New York. Earlier this week, on August 14, the Nepali Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations, Gyan ChandraAcharya, was appointed United Nations Under-Secretary General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries and Small Island Developing Countries.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon announced the news after about a three-month search process. The appointment comes weeks before the next UN General Assembly takes place in September.
Mr. Acharya’s family is rooted in Nepal’s Tanahu district and shares family lineage with Bhanubhakta Acharya, the First Poet who, among other things, translated Ramayana from Sanskrit to Nepali. At his New York office in Nepal’s Permanent Mission on Thursday, he reflected on his work as a lifelong Nepali diplomat who is transitioning into an international one.
“It’s an important recognition for Nepal, which has been a very committed member of the United Nations over the years on issues that are important globally. I think we have to look at it in that totality,” he said of his appointment.
The outgoing Ambassador’s new role will be of the highest office a Nepali has occupied in the UN establishment, and one that he has reached after nearly 30 years’ career in Nepal’s Foreign Services that started in 1983.
“I come from a nation that is both a Least Developed Country and a Landlocked Developing Country, so I have a perspective which is also based on our national experiences,” he explained. “Even though I’ll be pursuing the general interests of all, it’ll be fully informed by our own situation as well.”
While Mr. Acharya has a diploma in Sanskrit and Eastern Philosophies, he also holds a Masters degree in Economics from Tribhuvan University.
Outgoing Ambassador Gyan Chandra Acharya at his office in the Permanent Mission of Nepal to the United Nations on Thursday afternoon. This week he was appointed the Under-Secretary-General and High Representative for the Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
“International economics was of my interest,” he said of his academic pursuit. “And my interests in economics and development converged as a diplomat.”
Over the years, Mr. Acharya has worked on numerous international trade negotiations on behalf of Least Developed Countries (LDC). And in recent years, a new and pressing issue has taken foreground in how economic development needs to be perceived.
“There is more realization now than before that economic growth, poverty and environmental challenges have to be looked at in an integrated way,” he said, launching into a discourse on how critical the issue of climate change is to LDCs and the international community’s development efforts.
“Each country has to make its own decision, but also consider global trends. Now you are not just responsible for what you do and don’t do, because you’re also impacted by others and impact others,” he said on an aspect of how LDCs should treat climate negotiations. And the UN diplomat finds reasons for optimism.
Considering the recent international negotiations on climate change, Mr. Acharya noted that LDCs as a whole are “doing much better than before because they are talking together and presenting common voices and working together with all the groups, developed and developing.”
He also holds a strong view both as an outgoing Member State diplomat and an incoming head of a UN body: “There has to be progress on the mitigation side because adaptation alone cannot solve the problem,” he said on climate change, implying respective roles for developed as well as developing countries.
At the moment, it is unclear if Mr. Acharya will still be in his Nepal Mission office for this year’s UN General Assembly that takes place in September. “There’s pressure because the position is already open,” he said of his new appointment.
“I’ve spent almost half my time in the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Kathmandu and the other half outside Nepal,” he mused.
He has worked for Nepal in Egypt, Germany, and as the Permanent Representative to the United Nations and the World Trade Organization in Geneva (2003-2007). He has also served as Chair of the Global Coordination Bureau of the Group of Least Developed Countries since 2009, is a member of the Bureau of Landlocked Developing Countries and Chair of the Commission on Social Development, and has served as Chair of the Peacebuilding Commission’s Working Group on Lessons Learned (2010-2011).
For now, Mr. Acharya is in a forward-looking mood.
“We’ll make best use of strategic organizations, and try to figure out how we can really encourage all of them to do better, to do more, and to do more in holistic manners than before,” he said of the office he will soon be heading. He is replacing Cheick Sidi Diarra.