Sam Daws

Senior Practitioner Associate
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Sam Daws works on the interface of multilateral policy, diplomatic strategy, and geopolitics, with a focus on AI governance. He has worked in UN-related policy roles for over three decades. From 2000 to 2003 he served as First Officer to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York. He later served as Deputy Director in the UK Cabinet Office supporting the Prime Minister’s role as Co-Chair of the UN Panel on the creation of the Sustainable Development Goals. His previous roles included Senior Principal Research Analyst in the Multilateral Policy Directorate of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, Executive Director of the United Nations Association of the UK, and UK Representative of the United Nations Foundation.

In his early career he worked in India at a hospice in Calcutta (Kolkata) and a renewable energy project in Ladakh, and later for the Quaker UN Office in Geneva at the time of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He also served as a Parliamentary researcher for the incoming Chair of the House of Commons Defence Select Committee, and as the inaugural head of UNA-UK’s UN and Conflict programme.

Sam is a Senior Practitioner Associate in the Department of Politics and International Relations, with an interest in all aspects of UN research and policy. He has served as policy lead and Senior Advisor to Oxford University’s collaboration with the UN’s Academic Impact initiative, and has directed a UN Governance and Reform project for over ten years. He recently also served as Special Advisor to the Rector of the United Nations University, and as an Associate Fellow in the International Law Programme of Chatham House (The Royal Institute of International Affairs). He has written or co-edited 14 books on the UN including The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations (OUP, 2007 and 2nd edn. 2018) and The Procedure of the UN Security Council (OUP, 1998 and 4th edn. 2014).

His current policy focus is on the international governance of Artificial Intelligence. He is Senior Advisor to the start-up DiploAI, and the founding director of the diplomacy policy network, He has also served as strategic advisor on AI governance to the Simon Institute for Longterm Governance in Geneva.

Sam has served as an advisor to a variety of governments, international foundations and UN bodies including the office of four successive UN Secretaries-General. He designed the inaugural digital training on the UN for the FCO’s Diplomatic Academy, and has trained diplomats from a range of countries on how to navigate the politics and processes of the UN. He is a visiting lecturer on the international staff course of the Royal College of Defence Studies in London, on the MSc in International Strategy and Diplomacy at the LSE, and on the Oxford University Diplomatic Studies Programme. He has also taught courses on the UN and international negotiation for visiting students at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, and has served for ten years as a Sector Consultant (industry advisor - IOs and public policy) to Oxford University’s Saïd Business School.

Sam has a degree in social anthropology with African and Asian development studies, and a Masters in international conflict analysis. He studied for a DPhil at New College, Oxford in international relations (on UN Security Council reform) but left for New York before completing his doctorate to work for the UN Secretary-General.  He later spent a year at the University of Cambridge as a Visiting Fellow in International Law and was a visiting fellow at Yale University in UN studies. He has undertaken executive courses in international negotiation at the Centre d'études pratiques de la négociation internationale in Geneva; in environment and human security at the UNU leadership academy in Amman, Jordan; and in economics for foreign policy at the LSE.

He is Director of the advisory firm 3D Strategy Ltd. He has a postgraduate qualification from Cass Business School in Grantmaking, Philanthropy and Social Investment. In 2009 he completed the one-year executive leadership and management programme (TMP 91) of the National School of Government, sponsored by the Cabinet Office. He previously studied Foundation and Endowment Asset Management at London Business School. He is completing the AI Programme at Oxford's Saïd Business School.

Sam has been a non-executive director on the Boards of the Academic Council on the UN System and the World Federation of UN Associations, He was trust secretary to the UNA-UK charitable trust and a trustee of the Gilbert Murray Trust. He founded and convened the UN working group of the British International Studies Association, and served on BISA’s national executive committee.


Sam's research interests include:

  • The governance of Artificial Intelligence, and other emerging technologies such as synthetic biology and quantum.
  • The UN's Summit of the Future and the Global Digital Compact
  • The intersection of geopolitics and multilateral processes: from climate negotiations and energy policy to conflict prevention and management.
  • The evolution of China’s engagement with the multilateral system.
  • State strategies in navigating mini-lateral (G20, BRI etc.) and more formal (UN, AU, ASEAN, Arab League, GCC etc) multilateral processes.
  • Understanding G77 country perspectives on international organisations.
  • The appointment and role of the UN Secretary-General, and SG initiatives in tech, data, prevention, resilience and strategic foresight.
  • Elections to UN Security Council - historical precedents and current diplomatic strategy
  • The composition, voting procedures and reform of UN political organs, and UN member state groups and blocs.
  • Legal and political interpretations of the UN Charter and UN resolutions
  • Creation, strategy and consensus building in UN high-level panels and commissions
  • Private sector and sovereign wealth fund investment in sustainable infrastructure
  • Diplomatic academies and training in multilateral strategy and negotiation
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The Oxford Handbook on the United Nations, Thomas G. Weiss, T. and Sam Daws (eds) Oxford University Press, paperback 2020, hardback 2018. 

