If Andrew Lansley were to submit a CV for the top humanitarian role at the UN – which David Cameron is nominating him for – what would he write under “relevant experience”?
Above: Lindsey Hilsum report on Andrew Lansley’s nomination for top UN job.
Certainly compared to previous incumbents of the post of undersecretary general (USG) for humanitarian affairs, his experience in humanitarian affairs, or indeed in any foreign affairs, appears sparse.
Nevertheless, as Channel 4 News International Editor Lindsey Hilsum revealed yesterday, the British prime minister is pushing Mr Lansley for the role – despite UN requests for more nominations.
The USG is responsible for the oversight of all emergencies that require United Nations humanitarian assistance and involves liaising with government, international organisations, aid agencies and affected communities.
With it comes a remuneration package estimated to be a gross salary of around $240,000, as well as other benefits including rental subsidies and education grants.
Since the position was created in 1992, there have been eight undersecretaries-general for humanitarian affairs, including two Britons, as well as Japanese, Brazilian, Danish and Swedish post holders.
The first USG at OCHA (Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs) was Jan Eliasson.
Eliasson’s previous experience included around 20 years in Sweden’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including as the director-general for political affairs. The year before becoming the first USG at OPCHA he was appointed chairman of the UN General Assembly’s working group on emergency relief.
As USG he was involved in operations in Somalia, Sudan, Mozambique and the Balkans and he took initiatives on issues such as land mines and humanitarian action. He is currently deputy-secretary-general of the UN.
An international relations academic, Mr Hansen joined the UN in 1985 and held senior roles in programme planning and co-ordination and transnational corporations.
The Japanese diplomat has been criticised for failing to prevent the Srebenica massacre that took place in 1995, the year before he assumed the office of OCHA USG. However, he did have lots of UN experience – working in disarmament and public information, both times as undersecretary-general. He was also involved in Cambodian peace negotiations.
A long career at the UN led to a posthumous award for his human rights work. He became USG at OCHA in 1996 – having previously worked in Bangladesh during its war of independence in 1971, Sudan in 1972 (during the return of 650,000 Sudanese refugees), and in Cyprus in 1974 after the Turkish invasion.
He also spent three years in charge of UNHCR operation in Mozambique durings its civil war, and was special envoy for the UNHCR in Cambodia – becoming the first and only UN representative to hold talks with the Khmer Rouge. He was a senior advisor to the UN interim force in Lebanon between 1981 and 1983.
In the early 1990s he worked in Cambodia and Yugolsavia clearing landmines, and was appointed assistant high commissioner for refugees in 1996. In 1998 he was appointed OCHA USG.
Vieira de Mello was killed in 2003 in the Canal hotel bombing, whilst serving as special representative of the UN Secretary General to Iraq.
Prior to his appointment as undersecretary general, Oshima oversaw Japan’s peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance program at the international Peace Cooperation headquarters in the office of the prime minister of Japan.
The Norwegian politician occupied senior roles at the UN, in the government and at the top of humanitarian NGOs before taking the job as head of OCHA – including being state secretary in the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, secretary-general of the Norwegian Red Cross and the UN secretary-general’s special adviser on Colombia.
His work had included peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation and was involved in complex relief operations such as the Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in Uganda, and in Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The first Briton to take the USG role was John Holmes, a British diplomat who joined the Foreign and Commonwealth office in 1973. He worked in various embassies across the world, and in the Near East and North Africa department of the FCO.
Baroness Amos was appointed International Development Secretary in 2003, though her tenure only lasted six months. She had previously worked as an advisor to the South African government on human rights, and as a trustee of Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO).
During her tenure Baroness Amos has worked on humanitarian crises including major flooding in Pakistan, famine in Somalia and the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines. As she leaves the job the world faces the Ebola epidemic as well as humanitarian issues in the Central African Republic, South Sudan, Gaza, Ukraine and Syria and Iraq.
Andrew Lansley’s CV does not include international or humanitarian experience.
He has worked in the Conservative Party’s research department, where he was David Cameron’s boss.
Between 2004 and 2010 he was shadow health secretary before being appointed health secretary when the Conservatives took office in 2010. His controversial tenure ended when he was sacked by David Cameron in 2012.
He was made leader of the House of Commons by David Cameron, a job that he left two years later.
The decision is now in UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s hands – bow to pressure from David Cameron and appoint Lansley, or look to a different country.
In her letter announcing her departure, Baroness Amos described her job as the “most challenging, demanding and rewarding job I have ever done”.
If he is appointed, questions will be surely asked if Mr Lansley is up to that challenge.