UN appoints veteran Dutch diplomat to coordinate humanitarian aid for Gaza

UN appoints veteran Dutch diplomat to coordinate humanitarian aid for Gaza

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The United Nations has appointed a veteran Dutch diplomat and politician as senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for the Gaza Strip in line with a Security Council resolution that passed the chamber last week.

Sigrid Kaag, former deputy prime minister and former finance minister of the Netherlands, was appointed as the U.N.’s special humanitarian coordinator, Secretary-General António Guterres announced on Tuesday. 

Kaag is expected to begin her appointment on Jan. 8, and will be responsible for helping streamline deliveries of humanitarian assistance to Gaza, where nearly 2 million people are reported displaced and nearly all are facing a crisis of hunger after 11 weeks of Israel’s war against Hamas following the group’s shocking terrorist attack on Oct. 7. 

Kaag’s appointment followed intensive negotiations over the course of a week in the Security Council where the majority of the 15-member body sought to pass a resolution that took action to relieve the humanitarian crisis, but was held up by the United States advocating for Israel to have a role in inspections of deliveries into Gaza and watering-down calls for a ceasefire.

The U.S. abstained from voting for the security council resolution, with U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield explaining that the resolution was “not perfect,” and slamming unnamed members of the council who refused to condemn Hamas for its attack against Israel, where 1,200 people were massacred and 240 taken hostage, with more than 100 still in Hamas captivity.

“We will continue to push the Council to right this wrong,” Thomas Greenfield told reporters following the vote. “We also believe the Council must continue to support the resumption of humanitarian pauses. Israel is committed to reaching another agreement — now Hamas must agree to additional pauses. Still, there’s no doubt that today was a massive, positive step.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Tuesday welcomed Kaag’s appointment, saying the U.S. intends to work closely on efforts to accelerate the delivery of life-saving aid, of which it has contributed $110 million in assistance. 

Kaag is a veteran United Nations diplomat working in the Middle East, having served as a special coordinator for Lebanon; on the prohibition of chemical weapons in Syria; as regional director for the Middle East and North Africa and with the United Nations development program; with the United Nations Children’s Fund in Jordan and with UNRWA, the main U.N. body for Palestinian refugees. 

A former member of the progressive and liberal Democrats 66 party, she announced her resignation from Dutch politics earlier this year, citing extremism, toxicity and concerns for her family’s safety amid deepening conservatism in the Netherlands.

Kaag is married to a former senior Palestinian Authority official, Anis al-Qaq, who served as a minister in the government of Yasser Arafat in the 1990s and ambassador to Switzerland. 

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