Margaret Catley-Carlson is actively involved in organizations that apply science and knowledge to national and international problems in freshwater governance, health, agriculture, environmental protection, international development and development finance. She is the chair of the Global Water Partnership and the Crop Diversity Trust. She chairs the Board of ICARDA (Agricultural research in dry areas) in Syria and the Foresignt Advisory Committee for Group Suez Environment. She is the vice chair of the International Development Research Centre in Ottawa and is a member of the Board of Directors of the International Institute for Environment and Development in London and the Library of Alexandria (Egypt). Ms. Catley-Carlson was the president of the Canadian International Development Agency from 1983 to 1989 and the president of the Population Council from 1991 to 1999. She is a member of the World Economic Forum Global Agenda Council on Water Security, the Canadian Water Network, the United Nations Secretary-General's Advisory Board, the Syngenta Foundation, and the International Fertilizer Development Council.
Ms. Catley-Carlson's professional career began as a career diplomat in Canada. She has been a deputy minister of health for Canada and the deputy director of operations of UNICEF, with the rank of assistant secretary-general of the United Nations. She has received eight honorary degrees and became an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2002.