Former journalist is trusted to send out right message

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If the United Nations often has difficulty articulating its goals in words that are understandable to the average citizen, it may be because it lacks individuals at the top of its bureaucratic jungle with the skill and confidence to speak clearly and convincingly when the camera lights come on.

Mark Malloch Brown, 51, who was appointed yesterday as the new chief of staff to the UN secretary general, Kofi Annan, is an exception to that rule.

The head of the UN Development Fund (UNDP) since 1999, he is a former journalist and communications consultant who is never at a loss for words when someone needs to defend the UN against its many critics.

His breadth of knowledge of the world body will serve him well as he takes up his new role. It will be a highly political task, not just helping Mr Annan craft his priorities during the last two years of his second term as secretary general but also protecting him from his critics, especially in Washington DC.

The Briton was political editor of the Economist magazine between 1977 and 1979 before founding the Economist Development Report, where he was editor in the mid-Eighties. He then worked as a communications consultant in the Sawyer-Miller Group.

Before taking over the task of leading and reforming the UNDP, he was external affairs spokesman for the World Bank from 1994 until 1999.