Staffan de Mistura

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Staffan de Mistura
Staffan de Mistura - Supporting Syria Conference (24712904542) - 2016 (cropped).jpg
Staffan de Mistura in 2016
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
In office
July 2014 – 7 January 2019[1]
Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon (UN) (2014–2016)
António Guterres (UN) (since 2017)
Nabil Elaraby (AL) (2014–2016)
Ahmed Aboul Gheit (AL) (since 2016)
Preceded byLakhdar Brahimi
Succeeded byGeir Otto Pedersen
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy
In office
27 March 2013 – 28 April 2013
Prime MinisterMario Monti
MinisterMario Monti (acting)
Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy
In office
29 November 2011 – 27 March 2013
Prime MinisterMario Monti
MinisterGiulio Terzi di Sant'Agata
Personal details
Born (1947-01-25) 25 January 1947 (age 72)
Stockholm, Sweden

Staffan de Mistura (born 25 January 1947) is an Italian-Swedish diplomat, United Nations official and former member of the Italian government.

After a 40-year career in various United Nations agencies,[2] he was appointed Undersecretary of State (Junior Minister) for Foreign Affairs in the Italian cabinet headed by Mario Monti. 2014 -2017 he was Director of Operations at Villa San Michele on Capri.[3] From 2014 to 2019 he was the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria.[4]

De Mistura's previous UN posts have included that of Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq (2007–2009) and Afghanistan (2010–2011), Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon (2001–2004), and Director of the UN Information Center in Rome (2000–2001). His work has taken him to many of the world's most volatile trouble-spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia.[5]

Early life[edit]

De Mistura was born in 1947 in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a Swedish mother and an Italian father. His father belonged to a noble Italian family of Šibenik (Italian: Sebenico) in Croatia, which fled after World War II, together with most Dalmatian Italians, after Tito's Communists took over the country.

Working as an intern for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Cyprus in the mid-1970s, he witnessed the death of a child, shot by a sniper. The child had wandered over the 'green line' dividing Cyprus and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This experience was something he found profoundly shocking, but it also stirred up a sense of 'constructive outrage' as he has described it; a desire to study humanitarian emergency relief and dedicate his life to working for the peaceful resolution of conflict.[5]


In 1971 de Mistura started his career with the UN as a WFP Project Officer in Sudan. In 1973 he was an Emergency Relief Officer in Chad, there he led the first ever UN airdrop operation. By 1976, he was working as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Deputy Chef de Cabinet, a post he remained in until 1985. In addition, he was given special humanitarian assignments to Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

In 1987 de Mistura returned to Sudan to become WFP Director of Operations. From 1988 to 1991, he acted as Director of Fund-Raising and External Relations of the United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Afghanistan. Moving on again, he was employed as Director of the Division of Public Affairs of the United Nations Children's Fund, known as UNICEF, and was also UNICEF representative for Somalia.

In 1992 de Mistura was in Nagorno-Karabakh with UN mission chief Francesco Vendrell [2].

He was briefly the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. The job lasted from March through August 1997.

In 1999, de Mistura sat as a member of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues in Iraq. He was also briefly Special Adviser to the High Commissioner for Refugees in Kosovo; a job that lasted from April to June. He was then given the task of Regional Administrator for the Mitrovica Region in Kosovo.[6]


In June 2000, de Mistura was Special Rapporteur during the Fribourg Forum on Regional Cooperation and Coordination in Crisis Management for Europe and the Newly Independent States. Until 2001, he was Director of the United Nations Information Centre in Rome.

From 2001 to 2004, de Mistura served as Personal Representative of the Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Southern Lebanon. One of his major achievements in that post was to set up and organise a successful de-mining operation.[7] He then went on to serve as Deputy Special Representative for Iraq for 15 months, starting in January 2005. During his tenure, he was keen to portray an optimistic view of Iraq and its chances of recovery, highlighting the hard work the UN were putting in behind the scenes to provide Iraqis with a better standard of living.[8]

De Mistura during the Munich Security Conference 2018

After that, he became Director of the UN Staff College in Turin, Italy, a post he retained until 11 September 2007, when Ban Ki-moon appointed him as his Special Representative (SRSG) for Iraq.[9] He was the successor of SRSG Ashraf Qazi and assumed his responsibilities in the Mission Area on 5 November and in Baghdad on 11 November 2007. In the weeks leading up to the appointment, it was reported that politicians in Baghdad strongly favoured a former Romanian envoy to Iraq, Radu Onofrei.[10] However, it was later revealed through Wikileaks that it was the Romanian government that lobbied the US to favor Mr. Onofrei.[11]

