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Burnaby woman appointed by UN to oversee humanitarian aid in Eritrea

Nahla Valji will be the highest-ranking representative for the United Nations' on behalf of its Development System in the east African nation.
Burnaby's Nahla Valji (middle) cuts a "welcome" cake from the United Nations delegation in Eritrea, where she will serve as the resident and humanitarian coordinator.

A Burnaby woman is moving up the ranks within the United Nations (UN).

Nahla Valji, with nearly three decades of experience with the UN already to her résumé, has been promoted to lead and coordinate humanitarian support for Eritrea.

Valji was appointed as the UN's resident coordinator for the east African country — located along the Red Sea and bordering Sudan, Ethiopia and Djibouti — which has a population of 3.62 million people as of 2021.

According to its website, the resident coordinator is "the highest-ranking representative of the UN Development System at the country level" and reports to the UN Secretary-General.

Some of Valji's key tasks will be to represent the UN when fostering engagement with the Eritrean government, coordinate operational activities and advocate for the values of the UN Charter.

"Valji has more than 25 years of experience in sustainable development, peace and security, gender, and human rights in the United Nations and civil society, with expertise in leading institutional reform processes and start-up initiatives, including two UN funds and a Security Council mechanism on women, peace and security," a statement reads from the UN Development Coordination Office.

Valji attended Burnaby Central and Moscrop secondary schools, as well as Inman and Douglas Road elementaries. 

She holds a Masters degree in political science and international relations from York University in Toronto, Ont., along with a joint diploma in forced mitigation studies.

Since joining the UN, Valji served as the global coordinator for the Spotlight Initiative to Eliminate Violence against Women and Girls, a 500-million euro flagship programme for the Sustainable Development Goals and as a Senior Adviser in the Executive Office of the UN Secretary-General.  

Valji officially earned the new post with the Eritrean government's approval on Jan. 21.

Her first day in office in the nation's capital of Asmara was Feb. 1.