Staffan de Mistura

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Staffan de Mistura
Staffan de Mistura in 2016
United Nations Personal Envoy for Western Sahara
Assumed office
6 October 2021
Secretary-GeneralAntónio Guterres
Preceded byHorst Köhler
United Nations Special Envoy for Syria
In office
31 May 2014 – 31 October 2018
Secretary GeneralBan Ki-moon (UN) (2014–2016)
António Guterres (UN) (since 2017)
Preceded byLakhdar Brahimi
Succeeded byGeir Otto Pedersen
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy
In office
27 March 2013 – 28 April 2013
Prime MinisterMario Monti
MinisterMario Monti (acting)
Under Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Italy
In office
29 November 2011 – 27 March 2013
Prime MinisterMario Monti
MinisterGiulio Terzi di Sant'Agata
Special Representative for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq
In office
Secretary-GeneralBan Ki-moon
Preceded byAshraf Qazi
Succeeded byAd Melkert
Personal details
Born (1947-01-25) 25 January 1947 (age 77)
Stockholm, Sweden

Staffan de Mistura (born 25 January 1947) is an Italian-Swedish diplomat, United Nations official and former member of the Italian government.

After a 40-year career in various United Nations agencies,[1] he was appointed Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs and thereafter Deputy Foreign Minister in the Italian cabinet headed by Mario Monti. In 2013, he was director of operations at the Foundation Villa San Michele in Anacapri.[2] From 2014 to 2019 he was the United Nations Special Envoy for Syria.[3]

De Mistura's previous UN posts have included that of Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Iraq (2007–2009) and Afghanistan (2010–2011), Personal Representative of the Secretary-General for Southern Lebanon (2001–2004), and director of the UN Information Center in Rome (2000–2001). His work has taken him to many of the world's most volatile trouble-spots including Afghanistan, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia, Sudan and the former Yugoslavia.[4]

Since September 2019, De Mistura is Associate Professor at Sciences Po Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) and he is a distinguished Senior Visiting Fellow at the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs at Yale University.[5]

Early life[edit]

Staffan de Mistura was born in 1947 in Stockholm, Sweden, the son of a Swedish mother, Birgitta Johnson de Mistura and an Italian father, Emil Domingo de Mistura. His father belonged to a noble Italian family of Šibenik (Italian: Sebenico) in Croatia, which fled after World War II, together with most Dalmatian Italians, after Tito's Communists took over the country.

He graduated at Sapienza University of Rome in political sciences.[6]

Working as an intern for the UN World Food Programme (WFP) in Cyprus in the mid-1970s, he witnessed the death of a child, shot by a sniper. The child had wandered over the 'green line' dividing Cyprus and Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. This experience was something he found profoundly shocking, but it also stirred up a sense of 'constructive outrage' as he has described it; a desire to study humanitarian emergency relief and dedicate his life to working for the peaceful resolution of conflict.[4]


In 1971, de Mistura started his career with the UN as a WFP Project Officer in Sudan. In 1973 he was an Emergency Relief Officer in Chad, there he led the first ever UN airdrop operation. By 1976, he was working as the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's Deputy Chef de Cabinet, a post he remained in until 1985. In addition, he was given special humanitarian assignments to Dubrovnik, Sarajevo, Sudan, Ethiopia, Vietnam and the Lao People's Democratic Republic.

In 1987, de Mistura returned to Sudan to become WFP Director of Operations. From 1988 to 1991, he acted as director of fund-raising and external relations of the United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Afghanistan. Moving on again, he was employed as director of the Division of Public Affairs of the United Nations Children's Fund, known as UNICEF, and was also UNICEF representative for Somalia.

In 1992, he was in Nagorno-Karabakh with UN mission chief Francesco Vendrell.[7]

He was briefly the United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. The job lasted from March through August 1997.[8]

De Mistura sat as a member of the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Issues in Iraq, in 1999. He was also briefly Special Adviser to the High Commissioner for Refugees in Kosovo; a job that lasted from April to June. He was then given the task of Regional Administrator for the Mitrovica Region in Kosovo.[9]


In June 2000, de Mistura was Special Rapporteur during the Fribourg Forum on Regional Cooperation and Coordination in Crisis Management for Europe and the Newly Independent States. Until 2001, he was director of the United Nations Information Centre in Rome.

