What you did not know about Kul Gautam ?

Richard Jolly says:

Dearest Kul,

Your contributions to UNICEF and to children in every region of the world have already set many records for creativity, energy and persistence. They stand as an inspiration to us all. Even before Jim Grant, you were demonstrating the vision and commitment which many of us later learned from him. When Jim came on the scene in 1980, he provided vision and leadership for UNICEF as a whole – and you became one of his inner circle of allies and leaders, to carry his messages through the organization and for children everywhere. Your creativity in drafting the plan of action for the World Summit for children in 1990 and for keeping alive the goals and commitments afterwards, right up to the present, remains one of your great achievements, perhaps the greatest, exceptimg only for your personal example. Thank you for your stand as someone who has never let the vision of UNICEF get blurred or compromised and thank you for your example and for your steady defence of UNICEF ideas and commitments.

We praise you for all you have been and done and we wish you every joy and success as you move into your next new roles.

Richard Jolly

By Min-Whee Kang

3 December 2007

UNICEF Representative in The Gambia,
Formerly Executive Officer and Special Assistant to Kul Gautam

Coffee or tea?

Kul drinks a lot in the office. But I have never seen Kul drink coffee. Kul loves to drink tea and not just any tea, please – he drinks Tazo Chai only. Kul used to buy whole boxes of Tazo Chai from the Starbucks on the corner of 47th and 3rd or at Grand Central Station. I am sure Starbucks will miss this loyal customer.

With his personal supply of white cane sugar and 2% fat milk, he makes his own Tazo Chai in the office the way he likes it – with lots of milk and sugar. If you catch him in the act, he will happily invite you to have some and will make you a cup just like his. Be sure to start with a tiny sip first so that you don’t burn your lips, for Kul drinks his tea boiling hot – using very hot water and then heated 30 seconds in the microwave. Beyond the 30 seconds, the tea bags burst, which I sadly discovered on my first attempt to imitate Kul.


Unless he has to host a business lunch or an invitation to a working lunch, Kul usually works through lunch hours, with a tray at his desk. There was a kitty for lunch money, which Kul used to replenish regularly and May used to diligently run the “Kul feeding programme” and fetch the lunch tray from the cafeteria. But we know what the food is like in the cafeteria. And after his kidney transplant in mid 2005, there were some food Kul had to avoid. For example, he could not take anything with high potassium. So, no tomatoes and potatoes, most green vegetables had to be bleached, no oranges, grapefruit or any citrus family fruits, etc. etc.

Sometimes I tried to break the monotony by bringing in something different from the outside. Kul will never complain and always gives you a smile and says thank you for any food you bring him. But what he finds most delicious is not the expensive Italian Risotto con funghi with Osso bucco, nor the exquisite French cuisine of Paul Bocuse featuring Les escargots aux huiles d’olive vierge sauté a l’ail for starters.

Kul used to say, “I’m a rice eater”. And the most delicious meal, according to Kul, is served at the small Chinese Mee Shop on the corner of 49th and 2nd where chicken with mushrooms moo goo gai pan and stir fried spinach in garlic sauce with a bowl of nice, hot, soft steamed rice were his favorite.

So, ironically, when May and I sent him off to lunch invitations to an expensive Italian or French restaurant, we used to feel sorry for him, knowing how much he enjoyed and preferred the simple and good food, but nobody knew.

Lindt or Leonidas?

Neither, thank you. Kul does not like chocolates. But if you offer him some, he will take one and politely say thank you with a beautiful smile. Unlike some people who secretly binge at home and finish a whole box of milk chocolates watching Sex in the City late at night, but when offered chocolates in public will say, “Oh dear, they look so tempting, but I have to watch my waistline, no thank you”, Kul will never turn anybody down for his own taste or comfort.

Once I saw him finish a whole slice of chocolate cake, which was served as part of the full course meal. It had a middle layer of rich, dark bitter chocolate cream between two layers of moist and melting chocolate pastry with strawberry and cream sauce on the side.

After the meal, I asked him if the delicious dessert made him change his mind about chocolate. Kul replied, “the kind lady sitting next to me was explaining to me so caringly how it was made, and how one should taste it, I could not let her down and not touch the cake.”


The first time I saw Kul in the office on a weekend, he was wearing a polo t-shirt and casual pants and walking around… barefeet. I couldn’t help but stare at his tiny feet and I must have looked surprised. He looked at me and apologized, “Do you find me uncivilized?” and added, “I am a village bumkin. I grew up barefeet. In my village Gulmi in Nepal, most people didn’t wear shoes.” He told me his parents bought him his first pair of nice, city shoes when he was 10 years old and he was sent to a large neighboring city to study. So he likes his feet the natural way – bare. “I like my feet to be airy and free from the confinement of shoes and socks.” So next time you see Kul wearing his shoes without socks, you can be sure he had just slipped them back on just for you. I’ll bet he was enjoying his airy and free barefeet until you came along.

The mystery of bent paper clips

Kul has a habit of bending paper clips. All the years I worked with him, I never once caught him doing it, or saw what he does with it. But for as long as I worked with Kul, I used to find bent paper clips on his desk. If I threw out the one I find, the next day there would be another one on the same spot. Kul, why do you bend the paper clips? What do you do with them?

To be or what to be?

Kul comes from a large family of over nine siblings, I believe he has four brothers and four sisters. He was the long awaited first born and the precious heir to the family line. He was named after the star that shone on the day of his birth. As a child, he had an unusually large head, which gave him the pet name “Taugeh”, meaning “Big Head”.

Kul’s parents were subsistence farmers, but the family came originally from the Brahmin class, who were the priests, or the highest of the four caste groups after royalty. His grandfather was literate and had dreams for his grandson to receive an education and rise to the highest rank of priesthood. So his grandfather became Kul’s first teacher. He sat Kul down on his lap and passed on to his young grandson as much as he knew and as fast as he could, as he was slowly turning blind.

