Devex Newswire: The UN’s new humanitarian chief

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Despite cutting billions in foreign aid, the United Kingdom keeps its hold on the United Nations’ top humanitarian job.

Martin Griffiths, currently United Nations special envoy for Yemen, will be the next undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, the U.N. announced Wednesday. Griffiths, whose candidacy was first reported by Devex, will take over as U.N. relief chief from Mark Lowcock, who announced his resignation in February. He will be the fifth Briton in a row to lead OCHA.

•  Griffiths’ selection comes amid a broader call for more transparency and open competition for U.N. leadership positions, but he was personally selected by Secretary-General António Guterres with little public scrutiny.

•  While the selection of Griffiths maintains the U.K.’s hold on the position, Guterres passed over Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s favored candidate, Nick Dyer, Britain’s special envoy for famine prevention and humanitarian affairs, Foreign Policy reports.

• Guterres “has never liked having P5 [permanent security council] members impose senior officials on him, but he realizes that he cannot buck the P5 entirely,” Richard Gowan, U.N. director at the International Crisis Group, tells Devex. “In choosing Griffiths he has found a candidate with extensive UN experience and very strong political instincts, but also someone the U.K. establishment know and like. So it’s a rather neat selection overall.”

Read: Martin Griffiths to lead UN humanitarian work


With the U.S. Biden administration under pressure to provide a clearer picture of its global COVID-19 response plan, Gayle Smith, who was appointed to coordinate that response from the State Department, laid out its five pillars on Wednesday, Adva Saldinger reports. Those pillars are:

1. Increase global supply and access to vaccines.
2. Reduce mortality and transmission.
3. Deal with acute shocks.
4. Strengthen economies.
5. Build a global health security architecture for the future.

Read: Lawmakers push US officials for details on global pandemic response


John Kerry, the first-ever U.S. special presidential envoy for climate, also faced U.S. lawmakers on Wednesday.

• Among the questions Kerry fielded was: “Why does your office [and] position even exist?”
• Kerry said his role is to make the most of a short window before the international climate change conference in Glasgow, which he called, “one of the most important negotiations we’ve ever engaged in globally.”
• The climate czar also made a pitch for more international affairs spending, but he declined to predict whether President Joe Biden would propose a major increase.

Read: US House committee asks: Why does John Kerry's job exist?


Top World Bank supplier countries in 2020 by total contract award funding.

In the 2020 fiscal year, the World Bank awarded 2,776 contracts worth over $7 billion — about 23% of which went to Chinese organizations.

For Devex Pro subscribers: Janadale Coralde and Miguel Tamonan have this inside look at China’s top 10 World Bank contractors.


“We wanted to make sure we play our part to help end extreme poverty in our lifetime, so we launched this billion-dollar campaign.” — Chris Glynn, World Vision’s senior vice president of transformational engagement

Over the past seven years World Vision has “quietly” raised $773 million in capital, and on Friday will launch a campaign called “Every Last One” to bring that total to $1 billion by 2023, Rumbi Chakamba reports.


The Islamic Development Bank estimates that “zakat,” the obligatory annual giving prescribed by Islam, amounts to about $300 billion annually.

IDB is partnering with the U.N. on a new initiative — launched Tuesday — that aims to accelerate the use of Islamic finance to tackle COVID-19, fight poverty, and support sustainable development, Adva reports.


India recorded 362,727 new COVID-19 infections in 24 hours, with over 4,000 COVID-19 deaths, for a second straight day on Thursday. [Reuters]

Tens of thousands of Cambodians are going hungry under the country’s strict lockdown as COVID-19 cases continue to rise amid criticism that the government and the U.N. are too slow to act. [The Guardian]

There are calls for China to allow the U.N. human rights chief unobstructed access to the Xinjiang region to investigate the situation of ethnic Uyghur Muslims and other Turkic Muslim minorities. [VOA]

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About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.