From 2001 to 2004, de Mistura served as Personal Representative of the Secretary-General Kofi Annan in Southern Lebanon. One of his major achievements in that post was to set up and organise a successful de-mining operation.[10] He then went on to serve as Deputy Special Representative for Iraq for 15 months, starting in January 2005. During his tenure, he was keen to portray an optimistic view of Iraq and its chances of recovery, highlighting the hard work the UN were putting in behind the scenes to provide Iraqis with a better standard of living.[11]

After that, he became director of the UN Staff College in Turin, Italy, a post he retained until 11 September 2007, when Ban Ki-moon appointed him as his Special Representative (SRSG) for Iraq.[12] He was the successor of SRSG Ashraf Qazi and assumed his responsibilities in the Mission Area on 5 November and in Baghdad on 11 November 2007. In the weeks leading up to the appointment, it was reported that politicians in Baghdad strongly favoured a former Romanian envoy to Iraq, Radu Onofrei.[13] However, it was later revealed through Wikileaks that it was the Romanian government that lobbied the US to favor Mr. Onofrei.[14]

In July 2009, de Mistura left Iraq to become the deputy executive director for External Relations of the World Food Programme in Rome.[15]

In January 2010, Richard Holbrooke, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, revealed that de Mistura had been offered the job as the U.N. special representative in Afghanistan, replacing Kai Eide.[16] The New York Times noted in an editorial that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had also been considering Jean-Marie Guéhenno of France and Ian Martin of Britain for the Kabul mission.[17] By the end of January 2010, Ban announced his intention to appoint de Mistura in March 2010 as Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) in Afghanistan and Chief of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).[18]

While U.S. President Barack Obama laid the blame for the massacre of U.N. officials in Mazar-i-Sharif on the Afghans, de Mistura said "I don't think we should be blaming any Afghan. We should be blaming the person who produced the news—the one who burned the Koran."[19]

On 28 November 2011, he was nominated Undersecretary of Foreign Affairs in Italy's technocratic cabinet headed by Mario Monti.[20]

In May 2013, the Italian Government appointed him, then serving as deputy foreign minister, as the Special Envoy of the Prime Minister of Italy to resolve the case of two Italian Navy marines, held in India since February 2012, who were accused by the Indian authorities for allegedly killing by mistake two Indian fishermen, believing that they were pirates, when deployed on an Italian-flagged merchant vessel Enrica Lexie.[21] The 2012 Italian Navy Marines shooting incident in the Laccadive Sea strained diplomatic relations between Italy and India. De Mistura has been mandated to find a "fair, positive and acceptable solution" with Indian judicial authorities to ensure a quick trial and return of Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone to Italy.[22]

UN Special Envoy for Syria[edit]

On 10 July 2014, the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced that he had appointed de Mistura as the new special envoy tasked with seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria.[3]

In October 2016, de Mistura offered to personally escort the rebels fighters if they were willing to leave Aleppo in order to avoid the continuing bombing over Eastern Aleppo where at least two hundred thousand civilians were caught in the middle of the battle. He added that otherwise, Aleppo would be completely destroyed within two months and thousands of civilians would be killed.[23] Al-Nusra Front refused that offer and instead left Aleppo in December.[24]

De Mistura holding a map of Syria during the 2018 Munich Security Conference

By 2018, de Mistura was the longest serving of three UN mediators – Kofi Annan and Lakhdar Brahimi – during the more-than-seven-year Syrian conflict. In October 2018, he announced that he would step down at the end of November for personal reasons.[25]