Kul’s first lessons were taught on soft, wet clay spread out on a piece of wooden board. The first letters Kul was taught by his grandfather were Sanskrit letters, written on the soft clay board, by pressing down a sharpened piece of bamboo into the soft clay board. When the grandfather had taught his grandson everything he knew, it was decided the boy had to be sent to the next village, where the next guru could teach him more.

So the little boy from Gulmi left home at a tender age to live and study with a guru during the week with other children and come home to rest over the weekend. Kul’s parents had dreams for their son to become Bara Hakim, or local government official. In their minds, this was the best thing that could happen to Kul and the family name. They did everything they could to allow Kul to continue his studies even under difficult circumstances at home.

But one day, an uncle from one of the neighboring big Indian cities, came along and said, “If the boy is intelligent, why are you wasting his time teaching him a dead language? He should get a modern education and study English. Only this will ensure him a well paying job.” So Kul was sent along with this uncle to study in the big city.

Years later, as he was finishing his studies in Dartmouth, young Kul Gautam was thinking of going back home to find a job and dutifully provide for the family as the first born son. Instead, he responded to a recruitment announcement from UNICEF and was offered a job in Cambodia, fresh out of university.

This is how the little boy from Gulmi came to UNICEF, so we should thank the UNICEF recruitment officer for recognizing the future Deputy Executive Director in the young Nepali student. We should thank his uncle, who got Kul the modern English education, which brought him to us. We should thank his parents for continuing to invest in his education through good days and bad. And we should thank the stars that Kul’s grandfather had a vision bigger than life for his grandson. And we should thank Kul for having chosen UNICEF instead of taking the ocean steamer back home to become Bara Hakim in Gulmi.

Padmini says:

MWK, Banjul, 2 December 2007

I cannot imagine he is retiring. My mind will always see him as ever so energetic and smiling. I have never seen him angry though often so thoughtful.

One saying of his has stayed in my memory. While we were discussing actions for EFA, Kul remarked, “But why must school be so boring?”

How true a statement, and how penetrating! In India as in many other countries, students are sitting day in and day out, just passively listening to their teachers’ lectures [unless they are engaged in other activities – and why not, if things are so boring?]. It is a miracle that all of them do not drop out!

I always used to try and see him even after my retirement if I happened to come to New York and never did he lack the time to chat with me for some moments.

I hope that he will have a good retirement in good health and cheer, wherever he chooses to live.

warm regards


Paul and Katharine Ignatieff says:

Dear Kul and Binta,

Katharine and I send fond greetings as Kul retires from his current role leading UNICEF’s world wide programme. Together, you have made a truly remarkable contribution to UNICEF and the children we try to assist.

We remember that Kul came from a village in Nepal “12 days walk” from Kathmandu. He may remember his first days in UNICEF in Cambodia and the “send off” from Bangkok as he left to marry Binta. Binta may recall arriving in Phnom Penh and the very active conflict that greeted her there. It was a very testing time for you both. We admired your adjustment to the situation as you started your life together. Even then it was clear to us that you were a special pair who would make a real difference to our world.

And what a remarkable life you have had so far. But, there is much to be achieved post UNICEF. We wonder where and on which stage? Will it continue in the international arena? Will you help in troubled Nepal or elsewhere?

We look forward to watching as your plans evolve.

Meantime, our affection and admiration go to both! And, if you pass through Scotland or France, a warm and affectionate welcome awaits!

Paul and Katharine Ignatieff

Carl Taylor says:

It is amazing that Kul is just the same as ever, with a joyous enjoyment of every moment and contact. He was truly exuberant about the future that opens for him now in a new career. With his usual enthusiasm he quickly and eloquently described the three challenges he will be plunging into but also with repeated clear statement of just being available for humble service when asked to help.

1. After years of taking care of the children of the world, one third of his time he now wants to spend personally working in communities identified as being in greatest need. He wants the experience of being in personal contact with a direct sense of being with the people.

2. One third of his time will be to help in promoting peaceful resolution of Nepal’s cruel heritage of violence with three forces tearing apart the beautiful land and culture. On an earlier visit he gave me copies of 5 speeches he had made in the previous two years to organizations working for peace. In thinking about this opportunity to send Kul a fond message I have re-read these speeches and am overwhelmed by the deep wisdom expressed. They show the highest level of diplomatic expertise and statesmanship in recognizing the forces responsible for the tragedy and political exploitation that continues. However, they even more are overflowing with incorrigible hope that outlines how solutions will eventually be built from the resilience of the wonderful Nepalis.

3. He said he will especially enjoy saving a third of his time to keep in touch with UNICEF and his wonderful friends around the world. He hopes he will have time now to think about specific unsolved problems and help on the Global issues that concern all of us about some policy directions that need attention.

Kul–We all Love you. Keep Going and Good Health.

Carl Taylor

Lincoln Chen says:

It’s a privilege for me to join with friends and colleagues to convey my heartiest congratulations to Kul upon his retirement. Actually, it’s awfully hard to imagine either a “Kul-less UNICEF” or a “Kul retirement”! That’s because Kul has symbolized for many of us the UNICEF spirit of commitment and professionalism that has characterized the best of UNICEF. And Kul, through at least the three executive directors that I’ve known, has been steady at the helm as UNICEF weathered its ups and downs.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with Kul while he was at headquarters but also in his South Asia representative regional leadership role. I was also lucky enough to attract Kul for some sabbatical time at our center at Harvard when he was able to take time off for reflection and writings on his work. In the midst of all the changes, it was always Kul who represented (at least for me) the UNICEF identity and access of communications.

I know that Kul will continue to do marvellous things after retirement. UNICEF, and especially the children of the world, will be the lesser because he will not be plugging away every day. But we can be sure that Kul leaves a rich legacy at UNICEF of all of us, outsiders and insiders, who have benefited from him over the decades.

