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Grandi new UNHCR boss

13 November 20150 comments

Former Italian diplomat Filippo Grandi has been appointed as the United Nation’s refugee chief as the organisation wrestles with the worst refugee crisis in history.

The 58-year-old diplomat replaces the highly regarded Antonio Guterres, of Portugal, who was United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees since 2005.

Filippo Grandi takes on the job of UN refugee chief

Filippo Grandi takes on the job of UN refugee chief

Mr Grandi’s appointment announced this week by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, must be endorsed by the UN general assembly in what is usually a formality.

Mr Grandi, who will take up the job on 1 January, was head of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA from 2010 to 2014, after serving as its number two from 2005 to 2010. He was also deputy envoy to the UN aid mission in Afghanistan.

He has worked for UNHCR in Sudan, Syria, Turkey and Iraq, and led humanitarian operations in Yemen and the Democratic Republic of the Congo among other countries.

Mr Guterres is due to step down at the end of the year after leading UN efforts to help 60 million people worldwide who have been driven from their homes by wars and persecution.

The UNHCR has said that number marks an all-time high, surpassing the 50 million people who were displaced during WWII.

Mr Grandi beat out former Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt and German Achim Steiner, the director of the UN Environment Programme, for the key post.

The appointment was seen as a nod to Italy, which has been hard-hit by the refugee crisis in Europe, but also as a recognition of Mr Grandi’s work in several tough UN positions.


Laurie Nowell
AMES Australia Senior Journalist