“She knows the region and speaks Arabic.” Who is the designated humanitarian coordinator in Gaza?

The United Nations appointed Dutch politician and veteran diplomat, Sigrid Kaag, to take charge of the Humanitarian Coordinator in Gaza, in the newly created position, last week, after the international security decision to increase aid to the Strip, which was torn apart by the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas.

In her post on the “X” platform, Kaag said that she would resign from her position as Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands to assume the position of Chief United Nations Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs and Reconstruction in Gaza.

Kaag said in a statement: “Peace, security and justice have been among my constant motivations. I accepted this special mission with the hope of contributing to a better future.”

The appointment, which will take effect on January 8, comes at a time when the conditions in the besieged Palestinian Strip have reached catastrophic levels, as the head of the World Health Organization said after a recent visit.

Humanitarian organizations said that the lack of energy and medicines has led to hospitals being out of work, and the threat of famine looms over the residents of Gaza.

Since the war began on October 7, following attacks by the Hamas movement, which is classified as a terrorist organization, in a number of countries, Israel has allowed a limited number of trucks to bring humanitarian aid into Gaza through the Rafah crossing, but they do not meet the needs of a population of more than two million people.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres accused Israeli operations in Gaza, which include intense aerial bombardment, of “creating enormous obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza.”

The Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs and Reconstruction in Gaza will work to facilitate, coordinate, monitor and verify humanitarian relief shipments to Gaza. She will also establish a “mechanism” to accelerate the arrival of aid to Gaza, according to the United Nations.

On Friday, the UN Security Council adopted a resolution calling for the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza, after it was delayed for days in light of diplomatic disputes and deliberations to avoid the United States, which supports Israel, using its veto power.

In its resolution, the Council called for a “large-scale” increase in humanitarian aid to Gaza, without calling for an immediate ceasefire, which Washington rejects despite international pressure.

Kaag has extensive experience in political, humanitarian and development affairs, as well as in diplomacy. She most recently served as First Deputy Prime Minister and the first female Finance Minister in the Dutch government since January 2022.

Before that, she held the position of Minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, from October 2017 until May 2021, and Minister of Foreign Affairs, until September 2021.

Sigrid Kaag was elected leader of the Social Liberal Party in September 2020, then resigned from this position in August 2023, after leading her party to victory in the March 2021 elections.

and on The international levelKaag held a number of senior positions in the United Nations and its affiliated structures:

  • Between 2015 and 2017: United Nations Special Coordinator in Lebanon.
  • 2013 to 2015: Special Coordinator of the Joint Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations Mission in Syria.
  • 2010 to 2013: Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations Development Programme,
  • 2007 to 2010: Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Jordan.

In addition to several other senior positions with UNICEF, the International Organization for Migration, and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East.

Kaag holds a Master of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies from the University of Exeter, a Master of Philosophy in International Relations from the University of Oxford, and a Bachelor of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies from the American University in Cairo.

The new UN coordinator speaks the following languages: Dutch, German, French, English, Spanish and Arabic.

In a speech last month, Kaag stressed the need to ensure “adequate humanitarian aid” reaches Gaza.

She said, according to CNN, that Israel’s right to exist and its right to defend itself “are self-evident to us,” before adding, “But in these dark times, it is important that acts of war comply with international law and the humanitarian law of war in order to “Avoid innocent civilian casualties and enable the provision of adequate and timely humanitarian assistance.”

Commenting on her appointment, a Dutch government official told CNN that he believes that “Kaag is very suitable for this new role.”

He added: “She is a diplomat with great experience and knows the Middle East well and also speaks Arabic,” pointing to the great work she achieved in negotiating with the head of the Syrian regime regarding giving up chemical weapons.

Diplomats around the world welcomed the announcement of her appointment to the new position, after months of division and deadlock in the United Nations Security Council over how to deliver aid to civilians in Gaza.

Dutch Foreign Minister Hanke Bruins Sloat described her as “the right person for this challenging role” given her “extensive knowledge” and “very extensive (diplomatic) experience.”

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement that Washington welcomes Kaag’s appointment and hopes for coordination “on efforts to accelerate and simplify the delivery of vital humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

The bloodiest war ever broke out in Gaza, after Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7 and killed about 1,140 people, most of them civilians, according to an Agence France-Presse tally based on Israeli figures.

The movement’s members took 250 hostages, 129 of whom are still inside Gaza.

In turn, Israel launched an intense air bombing campaign and siege, followed by a ground operation. Israeli military operations resulted in the killing of 20,915 people, the majority of them women and children, according to the Hamas Ministry of Health.

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