Arif Lalani is a CIGI distinguished fellow and a career Canadian diplomat with Global Affairs Canada (GAC), currently serving as director general, international organizations, in the Canadian foreign ministry. In this role, he also serves on the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth of Learning.
Arif took a leave of absence from GAC from May 2016 to May 2020 to head the Diplomatic Department of the Ismaili Imamat. He was appointed to this role by His Highness the Aga Khan.
He has served as ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, and was Canada’s first Special Envoy to the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, ambassador to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, ambassador to the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and (non-resident) ambassador to the Republic of Iraq. Other postings include New York (alternative representative to the UN Security Council); Washington, DC (counsellor); Ankara, Turkey (with accreditation to Georgia and Azerbaijan); and Copenhagen, Denmark.
At the Canadian foreign ministry, he has served as director general for strategic policy, director general for South and Southeast Asia and coordinator for the Balkans (including Canada’s role in the steering board for implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords).
Arif previously served as a member of the International Steering Board of the Hedayah, a centre for countering violent extremism, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Canadian Ditchley Foundation. He was a founding member of the Advisory Board of the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, a graduate school to develop professionals for careers in international affairs.
Arif came to Canada as a refugee fleeing conflict in Uganda in 1972. He has a B.A. (international relations) from the University of British Columbia and an M.Sc. (management, organizations and governance) from the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is the recipient of the following awards: Honorary Doctor of Letters (Ph.D.), Canadian University of Dubai; Alam Sayad Jamal-u-Din al Afghani medal, presented by the president of Afghanistan for promotion of Canada-Afghanistan relations; and the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal, for service to Canada and Canadians.