Samantha Power: Obama's pick for UN envoy

Samantha Power at a United Nations event in 2010. As the newly-appointed ambassador to the U.N., her considerable development background is testament to the growing need to push development agenda and foreign policy. Photo by: Eric Bridiers/US Mission Geneva / CC BY-ND

U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday nominated human rights advocate and former White House aide Samantha Power as his pick to replace Susan Rice as Ambassador to the U.N. in what is seen as a nod for the development community.

A long-time Obama ally, Power is the first candidate with a clear development background to be chosen for the position. According to aid professionals consulted by Devex, her appointment demonstrates the growing importance of the least developed countries in U.S. foreign policy during Obama’s second term.

Power has strong foreign policy credentials and held several high-level positions in Washington, but also has considerable experience on the ground in conflict zones, starting out her career as a freelance journalist in Bosnia where she supported a U.N.-led military intervention to end the Serbian genocide.

Years later, she very publicly criticized the Clinton administration for not conducting airstrikes against the Serbs and refusing to actively stop the Rwanda genocide. Power compiled her accounts into the 2002 Pulitzer Prize-winning book, ”A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.”

In 2005, she said the appointment of John Bolton for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. proved that the Bush administration “doesn’t care about the U.N.,” one of many statements which prompted the American conservative media to brand her as a die-hard liberal.

Power finally abandoned journalism in 2005 to join then Sen. Obama’s team as a foreign policy advisor, but had to resign during the 2008 presidential election campaign after calling future Secretary of State Hillary Clinton “a monster.”

When Obama was elected, the president appointed her to the National Security Council and as a special advisor on human rights with a special focus on fighting the genocide in Darfur.

While some development professionals have expressed regret that the Obama administration’s tough words were never backed up by a serious threat of military intervention in Sudan, her appointment is expected to be a welcomed by the aid community which views Power as a hero for her struggle against genocide and other crimes against humanity.

Samantha Power was chosen in 2011 as a Devex 40 under 40 development leader.

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About the author

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    Carlos Santamaria

    As associate editor for breaking news, Carlos Santamaria supervises Devex's Manila-based news team and the creation of our daily newsletter. Carlos joined Devex after a decade working for international wire services Reuters, AP, Xinhua, EFE and Philippine social news network Rappler in Madrid, Beijing, Manila, New York and Bangkok. During that time, he also covered natural disasters on the ground in Myanmar and Japan.

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