and MPhil in Economics at Oxford University, which he attended as a Rhodes Scholar; a Masters in Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government; and a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) at the University of British Columbia, where he spent most of his time in swimming pools and was named one of Canada’s Top 10 Academic All-Canadian student-athletes. He grew up in Vancouver and is a Canadian citizen.