It is with great sadness that the United Nations University (UNU) has learned of the death of Dr. Enrique Forero, a member of the UNU Council since May 2022. Dr. Forero died on 5 September 2023 at the age of 80.
An esteemed botanist and leader in Colombian and international scientific and academic circles, Dr. Forero dedicated his life to the study of the Earth’s botanical resources and preservation of the natural environment.
Enrique Forero was born in Bogotá, Colombia, on 7 December 1942. He held an undergraduate degree in botany from the National University of Colombia and a PhD from the City University of New York.
At the time of his death, in addition to serving as a member of the governing UNU Council, Dr. Forero was Chair of the International Science Council Regional Focal Point for Latin America and the Caribbean.
From 1967 until 2003, when he resigned as Full Professor, Dr. Forero served the National University of Columbia in a variety of roles, including as Director of the Colombian National Herbarium, Head of the Botany Section, first Director of the Graduate Programme in Systematics, Director of the Institute of Natural Sciences and Dean of the Faculty of Sciences.
He also had a notable international career, serving in such roles as Director of Research at the Missouri Botanical Garden (USA), international consultant for the National Center for Genetic Resources (Cenargen; Brazil) and Director of the Institute of Systematic Botany of the New York Botanical Garden, as well as visiting or adjunct professor at universities in Brazil, Colombia, Denmark and the United States.
Dr. Forero was instrumental in founding the Colombian Herbaria Association and the Latin American Botanical Association, of which he twice served as president, and was a founding member of the Scientific Committee of the Latin American Botanical Network.
In addition to his academic accomplishments, Dr. Forero was a fervent advocate for biodiversity conservation. For more than 20 years, he was actively involved with the Species Survival Commission of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the joint IUCN-World Wide Fund for Nature Plants Advisory Group. He also served as Colombian and South/Central American representative to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
Other leadership roles during his career included serving as President of the Colombian Academy of Exact, Physical and Natural Sciences (2013–2022), and President of the Colombian College of Academies (2015–2017). He was a member of the Executive Board of the Inter American Network of the Academies of Science, the International Science Council Freedom and Responsibility in Science Committee, and the Strategic Committee of the Science Panel for the Amazon.
Dr. Forero was the author of more than 120 publications.
“Dr. Enrique Forero will be remembered as a consummate botanist, scholar and leader within the international scientific community. His contributions to increasing our understanding of the Earth’s botanical diversity and wealth are immeasurable”, said UNU Rector Tshilidzi Marwala. “I am particularly grateful for Dr. Forero's contributions to the UNU Council. He will be sorely missed by his fellow UNU Council members and by all of us at the United Nations University. My thoughts are with his family at this very difficult time.”
Rector Marwala has instructed that the flag at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo shall be flown at half-mast for the next seven days to commemorate Dr. Forero’s life and accomplishments.