Yumkella to step down as head of Sustainable Energy for All


Kandeh Yumkella is to step down in July 2015 as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Chief Executive Officer of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative (SEforALL). Announcing Yumkella’s departure on 12 March 2015, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon expressed “deep gratitude for his outstanding service”.

“Mr. Yumkella has been a visionary and dynamic leader of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative. Through his passionate advocacy, he has been at the forefront of a new global narrative on energy as a centerpiece for sustainable development and climate change, helping shape the proposed Sustainable Development Goal on energy,” Ban said in a statement. “His drive and compassion enabled him to lead this global movement on sustainable energy for all to mobilize action across all stakeholder groups, potentially making a difference for millions of people across the world.”

In a personal message sent to members of Sustainable Energy for All’s senior Advisory Board, Yumkella said it had not been an easy decision to end his 19-year career in the United Nations system, but he believed it was time for him to return home to serve the people of his native Sierra Leone. “It has been an intense and uplifting experience to play a part in putting the goal of universal access to sustainable energy in its rightful place as a central pillar of the sustainable development agenda,” he wrote.

Yumkella said the UN Deputy Secretary-General and the SEforALL Executive Committee were overseeing the transition process to a new leadership for the initiative, and had set up a selection panel. “I have no doubt that the initiative is in fine hands and will continue to go from strength to strength. It is a vision whose time has come, demonstrating in very practical terms that achieving universal energy access and mitigating climate change are not mutually exclusive goals, but can be part of the same, coherent solution,” the message said.

Yumkella said 2015 offered a historic opportunity for SEforALL to be a driver of change to achieve the future Sustainable Development Goals and climate change agreements. He said SEforALL was already engaged to support relevant processes, including the post-2015 deliberations, the UN’s Conference on Financing for Development and the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, COP 21. “There’s a saying that it takes a village to raise a child. I like to think we’ve been that village, together raising Sustainable Energy for All to become a strong, mature voice in the world, one that can galvanise real action to improve lives,” he told the Advisory Board members. “Individuals come and go, but the village carries on. Under your guidance, and with the dedication of its small staff and huge network of partners, I know the SEforALL movement will continue to grow and flourish.”

Yumkella took up his current post in July 2013, leading the overall coordination of the Sustainable Energy for All initiative and overseeing the work of its Global Facilitation Team, as well as other operations including SEforALL’s Thematic and Regional hubs. He previously served two terms as Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), following various high-level positions in that organization. Since 2008 he has also chaired UN-Energy, convening UN organizations working on energy issues.