In July 2009 de Mistura left Iraq to become the Deputy Executive Director for External Relations of the World Food Programme in Rome.[12]

In January 2010, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, revealed that de Mistura had been offered the job as the U.N. special representative in Afghanistan, replacing Kai Eide.[13] The New York Times noted in an editorial that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had also been considering Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France and Ian Martin of Britain for the Kabul mission.[14] By the end of January 2010, Ban announced his intention to appoint de Mistura in March 2010 as Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Afghanistan and Chief of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).[15]

While U.S. President Barack Obama laid the blame for the massacre of U.N. officials in Mazar-i-Sharif on the Afghans, Staffan de Mistura said "I don't think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news—the one who burned the Koran."[16]

On 28 November 2011, he was nominated Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs in Italy's technocratic cabinet headed by Mario Monti.[17]

In May 2013, the Italian Government appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Staffan de Mistura as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Italy to resolve the case of two Italian Navy marines, held in India since February 2012 after they shot and killed two Indian fishermen when deployed on an Italian-flagged merchant vessel Enrica Lexie. The 2012 Italian Navy Marines shooting incident in the Laccadive Sea strained diplomatic relations between Italy and India. Staffan de Mistura has been mandated to find a "fair, positive and acceptable solution" with Indian judicial authorities to ensure a quick trial and return of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to Italy.

UN Special Envoy on Syria[edit]

On 10 July 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he had appointed de Mistura as the new special envoy tasked with seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.[4]

In October 2016, de Mistura offered to personally accompany the rebels if they were willing to leave Aleppo but reneged on his offer when a humanitarian lane was opened to let them leave.[18][19] He added that otherwise, Aleppo would be completely destroyed within two months and thousands of civilians would be killed.[citation needed]

By 2018, de Mistura was the longest serving of three UN mediators – Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi – during the more-than-seven-year Syrian conflict. In October 2018, he announced that he would step down at the end of November for family reasons.[20]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

A dual citizen of Italy and Sweden, de Mistura holds the Italian title of marchese (marquess) and speaks Swedish, Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Arabic (colloquial). He has two daughters.[6]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ "UN Syria envoy assumes post as Arabs restore links with Assad -Asia Times".
  2. ^ [1] page says 35 years, but it was written in 2006 before the Iraq appointment
  3. ^ "Anacapri, Staffan de Mistura a Villa San Michele - Napoli -". Napoli - La Repubblica. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "UN chief appoints Staffan de Mistura as special envoy for Syria crisis". UN News Service Section. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  5. ^ a b "194554". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  6. ^ a b[permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 13 January 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  8. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  9. ^ "Secretary-General appoints Staffan de Mistura of Sweden as Special Representative for Iraq". 11 September 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
  10. ^ Lynch, Colum; Wright, Robin (10 August 2007). "U.S. Seeks U.N. Help With Talks On Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  11. ^ "Full-text search". Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Senior leadership - WFP - United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  13. ^ Josh Rogin (8 January 2010). "Swedish diplomat offered top U.N. post in Afghanistan". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  14. ^ "The U.N. in Afghanistan". The New York Times. 1 January 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  15. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 27 January 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  16. ^ "Afghanistan: Obama condemns killings of UN staff". BBC News. 3 April 2011.
  17. ^ "Nomine: ministro Patroni Griffi. Grilli vice di Monti all'economia". La Repubblica. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  18. ^ "The Latest: Syrian Gov't: Rebel Shelling of Aleppo Kills 8". New York Times. Associated Press. 6 October 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016. De Mistura said if the militants lay down their weapons "in dignity" and leave, he would "personally" accompany them out. He said the militants were in essence "holding hostage" roughly 275,000 people in Aleppo. The U.N. considers the Nusra Front a terrorist group.
  19. ^
  20. ^ Michelle Nichols (October 17, 2018), U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura to step down at end of November Reuters.
  21. ^ "Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan de Mistura to be named new UN envoy to Syria, say diplmats". 10 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.

External links[edit]

Positions in intergovernmental organisations
Preceded by
Lakhdar Brahimi
United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria
Succeeded by
Geir Otto Pedersen
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
Maria Pia Garavaglia
Extraordinary Commissioner
of the Italian Red Cross

Succeeded by
Maurizio Scelli

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