Sri Lanka’s first female UN Resident Coordinator passed away suddenly | Government and activists hail top UN official as a thoughtful and passionate humanitarian
The funeral of Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Sri Lanka, Ms. Una McCauley who passed away suddenly on Friday night will be held later this week in Sri Lanka.
The UN Colombo Headquarters announced her sudden demise early Saturday. It has been reported that she was fighting a protracted illness and was on medical leave for treatment at the time of her demise at a local hospital.
Preparations were being made to rush her overseas when she passed away suddenly, diplomatic sources said.
In a condolence statement issued hours after her passing, the UN Colombo said, “As the most senior UN official in the country, Ms. McCauley led the UN Country Team of 21 Resident and Non-Resident UN Agencies and acted as the representative of the UN Secretary-General in Sri Lanka,” the statement read.
Aged 54, she was an Irish and a UK national and was a mother of two sons. At the time of her passing away McCauley’s mother was in Colombo. Her two sons are due to fly in for the funeral which is expected to take place on Friday.
The UN Colombo office said, “She was a bold, inspiring, and strong leader and the United Nations Family will miss her dearly – especially her sense of humour, humility, passion, energy, and unwavering commitment to make lives better for all.”
He colleagues and co-workers said she was a passionate and caring humanitarian, dedicating her life to serve people of the world.
Upon hearing her death, President Maithripala Sirisena tweeted, “I am deeply saddened to hear that Una McCauley has passed away. She served Sri Lanka with passion and commitment. My sympathies to her loved ones and UN SriLanka family.
Foreign Secretary Prasad Kariyawasam tweeted, “We are very saddened. She, Una McCauley was an excellent UN Sri Lanka professional who provided resolute support for Sri lanka’s economic and social progress. We will miss her presence in our midst immensely.”
Mirak Raheem, an Independent Researcher and Activist who worked closely with the late Resident coordinator said, “For those of us who worked with Una, her death comes as a huge shock. She was someone who not just worked in and on Sri Lanka but cared for it. And this was reflected in her work; be it in her concern for the high rates of suicide among youth or the slow pace of land release in the North and the East. Even though we disagreed on positions taken by the UN, she would always give a careful hearing and respond.”
“She did not stand on ceremony and thought nothing of jumping on a train or personally responding to concerns raised by civil society partners from different parts of the country. Una, you will be missed,” he said.
Bhavani Fonseka, Senior Researcher, Centre for Policy Alternatives wrote, “Una Mccauley’s presence came at a crucial time, when Sri Lanka was in the throes of transition out of conflict and towards a more democratic future. She knew instinctively how important it was to engage with civil society and local communities. She had a knack of listening and connecting with people and keeping the UN engaged and relevant through her work. She will be greatly missed.”
The Foreign Affairs Ministry in a statement issued yesterday said, it joined the United Nations Country Team in Sri Lanka in honouring the life and work of the late senior UN official.
It said, “Her wisdom, energy, inspiration, and goodwill that guided the UN-Sri Lanka partnership will always be valued and remembered. A humanitarian and an optimist, she encouraged all to look to the future with a vision for unity and human dignity.”