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Major New Staff Appointments at the UN and Departures


Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, during a visit to Bangladesh in  2012.
Anthony Lake, executive director of Unicef, visiting Bangladesh in 2012. An American, he has won a second term to the job.

Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, has appointed at least a dozen new people to high-level positions — including five women — primarily in Africa in the last few months, while the organization also loses some executives. Three new force commanders have been named for various peacekeeping missions as well.

At Unicef, Anthony Lake, an American, was reappointed executive director, a post he has held since 2010. Lake was the United States national security adviser from 1993 to 1997, under President Bill Clinton. Under his stewardship, Unicef has made strides in reaching the world’s poorest children to improve vaccination rates and emphasized the deadly toll of such seemingly straightforward afflictions as chronic diarrhea and how it can be remedied through oral rehydration salts. His office has also publicized how expanding economic gaps in low- and middle-income countries hurt children’s health at the bottom rung to fatal effects.

Lake, 75, noted in an interview in 2012 Unicef”s progress, including the child death rate dropping 35 percent since 1990. Unicef has always been led by an American.

Ban chose Peter Thomas Drennan of Australia to become under secretary-general for safety and security in the UN Department of Safety and Security, replacing Kevin Kennedy of the US, the acting head. The position oversees the security of the UN’s 145,000 civilian employees and their families worldwide. Drennan, who since 2009 was the deputy commissioner of national security with the Australian federal police, has also worked at the international level in counterterrorism and peacekeeping missions with the UN and regional operations. He has done postgraduate studies in human resource management and police executive leadership programs with the Australian Institute of Police Management. He was born in 1957.

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Among senior UN officials who are leaving is Peter Launsky-Tieffenthal, the head of the Department of Public Information. He is departing in mid-July, after two years in the job, to return to his home country of Austria to work in the country’s foreign ministry, where he was previously the foreign desk’s spokesman. Launsky-Tieffenthal, 56, is leaving as UN coordinator for multilingualism as well; the UN has five official languages: Arabic, Chinese, English, French and Russian.

He said in a phone interview that one of the main accomplishments of his department has been better communicating the world body’s functions by using more accessible language — avoiding acronyms, for example — and by explaining the relevance of its work to ordinary citizens through its website and other media channels.

He also noted that by using social media more strategically, the number of “followers” of the UN Secretariat website alone has jumped to eight million from two million in two years, with messages translated in not only the five official languages but also in 40 additional languages as much as possible. The largest followers come from the Sina Weibo website in China and the UN’s English-language Twitter account.

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Rebeca Grynspan, a Costa Rican who was second in command at the UN Development Program, after Helen Clark, quit this spring to work in Madrid as secretary-general of the Iberoamerican Secretary General, the support arm of the 22-member-country organization. Grynspan, 58, had been widely expected to become the new UN Women executive director after Michelle Bachelet, now the president of Chile, resigned to run for that office in 2013. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, a South African, got the job at UN Women instead and started in August 2013.

Maria Eugenia Casar
Maria Eugenia Casar of Mexico.

Taking Grynspan’s place at the UN Development Program is María Eugenia Casar of Mexico. She was most recently assistant secretary-general for program planning, budget and accounts and controller and the secretary-general’s envoy for the UN Joint Staff Pension Fund. Before the UN, Casar was the treasurer of Mexico. She was born in 1959 and has an undergraduate degree in public accounting and an M.B.A. from the Mexico Autonomous Institute of Technology.

Jessica Faieta of Ecuador has been named assistant secretary-general, assistant administrator and director of the regional bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean for the UN Development Program, a promotion from deputy regional director. She succeeds Heraldo Muñoz of Chile, who has returned to his country to become foreign minister. Normally, an upper-level job such as Faieta’s is awarded to relevant politicians outside the UN, on the theory that they can inject new ideas and connections to an agency; Faieta’s promotion from within the organization reflects her solid grounding in the UN Development Program’s work.

Faieta has also been the senior country director for the UNDP in Haiti, where she led the agency’s post-disaster recovery efforts after the 2010 earthquake. She has a master’s degree in international affairs and an M.B.A., both from Columbia University; her undergraduate degree, in economics, is from the State University of New York in New Paltz.

