By J Nastranis
The United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has appointed Siddharth Chatterjee, an eminent Indian national at the world body, as UN “resident representative” to China, who has the same rank as an ambassador of a foreign state accredited to that country. The Chinese government’ has formally accepted the UN Secretary-General’s selection.
Observers consider this important particularly as Chatterjee is also an Indian Army Special Forces veteran. He holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the National Defence Academy in India.
The relations between India and China are clouded by tensions. New Delhi attributes the strains to attempts by Chinese troops to unilaterally alter the status quo on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), a notional demarcation line that separates Indian-controlled territory from Chinese-controlled territory in the Sino-Indian border dispute.
However, Chatterjee holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy from the Princeton University, a private Ivy League research university in Princeton, New Jersey, which has the largest endowment per student in the United States.
He is currently the United Nations (UN) Resident Coordinator to Kenya where he leads 23 UN Agencies to support the Government of Kenya’s development agenda and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is a champion for gender equality and outspoken on the prevention of gender-based violence.
In a recent interview with WION, Chatterjee said: “I would say my passion for gender advocacy was cemented by my experiences in the Indian Army and at a personal level. My own grandmother was married at the age of 11 and had 15 children, 9 of whom survived.”
He added: “My early years in conflict settings also brought home the reality that women and children are worst affected during wars and natural disasters. While serving in the army as a young officer, I was horrified to find out that a soldier from my unit had raped a young girl.”
He said he remembers the sheer fear and trauma that the girl went through and the helplessness of her family.
“It was a life-changing moment for me. While the punishment that followed was swift and uncompromising, it was at that moment that I swore to fight all forms of misogyny, discrimination and violence,” Chatterjee added.
With over two decades of experience in the United Nations, he has spent most of his career working in complex emergencies. He has served in the UN Mission in Iraq, UNICEF offices in Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan (Darfur), Indonesia and the UN Peace Keeping Operations in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Iraqi Kurdistan.
He has also worked in UNDP, UNFPA, the Red Cross movement, UNOPS and UN Security.
A highlight of his career was the demobilization of 3551 child soldiers in South Sudan during the height of a conflict. He led the initiative. In a TEDx talk, he explained how humanitarian diplomacy has made possible to demobilize children during an armed conflict – rather than waiting for it to end and loss of a generation of children to war.
In a feature by Forbes magazine, Chatterjee notes that achieving Kenya’s goals for women will require government leadership and collaboration among all development partners to create an integrated, long-term program that actively involves young people. “Let’s put youth at the centre of the narrative. Kenya can serve as a model for transmuting its youth into a demographic dividend which other nations can emulate.”
Chatterjee believes that China is a country of incredible promise and global leadership for the acceleration of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the UN Resident Coordinator, he will work with China to help it attain the SDGs, as well supporting its efforts to play a crucial role in South-South Cooperation to accelerate the SDGs, particularly in the Horn of Africa where Chatterjee has worked for many years.
CGTN, China Global Television Network is a group of six international multi-language television channels owned and operated by China Central Television (CCTV), a state-controlled media organization in China. CGTN is registered under the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and affiliated with the Chinese Communist Party.
A TEDx speaker, Chatterjee writes extensively on humanitarian and development issues in a variety of journals such as Newsweek, the Hill, the Los Angeles Times, CNN, Al Jazeera, Forbes, CNBC Africa, the Guardian, the Huffington Post, Reuters, the Global Observatory and mainstream Kenyan journals.