Obituary: Garth Pettitt

Robin Garth Pettitt, civil servant, born Norwich 14 August 1932, married 1964 Elizabeth Jenkins (died 1970; one son, one daughter), died 29 May 1992.

GARTH PETTITT was the former head of the UN and Commonwealth department at the Overseas Development Administration (ODA).

After national service and Selwyn College, Cambridge, Pettitt joined the Colonial Office in 1957 and served his apprenticeship addressing political and economic developmental issues in Kenya. Those were exacting days throughout British Africa. The old empire was being dismantled, social and economic change were being rapidly introduced and ministers sought to develop some strategic grand design which would allow the evolution to political independence to proceed in good order.

Pettitt's promotion in 1960 to the Gibraltar and South Atlantic department of what had by then been christened the Commonwealth Office followed a short spell in the Minister of State's private office. Eventually all three political departments were merged in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) where Pettitt dealt variously with issues on East Africa, Nigeria and the United Nations, becoming a First Secretary at the High Commission in Lagos in 1967.

Sadly this was cut short after only a few months by the serious illness of his wife, who died in 1970, leaving him to bring up their two children on his own.

In 1972 Pettitt joined the Overseas Development Administration. Inevitably his knowledge of the UN led to his becoming the ODA expert on the workings of the organisation and its system of interlocking, but rival satrapies.

He himself, however, most enjoyed his four and a half years when he was posted to the FCO/ODA joint Pacific Territories departments in 1975. Apart from travel and associated bird- watching - a great passion, throughout his career he rarely travelled without his binoculars - he played a part in bringing a number of colonies to independence and supporting them in their first steps as nation states. Occasionally mistakes were made. Pettitt once visited a small Pacific island, one of whose few police officers went on a course to Hendon Police College and on his return attempted to introduce a one-way system on the island's only road.

When part of the ODA moved to East Kilbride in 1979 Pettitt went there to head the Overseas Manpower and Consultancies department. He journeyed up and down at weekends on one of his three powerful motorbikes.

Pettitt kept his enthusiasm for grass-roots aid when he moved back to London in 1983 to deal with UN development agencies. In 1991 he joined a multinational four-man team appointed to resolve the labyrinthine problem of payments for aid work financed through the UN Development Programme, but carried out largely by other UN bodies or recipient nations. He had the satisfaction before he retired a year ago of seeing most of their recommendations accepted.

Upon his retirement he was delighted to be asked to join the UK Unicef Committee's executive board. His work chiefly involved patiently untangling and arguing intricate policy and organisational issues, and promoting compromises between apparently irreconcilable agency member states. His quiet authority always won their respect.

Garth Pettitt's solid, rather stocky, form and steady gaze immediately suggested his patience, modesty, invariable good humour, dependability and kindliness. His often rather halting speech was more deceptive; he had a keen and penetrating intelligence which rejoiced in the challenge of analysing and pursuing an infinitely tangled diplomatic and political skein.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: Human Resources Manager

£28000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: A successful organisation...

Recruitment Genius: Internal Recruiter - Manufacturing

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Internal Recruiter (manufact...

Ashdown Group: HR Manager (CIPD) - Barking / East Ham - £50-55K

£50000 - £55000 per annum + 25 days holidays & benefits: Ashdown Group: HR Man...

Recruitment Genius: Operations / Project Manager

£40000 - £48000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company specialis...

Day In a Page

Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests