After 4 years in her post, the longest serving Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs since the post was created, Labour Peer Baroness Valerie Amos leaves with a consensus that she has been a very effective USG. Her departure leaves the UN with the need to find a new USG and because of the very narrow way in which Party Politicians think about the world around them, David Cameron Prime Minister is pressing very hard for it to be someone from Britain who fills Baroness Amos’s shoes and just as importantly, someone who is a high profile member of his own Party. That is the only conclusion one can draw from his refusal to propose someone other than Andrew Lansley, a recent member of his own Cabinet, despite it appears being asked to do so by the UN General Secretary himself. Prior to the appointment of Baroness Amos, the post was filled by a British diplomat John Holmes, and his predecessor was Jan Egaland, a Politician from Norway. None of the five men before Mr Egaland were from a Party Political background, but that has not stopped Mr Cameron.
It would be churlish to take anything away from the excellent work of Valerie Amos since August 2010, however the idea that in a Nation of 62M people with a mere 600,000 who belong to any Political Party, that there is not someone better qualified that Andrew Lansley to be USG in the 61,400,000 British residents outside of Party Politics simply beggars belief. Perhaps if Mr Cameron had identified someone whose background was humanitarian relief at a strategic level, who also had been linked to one of our Political Parties, it could be argued that their political views should not be a barrier to their nomination, as no doubt many would argue in the case of Baroness Amos. However Mr Lansley has no obvious qualifications for this post apart from his own desire to do the job and Mr Camerons support for him to do it. According to the Guardian David Cameron agree to give his support to Andrew Lansley writing “You have much more to give in terms of public service, and I look forward to being able to support you in doing so in the months and years ahead.” It appears that people in Mr Camerons circle give their public service through high profile, well paid jobs for which they lack the core competencies, whereas most of us give our public service through working as teachers, police officers or even as volunteers running foodbanks or as Street Pastors, roles that demand training and selection in a formal manner. The UN on the other hand selects its top officials by an exchange of letters from National Leaders who it is assumed have a grasp of the world around them!
My final thought relates to the role itself, a role that demands a strategic grasp of International emergencies which demands resources and a response that only the UN can provide. Faced with such a crisis would I want to rely on Mr Lansley, even though his CV does not suggest he is prepared for the post. After all some things transcend CVs and due process. I am pretty confident that I would not feel so inclined.