Mahdi Elmandjra was born 13 March 1933 in Rabat, Morocco. He started his high-school education at Lycée Lyautey in Casablanca in 1944 and received his Baccalaureate in 1948. He then went to Putney School, Vermont, USA from 1948 to 1950. Elmandjra obtained a B.A. in Chemistry and Political Science from Cornell University in New York in 1954, and a Ph.D. in Economics from the London School of Economics in 1957.
Elmandjra had a varied career, including the following positions. He worked as an assistant at the Faculty of Law in Rabat, Morocco from 1957 to 1958. Following this, he filled the position of Counsellor, Permanent Mission of Morocco to the UN in New York from 1958 to 1959.
From 1961 to 1963, Elmadjra worked at UNESCO as Chief of the Africa Unit in the Bureau of Relations with Member States, and from 1963 to 1966 he worked as Director, Executive Office of the Director-General. Between 1966 and 1970, he served as Assistant Director-General of Social Sciences, Human Sciences and Culture. He went on to work as Professor and Researcher at the Center of International Studies in London in 1970. Returning to UNESCO, Elmandjra served as Assistant Director-General for Pre-Programming from 1971 to 1975, and Special Adviser to the Director-General from 1975 to 1976. As Special Advisor, he was charged with studying the modalities of cooperation between UNESCO and the regional and national Arab funds, in particular with respect to the financing of operational activities.
After his career at UNESCO, he taught at the Faculté des Sciences Juridiques Economiques et Sociales, Université Mohamed V, in Rabat between the years 1976 to 1979. Subsequently he worked as Assistant Secretary-General, United Nations Development Programme, and he held the position of Special Consultant to the United Nations during the International Year of Disabled Persons from 1980 to 1981.
Elmandjra wrote extensively throughout his career, and several of his books have been translated into different languages. His many publications include: The United Nations System, 1973; No Limits to Learning (Report to the Club of Rome), 1979; Human Rights and Development, 1989; Islam and the Future, 1990; The First World Cultural War, 1991; Rétrospective des Futurs, 1992; Cultural Diversity Key to Survival, 1995; and Regionalization of Globalization, 2000.
Throughout his career, Elmandjra received several distinctions and awards, including: the Curzon Prize of French literature at Cornell University, 1953; the Rockefeller Award for International Relations, London School of Economics, 1955; the Order of Independence of the Kingdom in Jordan, 1959; the Chevalier de l'ordre des Arts et des Lettres , 1970; Prix de la Vie Économique, Paris, 1981; Grand Medal of the French Academy of Architecture, 1984; the Officier de l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres, France, 1985; Order of the Rising Sun (III), Japan, 1986; the Medal of Peace the Albert Einstein International Academy, 1991; and the Award of the World Future Studies Federation, 1995.
Mahdi Elmandjra died 13 June 2014.