Lincoln Chen


China Medical Board

Chip Lyons says:

Kul lives by his principles. While Kul has always been an inspiration in part because of his principles, it is Kul’s grace and calm in the midst of storms that I have always found most remarkable, reassuring, and helpful. And when he combines this serenity with his will to find solutions and ways forward, he provides such distinct and welcome leadership. I have been so fortunate to learn and benefit from his wisdom. I regret that UNICEF will not be the same when he moves on to his next things, but his contribution have been enormous.

All best wishes,

Chip Lyons

Gates Foundation

Former President of US Fund for UNICEF

Rima Salah says:

To my mentor, friend and colleague,

Kul, your commitment to the children of the world is a celebration of hope and common action for the realization of the rights of children wherever they are….

You worked in some of the most deeply troubled regions of the world, bringing hope…and a smile to the children’s faces…you did all this with passion and conviction, believing in each one of us….believing in the moral and professional assets of the UNICEF family.

Your vision, your guidance and encouragement were the beacon that lit my path throughout my career in UNICEF.

You will remain the beacon that lights the path for all those who want to build a world fit for children.

I wish you and your family everlasting happiness…

Rima Salah

Former UNICEF Deputy Executive Director

Marco Vianello-Chiodo says:

In my mind, Kul is one of the brightest and most committed persons who ever worked for UNICEF and the UN. In fact, when it was known that Asia was in line to get the next Secretary-General, I thought that Kul would have been the best possible candidate. Too bad! I admired Kul from the very first moment I met him, I believe he was still Representative in Haiti, so we are talking about the year I joined UNICEF in 1984 as director of PFO. Then he came to New York and started climbing the career ladder, albeit always outside my reach, because he was in the Programme group, and Richard Jolly would have skinned me if I had tried to take him away. So he got into External Relations long after I left, and fittingly in the top spot. I remember him as an ally trying to convince Jim Grant that communication and advocacy were indispensable to support programme, just as programme was indispensable to support advocacy. After all, if you want to change the world, the two must go together. And Kul has both weapons in his armoury. I hope his successor, whoever she/he is, will learn from him and will follow his path.

Please let me know where Kul will be after he retires, and I hope he will be allowed to continue to give his wisdom and enthusiasm to the cause of humanity.

Be well, and thank you again!

Marco (Vianello-Chiodo)

Former Deputy Executive Director, UNICEF

Urban Jonsson says:

Whenever I think of Kul Gautam I immediately associate him with three important characteristics:

1. Those who already know a lot are most ready, prepared and wiling to learn more.

2. Those who are genuinely busy are the most prepared to take on additional work.

3. Those who are genuinely busy are also the most ready to allow time to listen, and to assist other colleagues.

Among the very many achievements made by Kul over the years, I would like to emphasize his key role in both the World Summit for Children in 1990 and the UN Special Session for Children in 2002. His idea about “A World Fit For Children” represents a fundamental paradigm shift in replacing the traditional stereotyped view of the ‘child’ as an object, who both could and should be made fit to the school, with the view of the ‘child’ as a subject whose context, including the school, should be made fit the child. Without using a human rights language, this change is exactly what a human rights approach requires.

Kul, as we all know is a genius in using the English language. One word I learnt from him, which he used very often, is the work ‘PURSUE’. This non-threatening, but at the same time, promising and decisive term, somehow encapsulates Kul; his way of thinking, his determination and his conviction.

I wish you a challenging and interesting next phase in your life. Believe me, there is a fantastic world also outside UNICEF! You are most welcome!

Urban Jonsson

Daniel Taylor says:

Kul Gautam:

A man who stands tall among people. Before a person ever meets Kul,his larger-than-life reputation almost always is what one firstlearns of.I first began hearing of him three decades ago; I knew I was to meet one of life’s giants.Kul has a magic. Kul has a compassion. And we all know he has smarts. He works as hard as any Gurkha ever has–and he can fight like a Gurkha for causes he believes in, in this case the children of the world. The list of his wonderful attributeswill easily grow as large as hisextraordinary global reputation.Forcontributing to the improvement ofthe worldno Nepaliis as globally knownas Kul Gautam.

But, to me the most striking feature Kul possesses is that all these attributes are brought together; they come together like rivers joining. In their combination within such a large life force causes the energy we all so profoundly feel when in his presence.From the high mountain springs of the Nepal Himalaya flow many precious streams; it is striking that every stream becomes holy water of the Ganges. Kul has flowed from these same high pure mountains, and he has flowed all over the world, his achievements creating a new definition for a Brahmin priest. Whatas a child he began to be–in a typical Kul way he not only achieved but simultaneously transformed.

With highest esteem and affection,

Daniel Taylor

President, Future Generations

Jim Mohan says:

If one is really fortunate, ona rare occasion an exceptional human being might enter one’s life.

When that extraordinary opportunity happens, one feels blessed and enriched in a way that profoundly effects the rest of one’slife.

That happened to me when Kul entered my life.

I had found a fellow human being whose sheer nature, warm personality, deep compassion and keen wisdom touched the depths ofmy heart and soul.

Kulis a treasure not only for me but for the entire world.Heisan extraordinary human being whomI love as a brother.

May Kul and his wonderful wife Binta be blessed with long andhappy lives.

Jim Mohan

Chitra Jayawardena says:

I feel honoured that I was given an opportunity to work with Kul very closely. I remember the time he asked me to represent GS staff in a meeting with management. He respected the support staff very much, their valuable contribution and welcomed new ideas on how to improve skills and how GS staff can contribute in different ways to benefit the Organisation.

Whenever I was given the opportunity to sit in when May was not in office, we never failed to discuss a topic which was very dear to both of us , ie. to remember Mr. Grant and his great vision for the children. Kul had a photo of himself and Mr. Grant near his computer.

Thank you Kul for giving me an opportunity to work with you as well as giving me your valuable time to discuss my experiences in missions. You always gave me the inspiritation and support to continue my work for humanity. You never failed to respond to my messages that I sent you from the field, your good wishes and encouraging words were most welcome when I felt home-sick.

I will miss you very much, and wish you all the very best in your future endeavours.