The Procedure of the UN Security Council, Loraine Sievers and Sam Daws, Oxford University Press, 4th Edn, 2013 (previously Bailey, S. and Daws, S. Oxford University Press, 3rd edn., 1998)

The United Nations (Sage Library of International Relations - 8 volumes of cross-disciplinary articles). Sam Daws and Natalie Samarasinghe (eds) Sage, 2015

The United Nations Volume 1: Origins and Evolution
The United Nations Volume 2: Machinery
The United Nations Volume 3: Roles and Relationships
The United Nations Volume 4: A UN for the 21st Century
The United Nations Volume 5: Conflict and Crisis
The United Nations Volume 6: Rights and Justice
The United Nations Volume 7: Poverty and Development
The United Nations Volume 8: Environment and Sustainability

The United Nations: Volume 1: Systems and Structures, Sam Daws. and Paul Taylor, Ashgate, 2000

The United Nations: Volume 2: Functions and Futures, Sam Daws and Paul Taylor, Ashgate, 2000

Documents on Reform of the United Nations, Paul, Taylor, Sam Daws and Ute Adamczick-Gerteis,  Dartmouth, 1997

The United Nations: A Concise Political Guide, Sydney Bailey and Sam Daws, Macmillan Press, 3rd Edn, 1994

Selected Articles and Reports

Sam Daws, Rebuilding Trust is Central to the UN’s Future, International Law Programme, Chatham House, March 2021

Sam Daws, Ten Lessons from the history of Global Governance Reform, Together First, 2019

Sam Daws and Tom Buitelaar, Note on the Election and Distribution of the Non-Permanent Members of the UN Security Council in The UN Secretary-General and the UN Security Council (eds) Manuel Fröhlich and Abiodun Williams (OUP, 2018)

Sam Daws, The Challenges and Opportunities facing António Guterres, UNA-UK, 2016.

Sam Daws, Security Council Reform: The Dual Risks, Proceedings of an International Conference on UN Reform, Tehran, 2005

Shashi Tharoor and Sam Daws, Humanitarian Intervention: Getting Past the Reefs, World Policy Journal, Volume XVII, No. 2., pp 21-30, 2001

Frances Stewart and Sam Daws, An Economic and Social Security Council at the United Nations, Working Paper Series, 2001 (based on our original 1995 report for Christian Aid)

Sam Daws, The United Nations in the Twenty-First Century, Current Issues in International Diplomacy and Foreign Policy Volume II, HMSO, 2000 (Also published as a Wilton Park Paper, No. 135, 1998)

Sam Daws, The Origins and Development of UN Electoral Groups in Thakur, R. (ed.) What is Equitable Geographic Representation in the 21st Century? United Nations University, Tokyo, 1999

Sam Daws, Proposals to Reform the UN Security Council, Oxford Analytica, Daily Brief, 24 Feb, 1998

Sam Daws, Seeking Seats, Votes and Vetoes, The World Today, pp 256-259. Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1997

Sam Daws, The United Nations and its Agencies in Day, A.J. (ed.) The Annual Register. Cartermill, 1994 (similar UN reference articles contributed to The Annual Register of 1995, 1996 and 1997)

Sam Daws and Lt Commander Chris Brady, UN Operations: The Political-Military Interface, International Peacekeeping, Volume 1 No. 1. Frank Cass, London, 1994

Sam Daws, The UN and Peacekeeping in Shepherd, R. (ed.) Operational Research and Future International Security Operations, 1994 (Proceedings of the 10th International Symposium on Military Operational Research)

Sam Daws and Nick Ryan, Extending Mechanisms for Cooperation between the UN and Regional Bodies in Preventive Diplomacy and Conflict Management in Bravo, L.F. (ed.) Prospects for Reform of the United Nations System. Societ Italiana Per La Organizzazione Internazionale, CEDAM-PADOVA, Rome, 1993.

Sam Daws, Preventive Diplomacy A UN/NGO Partnership in the 1990s. United Nations University, Tokyo and International Alert, London, 1993

Sam Daws, Memorandum on An Agenda for Peace. UNA-UK, London, 1993

Sam Daws and Suzanne Long, The CSCE and the United Nations - Competitors or Partners?, Proceedings of the European UNA Conference on The New Europe in a Wider World, Helsinki, Finland. UNA, London, 1992

Bruce George MP and Sam Daws, The Alphabet Soup of European Security: The Evolving Role of NATO, WEU, EC, CSCE & the UN, Report to the General Committee on Security, 1992 (CSCE Parliamentary Assembly, Budapest)

Sam Daws. Intellectual Property in International Trade: The Case of Developing Countries and the GATT Uruguay RoundUniversity of Kent at Canterbury, MA thesis. Mimeo, 1991

Sam Daws, La crise de l’environnement et les PMA in Stocker S. (ed.) Les pays les moins avances dans les annes 1990 - Entre la relance et l’oubliICDA, Bruxelles, Belgique, 1990

Sam Daws and Jenny Pryke, The Second UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Development Education Forum No.18. Lutheran World Federation, Geneva, 1990

Martin McPherson and Sam Daws, United Nations Commission on Human Rights: 46th Session. Quaker UN Office, Geneva, 1990

Sam Daws, Environmental Issues - A focus for NGO Lobbying, Dialogue No.14. Futura, Italy, 1990

Martin McPherson, Joanna Hindley and Sam Daws, The UN Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and the Protection of Minorities in IMADR Human Rights Handbook Volume 2, 1989