After backlash, UN scraps offer of African envoy job to Matt Hancock

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Matt Hancock, the former British health secretary.
Matt Hancock, the former British health secretary.
Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images
  • UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Matt Hancock's appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa would not be taken forward.
  • In an appointment letter to Hancock, Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, lauded the success of the UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
  • Hancock said The decision by the UN to withdraw the offer was a technical one related to him serving as a lawmaker.


Former United Kingdom (UK) Health Secretary Matt Hancock's appointment to a United Nations special envoy role has been scrapped. 

"Hancock's appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) is not being taken forward," UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told PassBlue, a news website that specialises in UN coverage, on Friday, adding "ECA has advised him of the matter".

In an appointment letter to Hancock, Vera Songwe, executive secretary of the ECA, lauded the "success of the UK's response to the Covid-19 pandemic and the acceleration of vaccines".

That, she wrote, was a "testament" to the qualities Hancock would bring to the unpaid role, which would involve working on financial innovation and climate change in Africa.  

News of the appointment sparked a backlash, especially as it coincided with the release of a parliamentary report calling the government's early pandemic response "one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced".

Hancock quit Prime Minister Boris Johnson's cabinet in June after he was caught by security cameras in his own office in an embrace with one of his advisers, in breach of social distancing rules. While he gave up his position in Johnson's Cabinet, he remained a member of Parliament. 

The decision by the UN to withdraw the offer was a technical one related to him serving as a lawmaker, Hancock replied in an emailed statement to Bloomberg. 

"The UN have written to me to explain that a technical UN rule has subsequently come to light which states that sitting Members of Parliament cannot also be UN Special Representatives," Hancock said.

"Since I am committed to continuing to serve as MP for West Suffolk, this means I cannot take up the position".

He also said that he looked forward to supporting the UN effort in  "whatever way I can in my Parliamentary role".

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