May all blessings be yours,


Maria Teresa Hevia says:

Kul was our boss in Haiti; I wastransferred as Program Coordinatorfrom Angola to Haitiand I do remember the nice message that Kul sent to my attention saying: “Maria Teresa, welcome to Port-au-Prince. After your four years in Luanda, you will findHaiti as aparadise!!!!! It was time of GOBI and the challenge to meet the goals…..We were also together to face the departure of Baby Doc. They were not easy times. Despite all the constraints, we got good results, because he knew how to motivate his staff and how to develop alliances with counterparts.UNICEF will be surely not the same after his departure. From the extreme south of Latin America, I would like to join the group of Kul’s friends towishto him andhis entire familygood retirement. I would also like to say Kul that reallife begins now!!!!! With much love and profound sentiments,

Maria Teresa Hevia

Former UNICEF Representative

“Member of Old soldiers team”

Vitacura, Chile

Robert Grandcourt says:

Dear Kul Ji,

Framed on my wall I have a picture of you meeting President Nelson Mandella. Two great men who have given so much to so many. Because of your exceptional qualities,you haveprovided the leadership which has made, and will continue to make, a big difference to the lives of children in Africa and the rest of the world.It has been such a priviledge to a member of your team.

Now that you have retired, I look forward to welcome you on the shores ofAfrica’ssmallest country which has achieved all the goals..

Robert Grandcourt

Former Chief, Africa Section, Mare Anglaise, Mahe, Seychelles.

Sadig Rasheed says:

Thinking of Kul, a number of wonderful attributes race to one’s mind. He is at once a steady hand, a motivator, an enabler, a brain brimming with intellect and doable ideas for the betterment of children, a compassionate colleague and a “for ever” loyal friend. On occasion I did find myself appropriately referring to him as “the quiet healer”. Kul is also an astute negotiator and a discreet mediator, two other qualities he posses but rarely admits to. I have had the pleasure of closely observing his handy work in this regard when he came several times to Kathmandu as part of the UN’s attempts to diffuse the governance crisis in Nepal. It was sheer joy knowing

and cooperating closely with Kul over the nine plus years I was so privileged to work with Unicef’s team (unquestionably the best UN team ever!) to advance the cause of children. My very best wishes, Kul, with the challenges ahead!

Warm regards to all.


Merrill Cassell says:

One of the most important ingredients of a high-performance organization is talent. Without any doubt, Kul brought the highest distinction, skills and talent to the social development programs of UNICEF. Not only was Kul Gautam a talent man, he was also a great expressionist.

When you met Kul on a personal level (one-to-one basis), he was unsophisticated and humble in his thoughts, expressions and knowledge. However, when he had to address a meeting (internal or external) in an official capacity he brought on a distinctive capability to explain UNICEF’s mission critical programs lucidly, and articulating clearly how these programs create value for women and children.

Kul wore many hats in UNICEF, from program officer to Regional Director to Deputy Executive Director. In all these capacities he displayed the highest levels of skills and competencies. In addition, Kul also showed talent when leading management teams, particularly the re-engineering of UNICEF’s information resource systems in the early 1980’s. Kul was a contributor to many teams and workshops in programs and management issues, almost uncountable.

Kul could also be referred to as Mr. Articulate Man, for he had an unbelievable capacity to “articulate” in a clear and succinct way so that the audience could grasp any complex issue with complexity unbundled. UNICEF’s program strategy was best explained by Kul Gautam.

Kul contributed to UNICEF’s legacy in a very special way. By displaying the highest levels of talent and capability, he built other capabilities of talent by multiplication. As others witnessed Kul’s capacity to deliver they copied and were compelled to keep up the pace. This upward spiral of talent kept the Program Divisions in UNICEF, a truly “talent supply chain” by increasing the collective capability of UNICEF.

As UNICEF continues to grow it will remember the legacy of Kul Gautam and will no doubt practice his skills that transcended to others.

Merrill Cassell

Former Budget Director of UNICEF

Shahida Azfar says:

There is so much to say for Kul and so many people will say it better than me but as Kul always say “let not excellence be the enemy of good” I will also pay in my tribute to “Kul the Giant”

Giant is not the word that would come to some one’s mind if they do not know Kul but Giant he is for many of us who have known him for decades , for his towering intellect, integrity, inspirations, insightfulness, commitment ,courage, calmness in crisis, passion, persuasive powers,practical approach,humility, humour,clear headedness and above all for his articulation of complex concepts in a manner that all can understand and relate to them.

I have known Kul in different incarnations but most closely when I directly reported to him as the co chair of the Steering Committee of the Global Partnership for Child Survival, The Partnership would have never got off the ground and been launched as a side event of the Millennium Summit in 2005 in the Unicef House if Kul had not been at the helm of affairs to guide such a diverse and powerful group of the Partners with all the qualities that God has so generously endowed him with.

Please wish him the very best –and tell him that South Asia needs him, not just Nepal!

I will be there in spirit at his farewell party –Do send us some photos and a blow by blow account of the festivities

I take this opportunity to wish all my friends Season’s Greetings and a Very Happy and Peaceful New Year with warmest regards


Fouad Kronfol says:

The Saying goes like this; ” ALL GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES!!!”… But when the Almighty created Kul Ji, he packed in this small frame an ENORMOUS HEART, a BRILLIANT BRAIN and the ability to use the two for an infinite variety of worldly Good. His contributions to furthering the cause of children on a global scale, were no less than his involvement in so many aspects of UNICEF’s own growth and development.If Kul found his own avocation in the global effort at improving the well being of children, the Children of the World found ,in turn, a worthy Champion for their cause………

I got to know Kul when we both served in IndoChina, he in Laos and I in VietNam. At that time, the country I served was flexing its muscles throughout the three IndoChinese nations and hence was acting as the Big Brother in the Penninsula. Kul and I immediately hit it off, but I teasingly called him my “Young Brother”…..and the moniker stuck for the rest of our years in UNICEF and beyond.