Many of the other new appointments pertain to Africa, where the UN is invested heavily in peacekeeping, development and humanitarian operations; several of the assignments went to people from the continent, an increasing trend.

A significant departure is that of José Ramos-Horta, the UN envoy for Guinea-Bissau since January 2013 and a Nobel Peace Prize winner. He is leaving this month, news that was first reported in PassBlue. Ramos-Horta will become chief executive of UBrainTV, an Internet news service based in Tokyo. He is also resigning as chief of the UN’s peace-building office in Bissau, the Guinea-Bissau capital.

The country, one of the smallest in West Africa, recently held presidential elections in a surprisingly calm mood, belying its legacy of coups. It has become a major transit point for cocaine trafficking from South America to Europe. Heroin shipments from Asia are also making inroads.

One candidate who may be in the running to replace Ramos-Horta is the former president of São Tomé and Principe, Miguel Trovoada, 77.

Also in Guinea-Bissau, a former Portuguese colony, Marco Carmignani of Brazil has been named the new political deputy envoy for the UN Peacebuilding Support Office. For the last seven years, he has worked in UN missions in the Middle East. Carmignani, who was born in 1959, has a law degree from Rutgers University in Newark, N.J., and an engineering degree from the Aeronautic Institute of Technology in Brazil.

Laurence Wohlers, an American career diplomat, has been named the deputy political envoy for the Central African Republic mission of the UN, called Minusca, a new entity that is taking over the joint African Union-French operation installed this year to control the ethnic-religious convulsions that began in December 2013 in the capital, Bangui, and continues today. Minusca will grow to a total of 11,800 uniformed personnel, many of whom are to arrive by the fall. Wohlers, who speaks French, was the US ambassador to the country from 2010 to 2013. He was a US public affairs officer there 25 years earlier. Wohlers has a bachelor’s degree from Washington University in St. Louis and an M.S. from the National War College. He was born in Japan in 1955.

Besides Wohlers, Minusca has a new deputy special envoy: Aurélien Agbénonci of Benin, who will also be the UN’s resident coordinator and the UN Development Program resident envoy, wearing several hats to streamline UN operations in the Central African Republic. He replaces Georg Charpentier, a Finn. (Lieut. Gen. Babacar Gaye of Senegal is the chief UN envoy in the country.)

Agbénonci, who was born in 1958, was most recently the top UNDP representative in Mali, from 2012 to 2013. He has worked for the UN in Rwanda, Republic of the Congo, Ivory Coast and Cameroon. He has graduate degrees in international trade law from the University of Paris X, Nanterre, and in institutional development, governance and environmental sciences from the University of Dakar in Senegal. In addition, he has a master’s in business law from the University of Dakar.

Hiroute Guebre Sellassie
Hiroute Guebre Sellassie of Ethiopia.

In African regional offices, Hiroute Guebre Sellassie of Ethiopia is the new envoy for the Sahel. She succeeds Romano Prodi of Italy, who finished his term in January. Guebre Sellassie leaves her position as director of the political affairs division and head of the Goma regional office in the UN peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where she has worked since 2007. Before joining the UN, Guebre Sellassie was Oxfam’s peace-building and conflict management adviser for East and Central Africa. Guebre Sellassie was born in 1952 and has a law degree from the University of the Sorbonne in Paris.

Abdoulaye Bathily of Senegal is the new envoy for Central Africa and head of the UN Regional Office for Central Africa (called Unoca), based in Libreville, Gabon. Bathily succeeds Abou Moussa of Chad. Bathily was the deputy envoy for the UN mission in Mali — Minusma — until July 2013. He has held ministerial posts in Senegal, including in African affairs, energy and hydraulics and the environment. He holds a Ph.D. in history from the University of Birmingham in Britain and a doctorate from Cheikh Anta Diop University in Senegal. He was born in 1947.

