By Rodney Reynolds
UNITED NATIONS, Dec 16 2020 – Siddharth Chatterjee, who has served with the United Nations for over 20 years, has been appointed as the new Resident Coordinator in China, the world’s second largest economy after the United States.
UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters December 15 that his appointment follows confirmation from the Chinese government.
A product of Princeton, one of America’s prestigious Ivy League universities, Chatterjee, an Indian national and currently Resident Coordinator in Kenya, will take up his new post in the middle of January next year.
Resident Coordinators, said Dujarric, are the Secretary-General’s representatives for development at the country level. They lead UN teams supporting countries to recover better from the COVID-19 pandemic through the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
China’s confirmation of Chatterjee’s appointment, particularly at a time of increased political and military tensions with India, is an indication, not only of Beijing‘s determination to strengthen multilateral relationships but also its recognition of Chatterjee’s outstanding track record in the UN system.
“Sid’s exemplary leadership leaves a lasting footprint in the execution of Government/UN collaboration impacting millions of lives in Kenya and the region. We presented the gift of a giant footprint as a reminder of the unforgettable journey that he has walked with the people of Kenya,” said Kenya’s Minister for Sports Culture & Heritage, Ambassador Amina Mohamed in her farewell tribute in a tweet.
Salim Lone, UN director of communications (1998-2003) under Secretary-General Kofi Annan, and Spokesman for Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga (2005-2013), told IPS a lot of work at the highest bilateral levels goes into such senior UN appointments in any nation, leave alone China.
“Sid’s case is even more complex as he is not merely an Indian but a former senior security official in a super elite military unit, especially at a time of open military tensions,” he added.
At the same time, this is a tribute to the Chinese maturity and the UN’s boldness in proposing Sid. A winning situation on all fronts, said Lone, a one-time UN Spokesman for Sergio Vieira de Mello in Baghdad (2003).
Amado Philip de Andrés, Regional Representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) for Eastern Africa and the Horn, said “Sid epitomizes the new leadership model of the United Nations Resident Coordinator worldwide.”
“He has inspired us at the UN Country Team to go the extra mile to deliver the UN Development Assistance Framework (UNDAF) in Kenya while supporting Kenya to progressively become an innovation hub in the region,” he declared.
In his current post in Kenya, Chatterjee has led 23 UN agencies, funds and programmes to support the Government’s humanitarian and development agenda since 2016.
Described as an avowed champion for gender equality and prevention of gender-based violence, Chatterjee has worked in complex emergency settings, including in Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Indonesia and with the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.
He has also worked in United Nations Development Program (UNDP), the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), the Red Cross movement, UNOPS and UN Security.
A highlight of his career was, the demobilization of 3551 child soldiers in South Sudan during the height of a conflict, an initiative he led in 2000.
He has also been featured by Forbes magazine for championing women’s rights and gender equality. He was interviewed by CGTN America where he commented on the important the role of Chinese peacekeepers in the United Nations and has also commended the Belt and Road initiative.
Chatterjee has written extensively on humanitarian and development issues in a variety of journals such as Newsweek, the Hill, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, CNBC Africa, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, Inter Press Service (IPS) the Global Observatory and mainstream Kenyan journals.
Chatterjee sees the increasing focus on South-South collaboration as an opportunity for China to provide global leadership for the acceleration of the SDGs in Africa.
He has spoken often about his passion for bridging the poverty gap in developing countries. His new focus is likely to be the push for Universal Health Coverage as well as accelerating rural development through agriculture, which provides the clearest pathways for getting out of poverty in rural areas.
Chatterjee says, “the UN and China can make available the tools, approaches and technologies to small holder farmers in developing countries so that they can increase production and productivity and leapfrog food security and the sustainable development goal on ending hunger or SDG 2”.
The new UN leadership in China will have a unique opportunity as a convenor, connector, and catalyser in the emerging partnership between China and Africa.