We next met up in NYHQ within the then Division of Programme Field Services, he as Chief of Latin America Section, and I as Chief of Africa Section. Those were heady days as UNICEF was literally “taking off” in many ways under the visionary leadership of Jim Grant. We were fortunate to be serving under Manou Assadi who gave us all the support we needed to get things done. Although we were within meters of each other’s offices , I was unable to convince Kul to emulate the Africa Section’s OPEN SPACE Offices. In retrospect,it would have been really special to have had both sections completely open to each other, but that is another story.

For the next decade or so, and until my retirement in 1995, both Kul and I served in a variety of functions at the Headquarters. Our friendship continued to strengthen and our collaboration on many issues was one of the great professional and personal satisfaction that we both obtained from our work. In more ways than one can enumerate, we seemed to have the same views and concerns on matters that confronted the organization’s management. I always knew where he stood on issues, and that was such great solace for me,especially in my last post as Director of Personnel. The sterling work Kul did in preparation and follow up to the World Summit for Children will remain one of his most brilliant endeavours.

More than most colleagues, I was thrilled when I learned that Kul became one of the Deputy Executive Directors, a position that enabled him to accede to even higher professional grounds and make an even greater imprint on the development of UNICEF, both within its own spheres of work, but especially within the broader context of the UN. I continued to follow Kul’s work since my departure and was relieved to learn that both his philosophy and his actions continued steadfastly in the most positive manners.For this, I salute him . It is axiomatic that he will continue to be a pillar of society in whatever way he chooses and in whichever place he and Binata will find themselves in the future. I wish them both long life, good health and great humour.

Fouad M. Kronfol

Staffan de Mistura says:

I am currently in Bagdad…not a very easy location with tense moments and substantial risks..but believe me, Kul’s example of lifelong dedication and positive engagement helps me very often to remember why we should be persistent and find constantly ‘the light at the end of the tunnel”even when we find it difficult to see the tunnel…

please allow me to be part, even from far Iraq to this great secret surprise for a colleague and friend who has given so much to UNICEF and to each of us..

when I think of him I can not avoid smililing with optimism and repeat his favourite phrase ”why not.?.it can be done..!!” as was often his reply when presented with a new initiative in favour of UNICEF…

Staffan de Mistura

Baquer Namazi says:





Glen F. Maberly says:

Kul has been an exceptionally effective advocate and leader of the concept Children First. Kul has maximized opportunities to motivate other world leaders, to confront them on issues of inequity they are in a position to change. He has done this most effective work from both within the UN system and also with wider audiences. A great example has been his leadership and great timing in elevating the work of many who strive to see an end to the unnecessary scourge of vitamin and mineral deficiencies (VMD). From a personal perspective I want to acknowledge that he was a supporter of the 1990s Atlanta based Program Against Micronutrient Malnutrition (PAMM) and I would not have changed my career path from clinical medicine in Sydney to public health in Atlanta without that support. This came even before the 1990 World Summit for Children (the coming out of the VMD issue on the world stage). I remember lying on a jetty on Lake Lanier with Kul, Rick Trowbridge and 40 PAMM participants looking at shooting stars during one of his inspiring visits. Some of Kul’s other memorable contributions to the field I work in include:

Followed through with UNICEF’s commitment to Universal Salt Iodization (USI)

Orchestrated the launch of the Iodine Network at the 2002 UN Special Session on Children

Helping to shape and launching the Global and Country VMD Damage Assessment Reports (DAR)

Chairing of the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) Board

Navigating and negotiate the birth of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and serving on its Board

Launching the Flour Fortification Initiative (FFI) and challenging the grain industry to get on board at International Grains Council

Providing a plenary speech on VMD and flour fortification to the 900 participants of the ASEAN Food Conference in Kuala Lumpur earlier this year.

Kul has been a friend and great supporter of my lifetime work and mission. I know he will stay engaged in the next stage of his life as our work is far from done and we will continue to need him. Kul did well to find UNICEF and UNICEF has done much because of Kul. I wish him well in his retirement from UNICEF and hope that UNICEF will continue to be a great force for children and for humanity because it seeks leadership from people like Kul.

Kul – your legacy is strong and we have much to be grateful for because of your inspiring leadership – thanks and I wish you well.

Glen F. Maberly


Coordinator of the Flour Fortification Initiative

Hubert Department of Global Health

Rollins School of Public Health

Emory University, Atlanta, GA

Toshiyuki Niwa says:

It was a great privilege to get to know and work with Kul. While Kul and I had never had a chance to work together in the field, I got to know Kul because of my previous association with Nepal, as well as my tenure in the UN Secretariat. In fact, some five years ago, Kul approached me when I was in the Secretairat to find out whether I would be interested in becoming SRSG for Nepal during its difficult days . Because of my impending appointment by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to lead his Capital Master Plan and the lack of readiness of the UN to become politically active in Nepal, this proposition didn’t go any furhter. Through this contact, I got to know Kul’s love of his country, as well as his passion and drive.

It was of course a greater privilege to work and to be a next-door neighbor to Kul as a fellow Deputy Executive Director for a period of three years plus. Though it was relatively short, I have enjoyed my tenure in UNICEF very much. I found Kul to be a man of principle, vision and action, a living encyclorpedia of UNICEF, and a shrewd judge of people, a tremendous orator and, above all, a very thoughtful and caring individual. I have learned a great deal from Kul.

I wish Kul every success in his future endeavours. I also wish Kul and his family good health and happiness.

I am looking forward to the early realization of the general election in Nepal. This will enable me to get myself back again to work for Nepal where I had spent most wonderful five years of my life in mid-1980′s. You never know that Kul and I may be neighbours again!

Warmest regards!


Monica Sharma says:

Kul is inspiration – the depth and range of his call for action world- wide for children, his unique eloquence. I value his eye for innovation, for exploring the possibility of bringing new and deeper ways of addressing children’s needs. I cherish Binata and Kul’s caring for my family – for what he said to my father,who felt so proud -at the farewell when I left New York to serve in the field; and for his thoughtfulness and compassion during my father’s passage.Thank you Kul.