In his last briefing to the Security Council, on 20 December 2018, Staffan de Mistura highlighted the various attempts made during the four and a half years of his mandate to move forward the political process. Although stating that the work undertaken by the UN "is no substitute for genuine efforts of influential countries to talk to each other and to work constructively",[26] he claimed "I believe we have made some difference – but not enough",[27] and listed the essential points to remember from the work carried out during his mandate, before passing it on to his successor:

  • "We have saved lives with some ceasefires and de-escalations, no matter how limited in scope and time, but did save lives, and stimulated humanitarian access to places that were not getting it – but nowhere near what civilians desperately needed and asked for ;
  • We have convened the Government and opposition and also helped the process of uniting the opposition – but we have not yet, and we have to admit that, had the parties really recognize each other as interlocutors with whom they must do business and actually negotiate, let alone reach agreements ;
  • We have elaborated with the parties key principles for a common future and settlement – but we have not yet turned these yet into real mechanisms for implementation ;
  • We have identified a clear agenda accepted by the parties that would facilitate negotiation but we have not yet been able to tap into its potential ;
  • We have with determination promoted the involvement of Syrian women in the search for a peaceful settlement to the crisis – they know what their country is facing, they are more than half of the population – even though this is still constantly challenged ; We have with equal determination promoted the meaningful inclusion and substantive participation of civil society – but this also is constantly challenged ;
  • We have nearly completed the work of putting in place a constitutional committee to draft a constitutional reform, as a contribution to the political process– but there is an extra mile to go ;
  • We know what is needed for a safe, calm, neutral environment in Syria – and for UN supervised elections to the highest international standards pursuant to a new reformed constitution – but we have not been able to begin the full work required to make that a reality."[28]

In this last address, de Mistura updated the Council on the challenges that remained and once again urged the Security Council to remain united in support of UN efforts, and to support his successor, Geir Pedersen: "we need a renewed sense of common purpose and concerted action in this Council if 2019 is to be the real turning point for Syria", ending his speech as follows: "It is this Council - and this Council alone - which is responsible for the maintenance of international peace and security".[29]

UN Personal Envoy for Western Sahara[edit]

De Mistura in 2022

In late 2021, de Mistura was appointed as the UN personal envoy to Western Sahara.[30]

Honours and awards[edit]


Knight Grand Cross Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (2014)[31]

Commander French Legion of Honour (2012)

Grand Officer Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (2007)[32]

Commander Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (2004)[33]


Honorary degrees

Academic activities[edit]

Other activities[edit]

Personal life[edit]

A dual citizen of Italy and Sweden, Staffan de Mistura holds the Italian title of marchese (marquess) and speaks Swedish, Italian, English, French, German, Spanish and Arabic (colloquial). He is married and has two daughters from a previous marriage.[47]

References and notes[edit]

