Former UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock won’t become the special envoy for a United Nations commission working on Africa’s recovery from Covid-19, after the UN suddenly decided not to take his appointment forward.
The job of UN envoy for financial innovation and climate change for the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA) was seen as a chance for Hancock to revive his career after his scandalous resignation from the UK government this June.
The 43-year-old was forced to quit his job as health secretary after being photographed kissing a female aide at his office in violation of the coronavirus social distancing rules.
He celebrated the United Nations appointment on Twitter earlier this week, saying that he was honoured to be appointed as a special representative and work “to help African economic recovery from the pandemic and promote sustainable development.”
— Matt Hancock (@MattHancock) October 12, 2021
The former health secretary attached screenshots of a letter from the UN’s under-secretary general, Vera Songwe, to his tweet, in which she praised his “success” in overseeing the Covid-19 response in Britain, as well as his “fiscal and monetary experience.” He also received congratulations on the new job from some of his Conservative Party colleagues.
However, it turned out on Saturday that the UN gig won’t be happening after all for Hancock, an MP for West Suffolk.
“Hancock’s appointment by the UN Economic Commission for Africa is not being taken forward. ECA has advised him of the matter,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said, as cited by media site PassBlue.
The press release on the British politician’s new role in the commission has also apparently been removed from the ECA’s website.
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The BBC reported on Saturday that it “understands the organisation has decided not to go ahead with the appointment” of Hancock, who is yet to comment on the matter.
The announcement by Hancock that he was joining the ECA sparked controversy as it coincided with the release of a parliamentary committee report slamming the British government’s response to the pandemic. Among other things, its authors labeled the lockdowns and social distancing rules during the early weeks “one of the most important public health failures the United Kingdom has ever experienced.”
UK opposition parties and human rights groups expressed serious doubts surrounding Hancock’s appointment, with Global Justice Now director Nick Dearden saying, “The last thing the African continent needs is a failed British politician. This isn’t the 19th century.”
Amnesty International noted that while he was health secretary, Hancock “opposed calls to lift intellectual property rights that would allow Covid-19 vaccines to be produced worldwide and ensure access to life-saving vaccines for billions of people.”
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It’s unclear if the UN’s decision not to appoint Hancock was motivated by the backlash or other reasons.
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