Director, Leadership and Capacity Development


Shamsul Farooq says:

I have known Kul since mid- seventies. Before my own retirement from Unicef last year, Kul, myself, Tom McDermott and few others were remnants of what Kul used to say ” Three Decaders in the Organization”. Kul has not only been a great friend, but a real mentor and source of inspiration for the entire period of my career with Unicef. I found him singularly honest, sincere and helpful . He never failed to point out the mission and vision of Unicef and constantly reminded us not to lose the focus on children as the prime responsibilities of all staff. He would do so in such a nice and pleasant way that would spontaneously motivate people around him to go for that extra mile.

Kul’s contributions for advancing the cause of the children all over the world will remain unmatched. He can feel proud for all the great things that he had achieved and helped Unicef to achieve. I am sure the children of the world would remember his efforts and his tremendous role- be it be in his advocacy role, programme strategic thinking, programme planning/ programme formulation areas and his unflinching guidance in implementation of those. Unicef became a much richer organization with Kul around. Yet he was so humble, so simple and always so accessible for advice and guidance. The word ” genuine” is written in all that he did and said. He has been a soft spoken individual. But the intellectual and knowledge strength of Kul would come out as soon as he would begin to talk. What an articulate and forceful speaker he is. It has been a great pleasure to listen to him on any subject.

Well, Kul- you may be retiring from Unicef, But I hardly see you giving up promoting the cause of children, no matter where you are and what you do. The children of the world would continue to need a person of your calibre. At my retirement, I remember you saying that ” the great challenge that you would face was that you would then become the longest-serving staff member in Unicef”. Whom are you passing on the baton on your retirement ???

My very best wishes. Hope our path will cross.

Warm regards.


Jan Vandemoortele says:

I always look up to comrade Kul. He embodies Plato’s ‘Philosopher-King’; the boss who is not a lover of power but a lover of wisdom. He offers a rare combination of intellectual curiosity with human kindness and compassion. Amazingy, Kul is always positive, always thinks positively and always sees the word positively. He is a gentle giant. There is much for us to learn from his gigantic wisdom and understanding.

With deep gratitude and fond memories of the many moments I was able to share with conrade Kul.

Jan Vandemoortele (camp Islamabad)

Sanjeev M. Sherchan says:

Kul Gautam ji was one of the first people I contacted when I first arrived in NYC in 2000 as a recent graduate from Baylor University. I had read about him and finally mustered enough guts to call his office for an appointment. Please note that if we were in Nepal, this would have taken longer and I would have probably asked someone senior to introduce me to Kul ji. He graciously offered to meet with me in spite of his insanely hectic schedule. He had no idea who I was and I had only heard and read about him. Kul ji patiently listened to what I had to say and offered his advice. What I came away from that meeting was that irrespective of his prominence, achievements, and full schedule, he was approachable, considerate and mindful of the angst of a young man who was just out of grad school. Seven years on, I continue to admire and look up to him. I still have the same aspirations and many are similar to Kul ji’s in many ways, namely, doing what is possible to contribute in Nepal’s transition towards an inclusive, democratic, stable and peaceful country. Kul ji has also shared his views at public forum organized by the Asia Society (where I am employed) and we have worked together outside of our professional lives. I am certain that he will continue to inspire the younger generations of Nepalis; I was a beneficiary of such inspiring moment in Spring of 2000!

Sanjeev M. Sherchan

Senior Program Officer

Policy and Business Programs

Asia Society, NYC

Steve Woodhouse says:

i have had the priviledge of knowing kul for more than 30 years-we are both products of the 1960′s students decade of idealism and wanting to change the world.kul came to visit us in penang a few months ago and i was struck by several things-first that his sense of enthusiasm that unicef can make a big difference is a sharp as ever.second his ability to inspire the young by his immensely interesting journey through life ( in this case my daughters)and third i thought that the great 19th century philosophers jeremy bentham and john stuart mill would were they around to meet kul hold him up as the best model of a utilitarian in practice-full of moral fire and idealism allied with intense practicality to benefit the greatest number of children to the maximum extent possible in a cost effective manner.i believe that unicef was enormously effective in the 1980′s and early 90′s when jim grant gave kul full rein to apply his enormous talents.kuls modesty remains a hallmark of his personal character.although he wiill leave a gaping chasm in unicef i am certain he will continue to contribute enormously to the fundamental cause behind unicef for many years to come!

best wishes

steve woodhouse

Torild Skard says:

I worked with Kul in several capacities: as representative of the Norwegian government, as chair of the UNICEF Executive Board and as UNICEF Regional Director in West and Central Africa. To me Kul represents UNICEF at its best. With his gentle appearance he is one of the most forceful people I know. He is profoundly devoted to the cause of children, spares no efforts to assist the vulnerable and weak and is completely professional dealing with the most complex and delicate matters. He is a man of great wisdom, high culture and warm generosity, relating to people with dignity and respect however different their views might be from his own, always ready to give a helping hand. Kul was not only a collaborator and a colleague, he also became a friend. And I went to see him every time I came to New York. Neither UNICEF nor the big apple will be the same without him. In any case, I became a stronger and richer person knowing him and so did many others. I wish Kul all the best in his retirement and hope we can stay in touch.

Torild Skard, Senior Researcher, Oslo

David P Haxton says:

Dear Kul

I wish you well. As you begin a new chapter of life, some of your goals will remain, new ones will appear. They will be linked with memories. Treasure them and take them out to look at once in awhile.

One of the treasurers of my life is the memory of working with good companions of high character. I was always lucky to be surrounded by UNICEF colleagues who were smarter than I and more perceptive. The team assembled in Indonesia in the mid 1970s was no exception. You were among those that dared to press new fields with confidence. I recall many staff meetings where I thought I could actually hear you thinking.

