From May 1973 to December 1977, Mr. Pronk was Minister for Development Cooperation in the Den Uyl government in the Netherlands. Pronk has also had a distinguished career with the United Nations, serving as Deputy Secretary-General of UNCTAD (1980-1985) and Assistant Secretary-General of the UN (1985-86).
From 1986 to 1989, Pronk was first deputy chairman of the Dutch Labor Party. He was a professor of international development policy at the Institute of Social Studies in The Hague from 1979 to 1980, and in 1989 he occupied the Den Uyl Chair (endowed by the Wiardi Beckman Foundation) at the University of Amsterdam.
Jan Pronk was the treasurer of the Brandt Commission, and has also been secretary to the Mansholt Committee, and a member of the editorial board of The International Spectator. On August 3rd, 1998, he was appointed Minister of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment of The Netherlands.
As chair of the UN Conference of Parties of the Convention on Climate Change (CoP 6), held in Bonn, Germany, in July 2001, Pronk worked literally day and night to secure agreement on the Kyoto protocol. His hard work earned him the 2001 Climate e-award of the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Energy.
Secretary-General Kofi Annan selected Pronk as his Special Envoy to the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg, where Pronk skillfully moderated the discussion on the priority themes of Water and Sanitation, Health, Environment and Biodiversity. In March 2003, Jan Pronk was announced as the new chair of the Geneva-based Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council (WSSCC), formally taking over the position from Sir Richard Jolly in December 2003 at the Council's 1st WASH Global Forum in Dakar, Senegal.