Kim Bolduc of Canada is replacing Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber of Germany as envoy for Western Sahara and will run the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara, or Minurso, which has about 500 staff members. The change takes place Aug. 1. Bolduc was most recently the UN resident coordinator and UN Development Program resident representative in Panama, from 2010 to 2014; previously, she was deputy envoy and humanitarian coordinator for the UN mission in Haiti. Since she joined the UN in 1987, she has worked in the field in Ecuador, Honduras, Iraq and Peru and in Africa. She earned a master’s degree in international development and cooperation and a bachelor’s degree in linguistics and interpretation, both from Ottawa University. She was born in 1952 in Vietnam.

General Portolano of Italy.
General Portolano of Italy.

Maj. Gen. Hafiz Masroor Ahmed of Pakistan is the new force commander for the UN operation in Ivory Coast. He replaces Maj. Gen. Muhammad Iqbal Asi of Pakistan. Pakistan is a leading troop-contributing country to UN peacekeeping operations. Most recently, General Ahmed commanded an infantry division in Pakistan. He has a master’s degree in defense and strategic studies from the National Defense University in Islamabad and a master’s degree in war studies from the University of Balochistan. Born in Pakistan in 1962, he is also a graduate of the Command and General Staff College of Fort Leavenworth in Kansas.

Maj. Gen. Luciano Portolano of Italy is the new force commander of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (Unifil). General Portolano succeeds Maj. Gen. Paolo Serra, also of Italy. General Portolano, 53, joined the Italian Army in 1981; since September 2012, he been the deputy chief of staff for joint operations. Previously, among other posts, he was commander of the International Security Assistance Force’s regional command west in Afghanistan, where he worked with the UN mission. He has also served as a commander in Iraq, Kosovo and Macedonia. He has a B.A. in strategic sciences and two master’s degrees, in human resources management and in strategic sciences, all from the University of Turin.

Lieut. Gen. Yohannes Gebremeskel Tesfamariam of Ethiopia will move from his post as force commander and head of the UN mission in Abyei, Sudan, to be force commander of the UN mission in South Sudan. He replaces Maj. Gen. Delali Johnson Sakyi of Ghana. General Tesfamariam has 35 years’ experience with the Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the UN in conflict zones. The general, who was born in 1960, has a master’s degree in peace and security from Addis Ababa University in Ethiopia.

In Copenhagen, Grete Faremo of Norway is the new executive director of the UN Office for Project Services (Unops), which administrates for various UN projects. Faremo replaces Jan Mattsson of Sweden. Faremo, 59, has held  many ministerial seats in Norway’s government: justice and public security; defense; petroleum and energy; and international development. Faremo has a law degree from the University of Oslo.

The new envoy on South-South cooperation is Yiping Zhou of China. Since 2004, Zhou has been the director of the UN Office for South-South Cooperation since 2004. Born in 1955, Zhou is an economist who graduated from Fudan University in 1977.

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts?

Dulcie Leimbach is a co-founder, with Barbara Crossette, of PassBlue. For PassBlue and other publications, Leimbach has reported from New York and overseas from West Africa (Burkina Faso and Mali) and from Europe (Scotland, Sicily, Vienna, Budapest, Kyiv, Armenia, Iceland and The Hague). She has provided commentary on the UN for BBC World Radio, ARD German TV and Radio, NHK’s English channel, Background Briefing with Ian Masters/KPFK Radio in Los Angeles and the Foreign Press Association.

Previously, she was an editor for the Coalition for the UN Convention Against Corruption; from 2008 to 2011, she was the publications director of the United Nations Association of the USA. Before UNA, Leimbach was an editor at The New York Times for more than 20 years, editing and writing for most sections of the paper, including the Magazine, Book Review and Op-Ed. She began her reporting career in small-town papers in San Diego, Calif., and Boulder, Colo., graduating to the Rocky Mountain News in Denver and then working at The Times. Leimbach has been a fellow at the CUNY Graduate Center’s Ralph Bunche Institute for International Studies as well as at Yaddo, the artists’ colony in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.; taught news reporting at Hofstra University; and guest-lectured at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and the CUNY Journalism School. She graduated from the University of Colorado and has an M.F.A. in writing from Warren Wilson College in North Carolina. She lives in Brooklyn, N.Y.

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