UN Secretary-General (UN SG) António Guterres [official website] on Friday appointed [press release] UK’s Mark Lowcock [official profile] as Under-Secretary-General (USG) in the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) [official website] and as Emergency Relief Coordinator (ERC). Lowcock has 30 years of experience as a leader in humanitarian crisis management across the globe, and as a strategic leader in the international development area. Lowcock has been serving as the Permanent Secretary at the Department for International Development (DFID) [official website], formerly called the Overseas Development Administration, since 2011. Lowcock began at DFID in 1985, and has served in a diverse range of roles in Malawi, Zimbabwe, and Kenya. He has also held various leadership roles at the DFID headquarters.
The OCHA came into being [OCHA backgrounder] in 1991, when the General Assembly adopted resolution 46/182 [text, PDF] to to strengthen the UN’s response to emergencies and natural disasters and to improve the overall effectiveness of humanitarian operations. The USG/ERC is responsible [materials] for the “oversight of all emergencies requiring United Nations humanitarian assistance.” The USG also serves as the “central focal point for governmental, intergovernmental and non-governmental relief activities.” The current OCHA USG Stephen O’Brien’s term has been to the end of August 2017, so as to enable him to conclude a number of initiatives and reforms he has been leading at OCHA, without any impediments. O’Brien, himself from the UK, was appointed over two years ago [press release] by then UN SG Ban Ki-moon [UN profile]. O’Brien brought to the position extensive experience in international humanitarian affairs, and was noted for his contributions to the fight against malaria and neglected tropical diseases, and to UK’s achievement of the UN-endorsed target of 0.7 per cent of gross national income on official development assistance. At the OCHA, among other things, O’Brien has been at the forefront of the crisis in Syria, attempting to gather support to evacuate civilians from conflict-ridden areas in Syria. Last month O ‘Brien condemned [JURIST report] attacks against people, including many civilians, who were fleeing the Syrian towns of Foah and Kefraya.