Richard Jolly

Richard Jolly

Research Associate

Sir Richard Jolly is Honorary Professor and Research Associate of the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex. He was the second Director of IDS from 1972-81 and then from 1982-95 Deputy Executive Director for Programmes of UNICEF, with the rank of UN Assistant Secretary General.

From 1996-2000, he was the Special Adviser to the Administrator of UNDP and Principal Coordinator of the widely acclaimed Human Development Report, overseeing reports on a human development approach to growth, poverty, consumption, globalization and human rights.

After this, he became co-director of the UN Intellectual History Project based at City University, New York, which led to a 16 volume history of the UN’s contributions to economic and social development since 1945. Richard was the senior author of the summary volume, UN Ideas That Changed the World. Summaries of all the volumes can be found on and a CD-ROM is available with the full transcripts of the 79 interviews with four Secretary Generals and others who have made major contributions to the UN.

Richard Jolly has served on the Council of the Overseas Development Institute and from 2001-6 was a Trustee of OXFAM and Chairman of the UN Association of the United Kingdom. He was made a Knight of the Order of St. Michael and St George in the New Year’s and knighted by the Queen in 2001 for his contributions to international development.

In UNICEF, Richard Jolly had responsibilities for UNICEF’s programmes in over 130 countries of the world, including UNICEF’s strategy for support to countries in reducing child mortality and implementing the goals agreed at the 1990 World Summit for Children. In UNICEF, he also led the agency’s efforts to ensure more attention to the needs of children and women in the making of economic adjustment policies, and co-authored the book Adjustment with a Human Face.

As a senior UN official, Richard Jolly was also closely involved with reform and collaboration among the operational agencies. From 1996 to 2000 he chaired the system-wide UN Sub-Committee on Nutrition (SCN) and from 1997-2004 the Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), both of which prepared major reports setting out global goals and strategies for reducing malnutrition and ensuring access to hygiene, sanitation and water on a world-wide basis.

During his time in IDS in the 1970s, he co-directed with Hans Singer in 1972, the ILO Employment Mission to Kenya,published as Employment,Incomes and Equality. In 1978, he served as Special Consultant on North-South issues to the Secretary-General of the OECD in 1978, and from 1978-1981 was a member and for three years rapporteur of the United Nations Committee on Development Planning. From 1982-1985, Richard Jolly was Vice President of the Society for International Development and from 1987-1996,Chairman of SID’s North/South Roundtable.

He has written or been a co-author of some 20 books including five of the volumes on UN history, UN Ideas That Changed the World; The Power of UN Ideas: lessons from the first 60 years; UN Voices: the struggle for development and Social Justice; UN Contributions to Development Thinking and Practice (2004) and Ahead of the Curve (2002); five Human Development Reports(1996 to 2000), and a number of other books including Jim Grant: UNICEF Visionary (2002), Development with a Human Face (1998); Adjustment with a Human Face (1987); The Bretton Woods Institutions and the United Nations; Challenges for the 21st Century (1995); Disarmament and World Development (1984); Planning Education for African Development (1969) and some 100 scholarly and more popular articles. Richard prepared a Short History of IDS for the Institute’s 40th anniversary, which was issued as an IDS Discussion Paper (388) and in 2014 a book on UNICEF: Global Governance that Works (Routledge).

On a lighter note, in 1959, Richard Jolly was secretary of the British Alpine Hannibal Expedition, which investigated Hannibal’s route across the Alps with the aid of Jumbo, a 1.5 ton elephant. This raised money for the UN’s World Refugee Year and led to Richard’s first published article “Hannibal’s route across the Alps: results of an empirical test”. There have been two anniversary crossings in 2009 and 2014, though each without an elephant.



Business and Development Centre

The Business and Development Centre (BDC) brings together thinking from business, economics, political science and development studies to tackle critical questions on the role of business in development, focusing initially on agriculture, food and nutrition, the green economy and public health.


Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development

The Centre for Rising Powers and Global Development is at the forefront of research and practical analysis that helps connect governments, donors, civil society, and academia to explore new way to address global development challenges.



Book review: How to Fight Inequality

Sir Richard Jolly has been a pioneer in understanding and addressing inequality throughout his distinguished career at the UN and Institute of Development Studies. In this inspiring review of a major new book, How to Fight Inequality (And Why that Fight Needs You) by Ben Phillips, Sir Richard...

5 January 2021


2019 Nobel* prize reveals the poverty of economics

The three new Laureates deserve the prize in economics in memory of Alfred Nobel. But the award shows how poor the modern economics discipline is in terms of gender equality, research methods, self-examination, and genuine insight into the lives of the poor. Congratulations are due to the...

Philip Mader
Philip Mader & 3 others

17 October 2019


Kofi Annan 1938-2018

Kofi Annan, one of the greatest UN Secretaries-General, died after a short illness on August 18. Although never having visited IDS, several of us had the privilege of interacting with him, experiencing first hand his principled, modest and forthright leadership and admiring his range of concerns...

21 August 2018



A Development Economist in the United Nations: Reasons for Hope

This book explores the joys and occasional frustrations of a development economist working for the United Nations. From 1982 to 2000 Richard Jolly worked in senior positions in UNICEF and UNDP on assignments that were innovative, for the UN, the countries concerned and for development. The book...

22 November 2022


COVID-19 and Children, in the North and in the South

Office of Research-Innocenti Discussion Paper

This paper aims to document the likely direct and indirect impacts of the COVID-19 crisis in developed and developing countries. It also aims to identify potential urgent measures to alleviate such impacts on children. Thirty-three years after the UNICEF report, 'Adjustment with a Human Face',...

Richard Jolly
Richard Jolly & 2 others

15 May 2020

Journal Article

Redistribution with Sloth—Britain’s problem?

Many if not most analyses of Britain's economic difficulties suggest that slow growth is at the heart of the problem—and an acceleration of growth the obvious cure. Past experience in Britain and in the Third World casts doubts on this. The eradication of unemployment poverty and other social...

16 August 2019

Journal Article

Redistribution with Sloth—Britain’s problem?

IDS Bulletin 48.1A

SUMMARY Many if not most analyses of Britain's economic difficulties suggest that slow growth is at the heart of the problem—and an acceleration of growth the obvious cure. Past experience in Britain and in the Third World casts doubts on this. The eradication of unemployment poverty and...

16 August 2019

Richard Jolly’s recent work


Reginald Herbold Green: An obituary

Reginald Herbold Green (born 4 May 1935) died aged 86 early on Saturday 16 October at Madeira House Nursing Home, Louth. Reg was a development economist specialising in East and Southern Africa and was a Fellow at IDS from 1975 to 2000, when he retired. Reginald Herbold Green was born...

26 October 2021


Sir Richard Jolly pays tribute to Paul Streeten, former acting IDS Director

Professor Paul Streeten, died peacefully earlier this month, aged 101, in his home in Princeton in the US. He was the acting Director of IDS in 1967-68, before Dudley Seers became Director. As a young man Paul was active in underground left wing politics in Austria, his country of birth, but...

11 January 2019