Analysis by J Nasranis
NEW YORK (IDN) - An Indian national, Siddharth Chatterjee, is a new star on the horizon at the United Nations, nearly nine years after Shashi Tharoor announced his departure from the UN in the aftermath of finishing second in the 2006 elections for the Secretary-General to Ban Ki-moon.
Tharoor, meanwhile an eminent political leader in India, left the world body after having served for 29 years in different categories. Until 2007, he was a career official at the United Nations, rising to the rank of Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information in 2001.
Chatterjee shares with Tharoor his penchant for writing; though Tharoor has authored 15 bestselling works of fiction and non-fiction since 1981, all of which are centred on India and its history, culture, film, politics, society, foreign policy, and more. He is also the author of hundreds of columns and articles in diverse publications.
While Tharoor's career at the UN is not known to have raised any eyebrows, Chatterjee's appointment on August 25 as the UN Resident Coordinator in Kenya to lead 25 agencies of the world body in the country, and as UNDP Resident Representative, has aroused controversy because he is the son-in-law of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
Before his promotion, Chatterjee was the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) Representative in Kenya. Prior to joining UNFPA, he was the Chief Diplomat and Head of Strategic Partnerships & Resource Mobilization at the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).
Preceding his role at the IFRC, he served the UN since 1997 in Peace Keeping operations, UNICEF and the United Nations Office for Project Services in Africa, Asia, Europe and the Middle East.
Chatterjee began his early career as an officer in a Special Forces unit of the Indian Army. The President of India decorated him in 1995 for bravery. He holds a Master’s degree in Public Policy from Princeton University, USA and a Bachelor’s degree from the National Defence Academy in India.
While not calling into question Chatterjee's qualifications for the job, critics question the process of selection and maintain that Ban, whose second term as UN Chief ends on December 31, 2016, should have reclused himself from any role in his son-in-law's promotion. For them the process smacks of 'nepotism'.
Replying to a question, Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General, assured UN correspondents on August 26: "Mr. Chatterjee was chosen through the regular process which is basically that the candidates are chosen by an interagency advisory panel which… which does not… and especially in this case… did not involve the Secretary‑General.
"I think he (Ban) has been fully aware of the situation and has kept well away from the selection process. For RCs (resident coordinators), the candidates are chosen and recommended by the interagency panel. The name of the recommended candidate is then given to the Secretary‑General to sign off on.
"He does not involve himself… and as I said, especially in this case… involve himself in the selection… in the selection process. And I would just, again, reiterate Mr. Chatterjee's, I think, very strong qualifications in his career with ICRC and the UN over the years."
Welcoming Chatterjee's appointment, Ruth Kagia, Senior Advisor, International Relations and Social Sectors in the Office of the President of Kenya said: “Sid’s (Siddharth's) insightful understanding of clients' needs as the UNFPA Representative in Kenya has translated into tangible gains in maternal, child and adolescent health.
"His relentless energy and focus on results has helped build relationships and networks of trust and confidence with the highest levels of Government, civil society, the private sector and development partners."
Chatterjee is expected to continue his advocacy for women’s empowerment in Kenya where he has led notable initiatives to advance reproductive, maternal, neo-natal, child and adolescent health.
Dr Julitta Onabanjo, UNFPA’s Regional Director for East and Southern Africa said: “Sid resolutely pushed UNFPA’s mandate in the hardest to reach counties and service of the most vulnerable. He mobilized resources and partners in the private sector to join this drive to leapfrog maternal and new-born health. This bold initiative was highlighted by the World Economic Forum in Davos and Kigali.”
Chatterjee’s other career achievements include mobilizing the Red Cross/Red Crescent movement to join the eradication of polio initiative; negotiating access with rebel groups to undertake a successful polio immunization campaign in the rebel controlled areas of Darfur; leading UNICEF’s emergency response when conflict broke out in Indonesia’s Aceh and the Maluku provinces; and overseeing UNICEF’s largest demobilization of child soldiers in South Sudan in 2001.
This is how Chatterjee describes himself on his website: "As a leader and a humanitarian and development professional in the United Nations and the Red Cross, I have served in many war-ravaged and fragile parts of the world. I have seen first-hand many human tragedies and triumphs, from which I have learnt important lessons. I strive to uphold human dignity and hope to make a difference in the lives of the most vulnerable." [IDN-InDepthNews – 28 August 2016]
Photo courtesy Siddharth Chatterjee's facebook.
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