Stephen O'Brien

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This article is about the British MP. For the USA geneticist, see Stephen J. O'Brien.
The Right Honourable
Stephen O'Brien
Stephen O'Brien Official.jpg
Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
Assumed office
29 May 2015
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Preceded by Valerie Amos
Undersecretary of State for International Development
In office
6 May 2010 – 4 September 2012
Prime Minister David Cameron
Preceded by Michael John Foster
Succeeded by Lynne Featherstone
Shadow Secretary of State for Industry
In office
11 November 2003 – 6 May 2005
Leader Michael Howard
Preceded by Tim Yeo (Trade and Industry)
Succeeded by David Willetts (Trade and Industry)
Member of Parliament
for Eddisbury
In office
22 July 1999 – 30 March 2015
Preceded by Alastair Goodlad
Succeeded by Antoinette Sandbach
Personal details
Born Stephen Rothwell O'Brien
(1957-04-01) 1 April 1957 (age 58)
Mtwara, Tanganyika
(now Tanzania)
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Gemma Townshend
Alma mater Sedbergh School
Emmanuel College, Cambridge
University of Law

Stephen Rothwell O'Brien (born 1 April 1957) is the United Nations' Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. He assumed office on 29 May 2015, succeeding Valerie Amos.[1][2] He was formerly a Member of the United Kingdom Parliament (MP), representing Eddisbury. He was first elected in a by-election in July 1999, after Alastair Goodlad was made British High Commissioner in Australia by Tony Blair and thus had to leave Parliament. A member of the Conservative Party, within the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition he was appointed as the Parliamentary Undersecretary of State in the Department for International Development. In September 2013 he became the Prime Minister's Envoy to the Sahel, encompassing nine countries across North and West Africa. In order to take up the position of United Nations Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, he stood down from the UK Parliament.

Early life[edit]

He was born in Mtwara, Tanganyika Territory, and educated at Loretto School in Mombasa, at the Handbridge School (Chester), the Heronwater School (Abergele), Sedbergh School and Emmanuel College, Cambridge. At Cambridge, he gained an MA in Law in 1979, then collected an MA from the College of Law in Chester in 1980. After two years Articles, he qualified as a Solicitor in 1983 and practised until 1988 at solicitors Freshfields (City of London). From 1988–98, he was Group secretary and Director of Strategic and Corporate Affairs at Redland plc. He was the Executive Director of Redland Clay Tile in Mexico from 1994–98.[citation needed] O'Brien is a former member of the SDP.[3]

Parliamentary career[edit]

He was Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Development from May 2010 to September 2012. Prior to the May 2010 elections he was a Shadow Minister for Health. From May to December 2005, he served as the Shadow Minister for Skills. From November 2003 to 2005, he was Shadow Secretary of State for Industry. Previously, he held the post of Shadow Paymaster General and prior to that Shadow Financial Secretary. Before that, he was appointed an Opposition Whip in September 2001. From September 2000 to September 2001, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Chairman of the Conservative Party, the Rt Hon Michael Ancram QC MP. From February to September 2000, he was Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Rt Hon Francis Maude MP.

O'Brien has also served as a member of the House of Commons Select Committee on Education and Employment and on the Education sub-Committee. In addition, he has served as Secretary of the Conservative Northern Ireland Committee and Secretary of the Conservative Trade & Industry Committee.

In 2001, he was appointed an Associate of the British-Irish Inter-Parliamentary Body. Prior to joining the Government, he was Chairman of the All Party Group on Malaria, also of Tanzania and Vice-Chairman of the All Party Aid Trade & Debt Group.

In 2000, he introduced a Private Member's Bill for Honesty in Food Labelling (country of origin and standards of production). From 1999, O'Brien has served on the Conservative Party's National Membership Committee. Between 1995–9, O'Brien was Chairman of the Public and Parliamentary Affairs Committee of BMP (National Council of Building Materials Producers, latterly the Construction Products Association)[4] and sat on BMP's Committee of Management and Strategy sub-committee. He was a trade member of the 1994 mission to Argentina and Brazil with the Rt Hon Sir Richard Needham MP (Minister for Trade). O'Brien was elected a member of the South East Regional Council of the CBI, serving between 1995 and 1998, and sat on the CBI's International Investment Committee and Working Parties on Anti-Corruption (pan-European) and Corporate Governance (UK).

Personal life[edit]

He married Gemma Townshend, a nurse, on 30 August 1986 in Bromley, Kent. They have two sons (born July 1988 and August 1990) and a daughter (born January 1993). They live near Tarporley.



External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Alastair Goodlad
Member of Parliament
for Eddisbury

Succeeded by
Antoinette Sandbach
Political offices
Preceded by
Tim Yeo
as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Shadow Secretary of State for Industry
Succeeded by
David Willetts
as Shadow Secretary of State for Trade and Industry
Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Valerie Amos
Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator