DfID perm sec Mark Lowcock ‘poised’ for United Nations move

Written by Jim Dunton on 12 May 2017 in News

According to reports, the Department for International Development’s top civil servant is set to be appointed as under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs at the UN

Department for International Development permanent secretary Mark Lowcock seems set to leave Whitehall for a new role at the United Nations.

Lowcock has worked at DfID and its predecessor body the Overseas Development Administration since 1985, and has served as perm sec since 2011.

He is understood to be poised to replace Stephen O’Brien as the UN’s under-secretary general for humanitarian affairs, with an announcement due potentially as soon as this afternoon. 


The respected Agence France-Presse news agency reported earlier this week that UN secretary-general António Guterres had decided upon Lowcock’s appointment in conjunction with senior officals, and the issue was broached in the UN’s daily press briefing yesterday.

However a UN spokesman said the appointment was matter for Guterres, adding: “When we have something to confirm on the leadership of OCHA, we shall do so.”

A DfID spokeswoman this morning declined to comment to CSW on “speculation” regarding the departure of the department's permanent secretary.

Lowcock was awarded a knighthood for public service – particularly in relation to international development – in this year’s New Year’s Honours List, a move greeted with derision by sections of the UK media opposed to current foreign aid spending policy.

Dave Penman, general secretary of the FDA union, said Lowcock had been subjected to unjustified and politically motivated vilification by some quarters of the press.

“Once again we are witness to the unedifying spectacle of committed public servants being undermined and attacked through 'anonymous' sources close to ministers,” he said.

“All too often this particular brand of political cowardice rears its ugly head as ministers feel the pressure to look for a convenient scapegoat.

“Instead of preaching about leadership it's time some politicians demonstrated it and publicly defended their staff from these unwarranted, vicious attacks."


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