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UNHCR welcomes veteran diplomat as new Deputy High Commissioner

UNHCR welcomes veteran diplomat as new Deputy High Commissioner

As former US Ambassador to Laos and Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin brings close to 30 years of experience to the UN refugee agency, primarily in Asia and the Middle East.
19 January 2004
High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers with his new deputy, Wendy Chamberlin, in Geneva.

GENEVA, Jan 19 (UNHCR) - The UN refugee agency today welcomed its new Deputy High Commissioner, Wendy Chamberlin, who brings nearly 30 years of foreign service experience to UNHCR, primarily in Asia and the Middle East.

Chamberlin joined High Commissioner Ruud Lubbers and Assistant High Commissioner Kamel Morjane in UNHCR's Geneva headquarters and met the agency's top officials at a special senior management meeting.

"I'd like to say how grateful we are that you are here," the High Commissioner told his incoming deputy. "I'm absolutely convinced that all of UNHCR and the external community share this positive response to your appointment."

In what Lubbers called a smooth and quick appointment process, Chamberlin was confirmed in December after Lubbers consulted with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. She brings with her 28 years of experience as a veteran foreign service officer for the United States.

Chamberlin joined the US foreign service in 1975 after working as a volunteer teacher in Laos. She rose to become Ambassador to Laos and later Pakistan. She also worked on foreign aid accounts for Arab-Israeli affairs, and held high-ranking positions in counter-terrorism and international narcotics control.

During her career, she worked as a refugee officer in Africa and with programmes for Indochinese boat people in Southeast Asia in the 1970s. Her career with the US Agency for International Development (USAID) took her to Laos, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan and Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo) before she was appointed as the Assistant Administrator in the Bureau for Asia and the Near East in June 2002.

"After serving nearly 30 years in a bilateral capacity, I very much look forward to working in a multilateral environment," Chamberlin said Monday afternoon. "And there is no more important place to do that than the United Nations and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. I am extremely pleased to be here."

Chamberlin succeeds fellow American Mary Ann Wyrsch, who served UNHCR as Deputy High Commissioner from April 2001 to December 2003.