UN appoints former Dutch deputy prime minister Sigrid Kaag as Gaza humanitarian coordinator

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Tuesday the appointment of Sigrid Kaag, former Deputy Prime Minister of the Netherlands and a Middle East expert, as the U.N. coordinator for humanitarian aid in Gaza.

The appointment comes after the Security Council’s resolution on Friday, which called for the swift naming of a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza. Over 2 million civilians in the region are in dire need of food, water, and medical supplies.

Guterres highlighted Kaag’s extensive experience in political, humanitarian, and development affairs, as well as her diplomatic skills. Fluent in Arabic and five other languages, Kaag is set to begin her new role on Jan. 8.

Her responsibilities will include facilitating, coordinating, monitoring, and verifying humanitarian relief to Gaza. Guterres also noted that Kaag will work to establish a U.N. mechanism to expedite aid deliveries through states not involved in the conflict.

A recent report by 23 U.N. and non-governmental organizations indicates that Gaza’s entire population of 2.3 million is facing a food crisis, with increasing risks of famine due to inadequate aid.

Kaag has a long history of working in the Middle East, including in the Palestinian territories. Her U.N. career began in 1994 in Sudan, and she has held positions with UNRWA, UNICEF, and as the head of the U.N. mission to dismantle Syria’s chemical weapons. She also served as the U.N. special envoy for Lebanon until October 2017.

In the Dutch government, Kaag served as Minister for Trade and Development and later as the country’s first female Foreign Minister. Most recently, she was the Deputy Prime Minister and the first female Minister of Finance, starting January 2022.