  1. ^ page says 35 years, but it was written in 2006 before the Iraq appointment
  2. ^ "Anacapri, Staffan de Mistura a Villa San Michele - Napoli -". Napoli - La Repubblica. 3 May 2013. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  3. ^ a b "UN chief appoints Staffan de Mistura as special envoy for Syria crisis". UN News Service Section. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  4. ^ a b "194554". Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  5. ^ "Seasoned diplomats address the future of Syria". Yale Jackson Institute for Global Affairs. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  6. ^ "Staffan de Mistura, inviato speciale dell'Onu per il conflitto in Sahara Occidentale. Le foto".
  7. ^ "El oficio de la mediación en conflictos armados" (PDF) (in Spanish). 1 May 2011. Francesco Vendrell así como enviado especial para Nagorno. (In English) Francesco Vendrell, as well as a special envoy for Nagorno-Karabakh (1992)
  8. ^ "SECRETARY-GENERAL APPOINTS STAFFAN DE MISTURA OF SWEDEN AS SPECIAL REPRESENTATIVE FOR IRAQ". United Nations Meetings Coverage and Press Releases. 11 September 2007.
  9. ^[permanent dead link]
  10. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 13 January 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  11. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 19 October 2005. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  12. ^ "Secretary-General appoints Staffan de Mistura of Sweden as Special Representative for Iraq". 11 September 2007. Retrieved 2 November 2007.
  13. ^ Lynch, Colum; Wright, Robin (10 August 2007). "U.S. Seeks U.N. Help With Talks On Iraq". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 May 2010.
  14. ^ "Full-text search". Archived from the original on 1 March 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  15. ^ "Senior leadership - WFP - United Nations World Food Programme - Fighting Hunger Worldwide" (PDF). Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  16. ^ Josh Rogin (8 January 2010). "Swedish diplomat offered top U.N. post in Afghanistan". Foreign Policy. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  17. ^ "The U.N. in Afghanistan". The New York Times. 1 January 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  18. ^ "United Nations News Centre". UN News Service Section. 27 January 2010. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
  19. ^ "Afghanistan: Obama condemns killings of UN staff". BBC News. 3 April 2011.
  20. ^ "Nomine: ministro Patroni Griffi. Grilli vice di Monti all'economia". La Repubblica. 28 November 2011. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
  21. ^ "Italian marines death penalty ruling postponed". 3 February 2014. Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  22. ^ "Case involving Italian ship, the Enrica Lexie: Minister Terzi sends Under-Secretary De Mistura to India". Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  23. ^ editor, Patrick Wintour Diplomatic (6 October 2016). "Eastern Aleppo could be destroyed by Christmas, warns UN Syria envoy". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 13 May 2020. {{cite news}}: |last= has generic name (help)
  24. ^ "De Mistura warns of 'perfect storm' over Syria's Idlib". Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  25. ^ Michelle Nichols (October 17, 2018), U.N. Syria envoy Staffan de Mistura to step down at end of November Reuters.
  26. ^ "Briefing to the Security Council by Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria 20 December 2018 - Syrian Arab Republic". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  27. ^ "Briefing to the Security Council by Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria 20 December 2018 - Syrian Arab Republic". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  28. ^ "Briefing to the Security Council by Staffan de Mistura, United Nations Special Envoy for Syria 20 December 2018 - Syrian Arab Republic". ReliefWeb. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  29. ^ "UN / SYRIA DE MISTURA". United Nations UN Audiovisual Library. Retrieved 18 May 2020.
  30. ^ "Secretary-General Appoints Staffan de Mistura of Italy Personal Envoy for Western Sahara | Meetings Coverage and Press Releases". Retrieved 8 October 2021.
  31. ^ "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Le onorificenze della Repubblica Italiana". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  33. ^ "Comunicato del Presidente Ciampi". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  34. ^ "The King presents the Prince Carl Medal to Staffan de Mistura - Sveriges Kungahus". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  35. ^ Amt, Auswärtiges. "Speech by Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier at the ceremony to award the United Nations Association of Germany's 2016 Dag Hammarskjöld Honorary Medal to Angela Kane and Staffan de Mistura". German Federal Foreign Office. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  36. ^ "Willa Decjusza - home" (in Polish). Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  37. ^ "International Swede of the Year" (PDF).
  38. ^ "AMBIENTE: ASSEGNATI I PREMI AIRONE 1991". Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  39. ^ "JCU to Welcome Diplomat Staffan de Mistura as 2021 Commencement Speaker". John Cabot University News. 6 May 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  40. ^ "Chaire André Molitor de réformes politiques, administratives et internationales". UCLouvain (in French). Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  41. ^ "Staffan de Mistura". (in Italian). Retrieved 14 May 2020.
  42. ^ Membership Trilateral Commission.
  43. ^ Staffan de Mistura joins Interpeace’s Governing Board – A lifetime dedicated to building peace Interpeace, press release of February 25, 2019.
  44. ^ Strategic Committee Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA).
  45. ^ Advisory Council Berghof Foundation.
  46. ^ "EIP's Board of governors". 10 July 2014. Retrieved 8 February 2016.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria
Succeeded by
Preceded by UN Special Envoy to Iraq
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by Extraordinary Commissioner
of the Italian Red Cross

Succeeded by