15 DECEMBER 2014


It was regrettable to learn that Lady Valerie Amos will be leaving. More to the point, it was embarrassing to learn that during the Brisbane meeting of the Group of 20, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron had proposed to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon one candidate to replace her -- only one. And not just anyone. It was a politician whom the U.K. Prime Minister himself had to drop from his cabinet as Health Minister due to public claims about conflict of interest, currying favor with certain major companies and -- reportedly -- renovating a private home at public expense.

It is obviously a politically expedient appointment very closely linked to U.K. internal politics. Accommodating it reflects not only on the government that proposed the name -- but on the U.N. leadership that is considering it without a whispered question.

Graciously, and rightly, Ms. Amos announced her resignation on December 1, which raised serious questions about the nature and type of her replacement. Lady Valerie Amos earned overwhelming praise the old-fashioned way: She worked very hard for it. She could have taken her assignment, like several others of her newly-appointed U.N. counterpart diplomats and used it for public posturing. After all, she was a political appointee by Her Majesty's government. Yet she never stopped her dedicated effective work, helping destitute camps caused by tragic blockades. Her sincere care for others, particularly those in almost helpless situations, made her stand out.

When Ms. Amos was first appointed in September 2010, succeeding the outstanding John Holmes, there was a mixed reaction. Was the politically-connected U.K. politician being placed merely because of being a woman and from a Permanent Member of the Security Council? To what extent will she extend real work in the field? Extend she did -- impressively. With growing humanitarian disasters almost everywhere, she spent her time, devoted her talents, and motivated her formidable connections to make a real humanitarian difference. While Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was naturally preoccupied with a wide range of pressing issues demanding his full time and full attention, his Under-Secretary General was not only drawing public attention to specific cases, but sharpening the focus on ways to handle them. From Syrian refugees in Jordanian camps, to Yazidis or Chaldeans in Iraqi enclaves, to displaced groups throughout the African continent, to persecuted minorities in Asia, to individuals deserving special care, Valerie Amos kept paying attention and trying her best.

Whatever was behind her decision to leave, it is generally agreed that her impressive performance at the U.N. set a high mark for anyone who will take over that post. While awaiting the next designation, it is only fair to extend to Lady Valerie Amos sincere appreciation for an almost impossible job very well done.