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Satterfield appointed special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues

David Satterfield, the director of the Baker Institute of Public Policy, poses for a portrait in 2022. Katherine Hui / Thresher

By Prayag Gordy     10/16/23 1:02pm

President Joseph Biden appointed David Satterfield, the director of the Baker Institute for Public Policy, as the special envoy for Middle East humanitarian issues Oct. 15. Satterfield said he will continue to serve as the Baker Institute’s director through his “temporary mission” as special envoy.

“I am very supportive of Ambassador Satterfield’s appointment as Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues,” Rice President Reggie DesRoches wrote in a statement to the Thresher. “It is a remarkable honor and privilege to have President Biden entrust the leader of Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy with this significant responsibility … We are proud of Ambassador Satterfield and his service to the country and the broader global community and wish him well.”

DesRoches added that the staff at the Baker Institute will manage day-to-day operations with guidance from Satterfield during “what he envisions to be a temporary mission.”

According to the U.S. Department of State, Satterfield will “lead U.S. diplomacy to urgently address the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Satterfield will arrive in the Middle East shortly, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“Today the President appointed one of our most senior diplomats, one of our most experienced diplomats, Ambassador David Satterfield, to lead our humanitarian efforts,” Blinken said Oct. 15 in Cairo. “He’ll actually be here tomorrow to start working on those efforts to make sure we’re coordinating everything, and as I said, moving assistance in to people who need it and helping people get out of harm’s way.”

Satterfield joined the Baker Institute in July 2022, succeeding Edward Djerejian, the founding director.

“With over four decades of diplomatic service and policy and management leadership experience — both in the United States and overseas in the Near East and Europe — [Satterfield] is well suited to maintain and grow the [Baker Institute’s] superb legacy,” DesRoches told the Thresher in August 2022.

Satterfield spent more than 40 years at the State Department, mainly in the Middle East. Among other roles, Satterfield was the director of Arab and Arab-Israeli Affairs at the State Department and spent three years as director for Near Eastern Affairs on the National Security Council, working primarily on the Arab-Israeli peace process, according to the State Department.

His appointment as special envoy comes in the midst of the Israel-Hamas war, which has claimed the lives of more than 2,750 Palestinians and 1,400 Israelis, according to The Wall Street Journal. Martin Griffiths, the under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator at the United Nations, “expressed deep concern about the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and the fate of Israeli hostages,” according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

“Ambassador Satterfield’s diplomatic experience and decades of work navigating the some of the world’s most challenging conflicts will be instrumental in our continued effort to address humanitarian issues in the region — a top priority for President Biden — including our efforts to bring urgently needed humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian people, particularly in Gaza, in coordination with the U.N., Egypt, Jordan, Israel, and other regional stakeholders,” U.S. National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

[10/17/2023 12:26 a.m.] This article was updated with a statement from Rice President Reggie DesRoches.

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