You are here: Open Letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson on UN Emergency Relief Coordinator appointment process

To: Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP, UK Prime Minister

Cc: Rt Hon Dominic Raab MP, Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Affairs

 

Tuesday 9 March

Dear Prime Minister, 

We are writing to urge you to champion a transparent, inclusive and merit-based appointment process for the UN’s Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC), the head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN’s most senior humanitarian official. 

As individuals with experience working on humanitarian issues, we recognise the enormity of the challenge that will face the next post-holder. As the UN Secretary-General described, “2020 has been a year like no other. Conflict, climate change and COVID-19 have created the greatest humanitarian challenge since the Second World War”. This challenge will only become more acute in coming years.  

The importance of the ERC’s leadership cannot be overstated. While responsibility for the appointment resides with the UN Secretary-General, influential Member States, including the UK, have significant sway over this decision. Secretaries-General have in the past circumvented due process and requested names directly from leaders of Permanent Members of the Security Council. 

Over the past decade 20% of roles at Under-Secretary-General or above have gone to nationals of the Permanent Members – nearly 10 times higher than is proportional. “Ringfencing” roles excludes a large swathe of global talent and creates a perception of partiality, which can undermine the appointee’s authority and compromise the Secretary-General’s independence. 

We urge the UK to build on its role championing gender parity and fair power structures based on accountable, transparent institutions, specifically its work to bring transparency, competition and inclusivity to the 2021 selection of the UN Secretary-General. We ask the UK to push to ensure that best practice and recommendations from the UN General Assembly for senior appointments are followed. 

With respect to the current vacancy, the UK should encourage the UN to conduct an international search to ensure the strongest possible open field of candidates with a commitment to principled humanitarian action. 

As a vocal advocate for transparency and inclusivity, the UK is well placed to make this case. Doing so will strengthen the rules-based international system and help ensure that the next ERC has the authority, experience and skills to execute the most critical leadership role in the international humanitarian system. 

Yours faithfully,

Signatories:

Christine Allen, Director, CAFOD

Michael Asquith, Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Eritrea

Dr Martin Barber OBE, Former Director of the United Nations Mine Action Service

Sir Peter Bottomley MP, Vice Chair, All‐Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations

Mark Bowden CMG, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Special Representative for Afghanistan

Andreas Bummel, Co-founder and Executive Director of Democracy Without Borders 

John Burley, Former Director, UNCTAD

Dr Lisa Cameron MP, Vice Chair, All‐Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations

Sir Suma Chakrabarti KCB, Chair, ODI 

Sarah Champion MP, Chair of the International Development Select Committee

Maureen Connelly, Former Inspector-General, UNHCR

Marissa Conway, Co-Founder, Centre for Feminist Foreign Policy

Sandra Coyle, Consulting Executive Director, World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy

Sam Daws, Former First Officer to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Alan Doss, Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General and Head of Mission in Liberia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Robert England, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Thailand

Andrew Gilmour CMG, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights

John Good, Interim CEO, ActionAid UK

Ann Grant, Former Director, Africa & Commonwealth Region at Foreign & Commonwealth Office 

Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG, Former UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Former Chairman of UNA-UK

Lord Hannay of Chiswick GCMG, Former UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations and Co-Chair of the All‐Party Parliamentary Group on the United Nations

Sir Richard Jolly KCMG, Former Deputy Executive Director for Programmes, UNICEF

Terence Jones, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Bhutan, Malawi and Philippines

Matthew Kahane, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Tajikistan and Nepal

Professor Randolph Kent, Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Somalia, and UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Kosovo and Rwanda

Bishop Declan Lang, Chair of the International Affairs Dept of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales

Frederick Lyons, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Benin, Mexico and Kenya and Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Russia, Iran and Sri Lanka

Rt Hon Lord Mark Malloch-Brown KCMG, Former UN Deputy Secretary-General and Former UK Minister of State for Africa, Asia and the United Nations 

Ian Martin, Former Special Representative of the Secretary General and Head of Mission in Timor Leste, Nepal and Libya

Paul Matthews, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Bhutan and Cambodia

Jamie McGoldrick, Former UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Palestine and Yemen and Resident Coordinator in Nepal and Georgia

Christopher Metcalf, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Swaziland, Burkina Faso, Madagascar and Algeria

Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Former Secretary of State for International Development

Nicholas Morris, Former UNHCR Special Envoy and Inspector General

Edward Mortimer CMG, Former Chief Speechwriter and Director of Communications to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan

Simon Moss, Co-Founder and Managing Director for Campaigns, Global Citizen

Amanda Mukwashi, Chief Executive, Christian Aid

Paul Murphy, Executive Director, Saferworld

Dr Sara Pantuliano, Chief Executive, ODI

Charles Petrie OBE, Former UN Assistant Secretary-General and Secretary General’s Executive Representative for Burundi

Sir Kieran Prendergast KCVO CMG, Former UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs

Lord Purvis of Tweed, Liberal Democrat International Development and Trade Spokesman

Madeleine Rees, Secretary-General, Women’s International League of Peace and Freedom

Rt Hon Clare Short, Former Secretary of State for international Development

Alyn Smith MP, SNP Spokesman for State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs

Dr Danny Sriskandarajah, Chief Executive, Oxfam GB

Mandeep Tiwana, Chief Programmes Officer, CIVICUS

Dr Kevin Watkins, Chief Executive, Save the Children UK

David Whaley, Former UN Resident Coordinator in Benin, Algeria, Kenya and South Africa and Deputy Assistant Administrator, UNDP

Andrew Whitley, Former Director, UN Refugee Works Agency 

Lord Wood of Anfield, Chair, United Nations Association - UK and Vice-Chair, All‐Party Parliamentary Group on the UN

Sir Nick Young

 

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