Delhi Sustainable Development Summit 2002
Helmkes thirty-year career in international development began in Brazil in 1969,
where he was Project Manager for a German bilateral land reform project in the Northeast
of the country. His second assignment was as Consultant for a program run by the German
Projekt Union and Agrar-und Hydrotechnik, which included the design of a regional
industrial development plan for Minas Gerais in East-Brazil (1971-73). Mr. Helmke first
joined the United Nations system in 1973 as head of the Brasilia office of the
International Labor Organization, where he developed industry-based programs in
professional rehabilitation and occupational safety. In 1974, he was appointed Deputy
Resident Representative of the UN Development Program (UNDP) in Brazil, where he
co-managed a $45 million program focused on science and technology.
Mr. Helmke left Brazil in 1977 to join the New York Headquarters of UNDP, initially as Area Officer for a sub-region comprising Mexico, Cuba, Haiti, and the Dominican Republic. In 1979, he joined the Office of UNDPs Administrator where, as Senior Planning and Coordination Officer, he led the development of a major management information systems project.
In 1982, Mr. Helmke moved on to Vienna to become Head of Program Coordination at the Department for Technical Cooperation of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), where he introduced a new approach for managing the agencys technical cooperation program and handled relations with IAEAs Board of Governors. He rejoined UNDP in Geneva in 1985 where, as Deputy Director of UNDPs European Office, he was responsible for technical assistance programs in such countries as Czechoslovakia, Poland, Hungary, Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, Malta, and Portugal.
In 1988, Mr. Helmke became the UNs Resident Coordinator in Haiti at a time of crucial UN assistance to that country. As Resident Coordinator, Mr. Helmke represented UNDP as well as several other UN agencies. During his tenure, he introduced international human rights programs, for which he received the Yves Volel Award, and he played a leading role in marshaling international support for Haitis first democratic elections.
Back in New York in 1991, Mr. Helmke became Executive Secretary of the UN Capital Development Fund, the only multilateral organization that provides small-scale capital assistance on a grant basis to the Least Developed Countries. Appointed Director of UNDPs Regional Division for Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States in 1992, he played a major role in developing a UN approach to support the transition of these countries to market economies and democracy. Among his achievements was the establishment of a network of 14 new UN offices in the countries of the former Soviet Union.
In 1994, Mr. Helmke became Executive Director of the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) at the level of Assistant Secretary-General. As Chief Executive Officer of the only entirely self-financing entity in the UN system, he oversees a project portfolio of $3.7 billion, an annual turnover in excess of $700 million, a permanent staff of 400, and 8 decentralized offices outside of New York. UNOPS is a business-like organization that provides procurement services, project management and supervision, and loan administration to UN and non-UN clients. To enable UNOPS to compete with private sector firms, Mr. Helmke has spearheaded a successful management reform, which has transformed UNOPS into the UNs leading project services provider.
A German citizen, Mr. Helmke obtained a degree in economics and public finance from the University of Hamburg. He has also studied at the University of Sarrebruck (Gemany) and the Universidade Técnica in Lisbon (Portugal). In the United States, Mr. Helmke studied information science and electronic data processing at Pace University in New York. In addition to his native German, Mr. Helmke is fully fluent in English, French, Portuguese, Spanish, and Créole.
Mr. Helmke is Chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Bonn International Conversion Center (BICC). He is a founding member of the International Akademie Schloß Baruch, Germany and an Associate member of ORBICOM, the International communications network with headquarters in Montréal, Canada. He also serves as a member of the Advisory Board of Social Accountability International (SAI).