When we were working on survival and development and protection ideas we were not, perhaps, aware of the notion that some of them were a bit different. You led us on non formal learning and we all learned a good bit from you and the experience. Together we worked on getting growth monitoring started, and protection of breast feeding practices, and family planning, and diarrhea management, female learning and immunizing children. We were not aware, I think, that it was “GOBI”. The national effort in Indonesia to eliminate iodine deficiency began.

I never had the good fortune to work in the same team as you after that. But could admire your commitment from afar. Following the successful SAARC Conference for Children and the Global Summit for Children, I recall well a meeting with Jim Grant. I was retired but working with ICCIDD. You joined the discussion and the landmark Montreal Meeting to End Hidden Hunger was the result. Global plans got underway…MI were born. You were instrumental in making things happen.

Not only that. Your mark and soft touch are evident in all the follow up activities from the Global Summit; additional global meetings and plans; additional network and alliance building; additional stimulus to national programmes.

Millions of children are better off because you cared. You cared and others learned to care. Just like the poet said, “Lives of great men all remind us, we can make our lives sublime, And departing, leave behind us footprints on the sands of time. Footprints, that perhaps another, ….seeing, shall take heart again”.

I wish you well. I look forward to working with you on whatever you plan to undertake. I was and remain an admirer and friend.

Best regards

David P Haxton

Edwin Judd says:

I had the pleasure of meeting and working with Kul Gautam during my first assignment with UNICEF, beginning in 1976 in Jakarta, Indonesia. Kul was the Programme Coordinator for the community development and non-formal education programs, and I was beginning a three-year assignment as an adviser on the subject of urban kampung (low income community) services for children and women. We were both trying to plow new programme soil so that Indonesia would be able to better engage widespread poverty among its children.

Since then I have had the privilege and pleasure of working with Kul in subsequent assignments, as his deputy when he served as Director of the Programme Division during the early 1990s and then again, though too briefly, when he was the Regional Director in Bangkok and I was the Area Representative for China and Mongolia.Igained again when I worked under Kul’s leadership during 2002-2005 as Director of the Programme Division.

So,I have been truly blessed to have hadthe opportunity to know and work with Kul so frequently and fullyduring my 30 years withUNICEF.

However, not many people working in UNICEF today have had the opportunity to work with Kul in a country programme. My experience working with him in Indonesia was very special.It certainly shaped my approach to working with UNICEF. Kul helped me to gain a very profound understanding of what UNICEF needs to do to move from being a very good organization towards becoming a great organization, and what I needed to do tomake a more constructivecontribution. Just what have I learned from Kul?

Kul had a vision for the children of Indonesia. That vision required, among other things,Kul’sinfinite patience, hisperpetual persistence in a processto help Indonesia create, strengthen and sustain two young and struggling programmes in Indonesia. In the 1970s, it wasoften avery”sensitive”issue in Indonesia tospeak of poverty much less attempt to address poverty related issues affecting children. But Kul was not deterred. Hecreatedsome solutionsfor changeby engaging the government throughitsown policies on village stability, andpersuaded the government that achievingcommunity stability required a real measure of improved basic services for deprived groups, such as children and widespreadcommunity participation through village boards and women’s non-formal education groups.

Kul’s government partners had enormous respect for Kul. Theyknew he was solely interested in improving the lot of struggling families, communities and deprived children.Hence he earned their respect as well as their genuineaffection and admiration. So, it becomeclear to every one who knew Kul in the 1970s thathe would emerge as a major leader in UNICEF.

I learned a lot from Kul and I feel blessed that he took me under his wing professionally and that he has been such a fine friend personally over three decades. What did I learn?

-Plan to make a big difference on major problems affecting children and do not settle for lesser results. UNICEF has to be able to be “bigger than itself” and be better atmobilizing partnerships and all kinds of resources for children from both domestic and global sources.

1. Plan for programme sustainability from the outset and do not put it off.Unless it is part of a plan early on, it is a subject that often falls by the wayside. I remember Kul’s underscoring cultural, administrative, institutional, financial, technical, participatoryand other important factors on sustainabilityso that gains for child survival, protection and development will be durable as well as high quality.

2. Combine country programming with regional and cross-cutting global programming for each has an important role to play in improving the situation of children and women. I came to really appreciate this lesson during my second tour in Indonesia as Senior Programme Coordinator when the country Representative, Dan Brooks,put this lesson into playin support ofnationwide effort toexpand the coverage and quality ofkey health, nutrition and maternal services at the Pos Yandu–integrated service posts for children under age five and women.

3. Children are the subject of development and they are not an abstract object. They can and should be part of the dialog and debate about how to handle the issues and forces that are affecting their futures.

4. Just as there are three things that determine the value of real estate, that is–location, location and location, Kul has stressed that one action in particular is essential for meeting the rights and needs of children worldwide–advocacy, advocacy and advocacy.Effective advocacy though comes fromhigh quality situation analysis, more doable, evidence-basedand adequatelyfinanced strategies and the availability of well-documented lessons learned that can be adapted in differing country situations.

All of this wisdom Kul brought to the design, implementation and follow-upof the historicSpecial Session of the UN General Assembly in 2002 on children.In doing so, Kul played a pivotal role in pioneering the onset ofaparadigm shift in UNICEF, the UN system itself,and the broader global community.UNICEF should be just as much about how toget the UN system, including member states, as a whole toaddress the rights ofchildren becoming every body’s business. That effort should include the participation of children as well, which was demonstrated in 2002. Moreover, a stronger, more durablesystem of global accountability for the well being of children was put into place with a framework and global plan of action which is based on the collective accountability of member states of the UN.

In my small and inadequate way, I am now trying to continue and improve upon my knowledge and practice of these “Kul GautamPearls of Wisdom” in my new job as Chief Operating Officer for the Johns Hopkins International Program on the Health of Women and Children at its HQ in Baltimore. True, I cannot match the master, but I will try my bestto be a good helper.

Thank you, Kul, for allthe ways I and others in UNICEF and others in countless other organizationshave gained from your compassion, your passion, your intellectual and practical contributionsand your friendship for over three decades! All ofyour accomplishments and contributionscomprise your great legacy to UNICEF and the world’s children. From Eyreen, my wife, Mark, our son, and myself,we thank you so much,and we wish you,Binta and your entire family the very best as you moveto new and important undertakings.

Withwarmest personal wishes from Eyreen, Mark and myself,

Joe Judd

Sarojini Vittachi says:

The first thing I’d say is that I was surprised to know that he is retiring. Kul has always be young, to look at, in spirit and soul. His values, like those in Buddhism and Hinduism, embraced the best. So Kul is too young to ‘retire’ from working and I hope his energies, his intellect, his patience and his many wonderful qualities can be channelled to many new projects.

I have known Kul since his Delhi days, way back in the nineteen seventies. Once Kul began to speak, everyone listened. He was known for clarity, analysis, and thinking out of the box.

Over the years, in New York, I would see him under immense stress, with impossible deadlines imposed by Jim Grant and Dr. Nyi Nyi, yet with a smile, always with time to say a word to someone in the corridor, Kul would not only beat the clock but at a high level of quality and clarity. His pen flowed, admired and envied by all. This was particularly true during the preparation for the Children’s Summit.

So Kul, I do hope we will see you in our part of the world at some time. Do write your memoirs.

Sarojini Vittachi

Thangam House, Siloak Enclave, Hennur Cross, Bangalore

Jack C. Ling says:

In Kul one finds an extraordinary combination of talents: broad visions, clarify of thought, methodical approach to complex issues, ability to articulate solutions, and gift of persuasion. His ability to lead and motivate his colleagues is legendary. His journey from a humble Nepalese village, a diminutive curious pupil, to the 13th floor of UNICEF House, a giant of international development leader, attaining the highest rank of international civil service is awe inspiring. In my over half a century of development work, in the UN and in academia, I have not found anyone with a more easy sense of camaraderie than my friend Kul. His work on behalf of children will be long lasting. Only in his 50s, may he continue to toil for humankind for many, many decades to come!

Jack C. Ling

PS: Since so many people will be writing tributes for your surprise to Kul, you may wish to provide a more varied background of the writers. If you need to identify me, feel free to choose from the following: former Director of Information/Communication, UNICEF (1972-1982) and WHO (1982-1986); Professor Emeritus, International Health and Development, Tulane University; and Chair Emeritus, International Council for Control of Iodine Deficiency Disorders (ICCIDD).

Jon Rohde says:

Kul – few of us can think of Unicef without you there. Indeed, it may never be the same again in the absence of your quiet optimism and persistent good will.

Jim Grant called me in 1982, I think, to say he was coming to Haiti with a very special person. I met you both on the tarmac where started a 25 year friendship that spanned Jim’s time and, in some critical ways, has been even more important as you carried his vision and messages forward for more than a decade now. A worthy custodian of his dreams for children.

Those early days in Haiti were a unique time for me, when Unicef, USAID and WHO were indistinguishable, as our troika including Bob Fisher, met daily and built active strategy to give substance to the new Child Survival Revolution. Our campaigns for Serum Oral, the initial country wide Polio days, the Agents de Sante with weighing scales and nutrition rehab, the strength we built in colleagues like Serge Toureau, Josette Bijou, Eddy Genece, Gerald Lerebours and many others carried on for years after we left.

Even the daily tragedies: Biblop falling off the balcony, Bob crashing through closed glass doors, Jim breaking his toe at the beach house and accompanying you to the Presidential Palace, one large red toe protruding from a mangled tennis shoe, give pause for laughter now.

My biggest regret is that we didn’t work in the same place again, though visited often. Would that Delhi had been ours to strategize together! Few may realize the role you played in that first-ever meeting of global leaders. Jim always said it wouldn’t have happened without you. And as Jim predicted, others have followed to address children, environment, poverty – but somehow it had to start somewhere, and you saw to that, and have carried it on.

With Binta, you have been solid friends, wherever our paths have led. I trust we will have more time now to share our lives and reflect and write. All those whose careers we have been nurturing and encouraging all these years can now carry on. So many will remember and live by the principles you have shown us, with thanks; their turn to carry the torch that burned so brightly for Jim and for you.

Candy joins me with best wishes and prayers for your good health and long life.



Jon Rohde, MD

East London

Eastern Cape

South Africa

Samuel Koo says:

No superlatives would do justice to describe Kul and my admiration for him as colleague and friend. Everything about Kul G. is so special and exceptional. His total devotion to the cause which binds us all, his passion, humanity and humility in the best tradition of his mentor Jim Grant, his Tarzie Vittachi-like round-the-clock readiness to listen and share wisdom with a smile and encouragement, his ability to reduce the most complex issues to simple, compelling terms. To paraphrase Richard Jolly, Kul is every ounce “pure gold” (no need to look for a silver lining here). Let’s not overdo it though because no serious and proud UNICEF worker really leaves. One simply changes position and perspective. If my experience is any guide, one just carries on MINUS the draining hours of doing PERs, budgets and dozing off in inter-agency coordination meetings!

So, Kul, my “bravissimo” for the terrific, awe-inspiring service and friendship all these years!


Samuel Koo

Ambassador for Cultural Cooperation, Republic of Korea

Chairman, Organizing Committee, Global Network of Religions for Children Forum (Hiroshima, May 2008)

President, Lim Gill-Chin NGO School, Korea Green Foundation

David Inkey, the UN poet, aka David Burleson, UNESCO advisor to Unicef says:

Dear Kul,

25 years “friendship” from the last days of baby doc in haiti, thru son

win’s guatemala trip with the gautams for spanish immersion, thru my

cimenting comments on peace in el salvador, thru the tragedy of nepal’s

royal massacre, with jyotsna and betsy in summer camp together, with

forsythia for binta……ah, what a wonderful friendship……

dadnebas, david