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Stephen Lewis

Celebrated Humanitarian & Former UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa

Stephen Lewis is one of Canada’s most influential commentators on social affairs, international development and human rights. He has been named by TIME magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in the world ( in the category which included The Dalai Lama, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and Nelson Mandela).

Toronto, Ontario, Canada


Global Concerns – When the Bottom Line isn’t enough
Stephen Lewis kicks off this event with a fresh perspective on global issues and a frontal challenge to the myths of globalization. Drawing upon his extensive political and international experience, Mr. Lewis will explore the role of leadership in promoting a different set of economic and social priorities for the 21st century.

Global Issues – Local Impact
Universities are, first and foremost, centres of academic excellence and academic inquiry. But if they are to be relevant to the modern world, they must understand the nature of community, especially the community of which they are a part, and understand, increasingly, that they have obligations to the wider world as well. Mr. Lewis will explore both those themes, drawing on personal experience to make his case.

Education- Education: The World’s Greatest Force For Good
Mr. Lewis, using the themes of the conference, will explore the way in which education, throughout the world, transforms the lives children lead, and is perhaps the greatest, unacknowledged instrument we have for dramatic social change.

Politics- The Power of Community: Creating Positive Environments
Mr. Lewis will speak on the importance of community in the lives of children, focusing on leadership, accountability, health and education in both a national and international context. Mr. Lewis will examine the concept of peace as something far more fundamental than the absence of war, and in so doing will explore the application of the UN Millennium Development Goals. He will attempt to set everything in the broad context of human rights, and will argue that civil society has emerged as the fundamental social agent to secure those rights.

Human Rights Gone Wrong: A pattern of world indifference
Stephen Lewis will examine the problem from global and local perspectives, with an emphasis on social and economic rights.

Climate Change
In 1988, Stephen Lewis chaired the first international conference on Climate Change, which drafted the first comprehensive policy on global warming. Two decades have passed since the political leaders, ambassadors, scientists and environmental activists joined Stephen in declaring what remains one of the best, though starkest, pronouncements about global warming: “Humanity is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, globally pervasive experiment whose ultimate consequences could be second only to a global nuclear war”. From his unique historical and global perspective, Stephen Lewis will talk about those consequences, focusing on the interconnection of health, social justice and poverty in the context of global climate change.



Bonham Centre Award | University of Toronto

Health and Human Rights Leadership Award | Doctors of the World-USA.
World Citizenship Award | World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts

Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Leadership Award | Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Baylor College of Medicine

The International Council of Nurses' Health and Human Rights Award, awarded quadrennially for outstanding contributions to international health and human rights.

Pearson Peace Medal
Canadian Booksellers Association | Libris Award for nonfiction book of the year
CBA | Author of the Year

Jonathan Mann Health and Human Rights Award | International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care
Dean's Distinguished Service Award from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, in recognition of outstanding contributions to public health

  • The audience was moved and inspired. Stephen referred to several of our projects in such detail that it was clear that he had taken pains to become informed about Leadership Mount Allison. He grasped the essence of what these projects are trying to accomplish and communicated this to the audience. For students and faculty alike, this was extremely gratifying and encouraging.

    - Mount Allison University
  • Your address was wonderful. It provided us with the tools and information to enhance our advocacy efforts, both collectively and individually. And the passion you have for your convictions was truly motivational.

    - The Easter Seal Society
  • Your presentation touched the hearts and minds of all registrants and was the subject of discussion throughout the symposium. We could not have found a more compelling and passionate speaker.

    - Association of Fundraising Professionals
  • The event with Stephen Lewis was an extraordinary success. He was amazing and I am still fielding compliments on his speech!

    - Canadian Blood Services
  • We couldn’t be more pleased with last week’s event featuring Mr. Lewis. He was an inspiring, engaging and gracious speaker and guest.

    - Alumni & Donor Relations Officer, Carleton University

Summary Profile

Mr. Stephen Lewis is a Professor of Practice in Global Governance at the Institute for the Study of International Development at McGill University and a Professor of Distinction at Ryerson University in Toronto.  He serves as the board chair of the Stephen Lewis Foundation, which is dedicated to turning the tide of HIV/AIDS in Africa, and he is the co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World, an international advocacy organization.

Mr. Lewis is a Senior Fellow of the Enough Project.  He is an immediate past member of the Board of Directors of the Clinton Health Access Initiative, and Emeritus Board Member of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative.  He served as a Commissioner on the Global Commission on HIV & the Law and in 2015 was appointed to the Lancet Commission on Drug Policy and Health.

Stephen Lewis’ work with the United Nations spanned more than two decades.  He was the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa from June 2001 until the end of 2006.   From 1995 to 1999, Mr. Lewis was Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF at the organization’s global headquarters in New York.

In 1997, in addition to his work at UNICEF, Mr. Lewis was appointed by the Organization of African Unity to a Panel of Eminent Personalities to Investigate the Genocide in Rwanda. The Rwanda Report was issued in June of 2000.

In 1993, Mr. Lewis became coordinator for the international study—known as the Graça Machel study—on the “Consequences of Armed Conflict on Children.” The report was tabled in the United Nations in 1996.

From 1984 through 1988, Stephen Lewis was Canadian Ambassador to the United Nations. In this capacity, he chaired the Committee that drafted the Five-Year UN Programme on African Economic Recovery.  He also chaired the first International Conference on Climate Change, in 1988, which drew up the first comprehensive policy on global warming.

From 1970-1978, Mr. Lewis was leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party, during which time he became leader of the Official Opposition.

He holds 40 honorary doctorates: 38 from Canadian universities, plus degrees from Dartmouth College and Johns Hopkins University in the United States.

Mr. Lewis was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest honour for lifetime achievement, in 2003.  The same year, Maclean’s magazine honoured Mr. Lewis as their inaugural “Canadian of the Year.”  In April 2005, TIME magazine listed Stephen Lewis as one of the “100 most influential people in the world.”  In 2007, King Letsie III, monarch of the Kingdom of Lesotho (a small mountainous country in Southern Africa) invested Mr. Lewis as Knight Commander of the Most Dignified Order of Moshoeshoe.  The order is named for the founder of Lesotho; the knighthood is the country’s highest honour.

During the course of his tenure as Special Envoy, Mr. Lewis received a number of prestigious awards.  Amongst them are the Jonathan Mann Health and Human Rights Award from the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care (2003); the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, in recognition of outstanding contributions to public health (2003); the Pearson Peace Medal, awarded by the United Nations Association in Canada to celebrate outstanding achievement in the field of international service and understanding (2004);  the International Council of Nurses’ Health and Human Rights Award, awarded quadrennially for outstanding contributions to international health and human rights (2005); the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Leadership Award, from the Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative, Baylor College of Medicine, Texas (2006); and the Health and Human Rights Award from the Doctors of the World, USA (2007).

Stephen Lewis’ best-selling book, Race Against Time was a finalist for the Writers’ Trust Award and the Trillium Book Award. It won the Canadian Booksellers Association’s Libris Award for non-fiction book of the year, and Mr. Lewis was named the CBA’s Author of the Year for 2005.