United Nations

Vice-finance minister Li Yong becomes first mainland Chinese to head a UN agency

Li Yong, a vice-finance minister, gets the nod as director general of the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 26 June, 2013, 7:33am

Vice-Finance Minister Li Yong has been elected director general of the United Nations' Industrial Development Organisation (Unido) - the first mainlander to head a UN agency - state media reported.

The 62-year-old ran against five other candidates and secured the required two-thirds of the vote from Unido's 53-member board in Vienna on Monday, China Central Television reported.

He is expected to be officially appointed to the post at Unido's general conference on Friday and serve a term of four years.

Li has been a vice-finance minister and a member of the People's Bank of China's monetary policy committee for a decade.

Established in 1966, Unido became a specialised agency under the UN in 1985. It works to help developing countries achieve sustainable industrial development. Its chief is equivalent in rank to the UN's undersecretary general.

The organisation is headquartered in Vienna and has 172 member states.

Li was quoted by CCTV as saying that Unido faces many challenges, including the provision of better services for member states, which would be a top priority when he took office.

"We need to mobilise more money to serve member states," Li said. "And we need to provide more effective support to them."

He said the least developed countries needed to start industrialisation, and middle-income countries should further boost industrial development.

He added that his winning the post showed China's strong support for Unido. The other candidates were from Afghanistan, Cambodia, Italy, Poland and Thailand. Current Unido head, Kandeh Yumkella of Sierra Leone, ends his term this month.

Li started as a researcher at the finance ministry's Research Institute for Fiscal Science in 1984.

Between 1985 and 1998, he worked at China's permanent mission to the UN, the office of the World Bank's Chinese executive director, and the finance ministry's World Bank department. He was then secretary general of the Chinese Institute of Certified Public Accountants before being made an assistant finance minister in 2000.

Professor Zhou Yongsheng , an international relations expert at China Foreign Affairs University, said Li's new post meant that China was making an increased contribution to international organisations.

"It shows the importance Western countries and developing regions are attaching to China," he said. "On the other hand, Chinese officials are getting more familiar with the rules of international organisations."