During his 38-year career in Canada's public service, Bob Fowler was the foreign policy advisor to prime ministers Trudeau, Turner, and Mulroney; the deputy minister of national defence; Canada’s longest serving ambassador to the United Nations; the ambassador to Italy and the three Rome-based UN food agencies; sherpa for the Kananaskis G8 Summit; and the personal representative for Africa of prime ministers Chrétien, Martin, and Harper. An Officer of the Order of Canada, Mr. Fowler retired from the federal public service in the fall of 2006 and is now a senior fellow at the University of Ottawa’s Graduate School of Public and International Affairs.
In July 2008, the secretary general of the United Nations, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, appointed Mr. Fowler to be his special envoy for Niger, a country whose fragile development prospects continue to be threatened by an on-going insurrection in the northern Agadez region. While acquitting his UN mission, Mr. Fowler and his colleague, Louis Guay, were captured by al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) on 14 December 2008. The two were held hostage in the Sahara Desert for 130 days.