Annan launches wideranging search for refugee chief in new transparency policy

Secretary-General Kofi Annan is writing to Member States seeking names for a new High Commissioner for Refugees in addition to those emerging from his own consultations, and his Chef de Cabinet, Mark Malloch Brown, is sending a similar letter to major non-governmental organizations (NGOs) involved in refugee issues, spokesman Fred Eckhard told a news briefing in New York.”In the letter, the Secretary-General says that he can only be sure of finding the best person for one of the most important jobs in the UN system if the best qualified candidates come forward and are judged against transparent selection criteria,” Mr. Eckhard added.In outlining some of the necessary criteria, Mr. Annan says he wants someone with a thorough knowledge of refugee issues and of unimpeachable personal and professional integrity.He or she must have proven skills in the management of a complex organization and, of course, be an unflinching champion of the cause of refugees, not only by providing for their relief but also by firmly upholding the international principles which entitle them to protection, Mr. Eckhard said.Mr. Lubbers yesterday handed over temporary leadership responsibilities for the agency to Deputy High Commissioner Wendy Chamberlin after Mr. Annan welcomed his resignation as being in the best interest of UNHCR, its staff and the refugees it serves.Throughout the controversy, Mr. Lubbers vigorously denied the accusations, dismissing them as a campaign of slander. The charges came from a UNHCR staffer who said the 65-year-old former Dutch Prime Minister sexually harassed her during a meeting in December 2003. On Sunday, after Mr. Lubbers submitted his resignation, Mr. Annan said in a statement that while he had accepted legal advice that the original allegations could not be substantiated, “the continuing controversy has made the High Commissioner’s position impossible.”The ninth head of the UNHCR since its establishment in 1951, Mr. Lubbers served since 1 January 2001, when he succeeded Sadako Ogata of Japan.

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