Senior UN official dies in plane crash

UN Resident Coordinator and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Resident Representative in Uzbekistan, Richard Conroy, has died in a plane crash in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, the United Nations has confirmed.

"This is a tragic event for UNDP and the UN in Uzbekistan. Not only have we lost a great professional who truly believed in and always strived to apply UN values, but also an excellent colleague and a very good friend," Lykke Andersen, UNDP's Deputy Resident Representative told IRIN on Wednesday.

The crash occurred on Tuesday evening when a Soviet-built Uzbekistan Airways Yak-40 plane on a scheduled flight from the border with Afghanistan crashed as it attempted to land in dense fog at Tashkent's Vostochny Airport. All 37 passengers and crew on board were killed, including Conroy. Also among the passengers was Richard Penner, country manager for the Christian relief organisation, World Concern, in Uzbekistan. Penner was a Canadian citizen, according to the Uzbek foreign ministry.

Conroy, a 56-year-old British/Australian national, had worked extensively in China and South Asia, before assuming his post in Uzbekistan in August 2001, just weeks before the events of 11 September, where he distinguished himself in dealing with its aftermath and the implications of the war in Afghanistan. During that time, he was instrumental in establishing a key logistics hub for urgently needed humanitarian relief assistance to be brought into the north of Afghanistan from the southern Uzbek border town of Termez - the same town he was returning from on Tuesday.

Reflecting the mood of the United Nations, UNDP Administrator Mark Malloch Brown said in a statement that Conroy was an example of integrity, competence and commitment to the UN's highest goals.

"The United Nations has lost one of its finest professionals. A truly tireless international civil servant, Conroy left a legacy of excellence, fairness and decency," Brown said. "He will be fondly remembered for his outstanding contributions and will be missed by all his colleagues who knew him during his years with UNDP."

In what may prove to be one of his last interviews, IRIN spoke recently with Richard Conroy in Tashkent about some of the many humanitarian challenges facing Uzbekistan today.

Complete copy of the IRIN interview with Richard Conroy