Robert Jackson (UN administrator)

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Sir Robert Jackson
Secretary of the Department of National Development
In office
17 March 1950 – 30 September 1950
Secretary of the Department of National Development
In office
2 June 1951 – 15 July 1951
Personal details
Born Robert Gillman Allen Jackson
(1911-11-08)8 November 1911
Died 12 January 1991(1991-01-12) (aged 79)
Nationality Australia Australian

Sir Robert Gillman Allen Jackson AC KCVO CMG OBE (8 November 1911 – 12 January 1991) was a United Nations administrator who specialised in technical and logistical assistance to the developing world.

Early life

Jackson was born in Melbourne on 8 November 1911. He went to Mentone Grammar School, which his father Archibald Jackson had helped found, but his father's death meant he did not go to university and started his career in the Royal Australian Navy at 18.


He transferred to the Royal Navy in 1937 and proved his ability in his plans for defending Malta during the Second World War for which he was awarded an OBE.[1] In 1941, he was appointed principal adviser to Oliver Lyttleton, War Cabinet minister in Cairo, and his work with the Middle East Supply Centre encouraging local food production across many countries fostered his diplomatic and administrative skills.

After the war, he was responsible for the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA) projects in Europe, parts of Africa and the Far East, "the biggest UN relief operation ever".[2] Next he was assistant to Trygve Lie, first secretary-general of the UN, with whom he had an awkward working relationship, and then returned to the United Kingdom to work at the Treasury before moving to the Australian Ministry of National Development.

Jackson came to specialise in multiple purpose river development schemes, and his obituary in The Times said "he was associated with virtually all major undertakings of this kind in the developing world". While working on the Volta project in Ghana from 1953 to 1960, he got to know Kwame Nkrumah. His time in Ghana led to the awards of Knight Bachelor in 1956[3] and Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order in 1962.[4]

From the 1950s onward, he advised the governments of India and Pakistan, and in 1962 he went to the UN as consultant to Paul Hoffman of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), advising on technical, logistical and pre-investment aid to developing countries. By 1971, he had helped with UNDP projects in 60 countries.

The "Jackson Report" or "Capacity Study" on UN reform was published in 1969, urging that UN projects should be harmonised with a country's own development plan, and provoking some controversy. Margaret Anstee, another UN administrator, collaborated with him on this report. They became close personally as well as professionally, and their relationship continued until Jackson's death on 12 January 1991.

Jackson's last major operations were co-ordinating relief for Bangladesh between 1972 and 1975, and assistance for Kampuchea and Kampuchean refugees in Thailand between 1979 and 1984. He was made a Companion of the Order of Australia in 1986.[5]

He has been called a "master of logistics"[6] with his work in Malta, UNRRA, and Bangladesh given particular praise.

Personal life

He married Barbara Ward in 1950, after his first marriage had ended. They had a son in 1956, but were legally separated in the early 1970s.

Jackson died in London on 12 January 1991 of a stroke.[7][8]


  1. Our Name Wasn't Written,p93, Caroline Vernon, 1992, Imagecraft, Canberra (2nd Ed), ISBN 0-646-07198-X
  2. DNB
  3. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 40818, page 3801, 29 June 1956
  4. London Gazette: (Supplement) no. 42604, page 1479, 20 February 1962
  5. It's an Honour – Companion of the Order of Australia
  6. Gibson in DNB
  7. "Robert Jackson dies". The Canberra Times. 17 January 1991. p. 4.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. Costigan, Peter (29 April 1991). "Australian legend got things done". The Canberra Times. p. 8.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • James Gibson, writing in the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography
  • The Times, 17 January 1991

Further reading

  • James Gibson, Jacko, Where Are You Now? A life of Robert Jackson: Master of humanitarian relief, the man who saved Malta (Parsons, London 2006) ISBN 0-9553968-0-8
  • Robert G.A. Jackson, A Study of the Capacity of the United Nations Development System, 2 vols. (Geneva 1969)
  • Alan R. Raucher, Paul G. Hoffman: Architect of Foreign Aid (Kentucky 1985)
  • Brian Urquhart, A Life in Peace and War (London 1987)

External links

Government offices
Preceded by
Harold Breen
as Secretary of the Department of Supply and Development
Secretary of the Department of National Development
Succeeded by
Jack Stevens
Preceded by
Jack Stevens
Secretary of the Department of National Development
Succeeded by
Harold Raggatt