MINURSO SRSG Mr. Alexander Ivanko


Alexander Ivanko (Russian Federation)

SRSG and Head of MINURSO

Alexander Ivanko of the Russian Federation is the Special Representative for Western Sahara and Head of the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO). He succeeded Colin Stewart of Canada.  

Having served as Chief of Staff of MINURSO since 2009, Mr. Ivanko brings to the position more than 30 years of experience in international affairs, peacekeeping and journalism.  He previously served as Director of Public Information for the United Nations Mission in Kosovo (2006-2009) and as the United Nations Spokesperson in Bosnia-Herzegovina (1994-1998).   

Mr. Ivanko began his career in journalism, working as a correspondent in Afghanistan and the United States for a Russian newspaper. He was also Senior Adviser to the Representative on Freedom of the Media of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (1998-2005).  

He holds a Master’s degree with honors in Journalism from the Moscow State University and is fluent in Russian and English.  


Major General Zia Ur Rehman (Pakistan)

Force Commander

Major General Ur Rehman has 30 years of national and international military leadership experience, including as commander of military formations on operations and directing staff appointments at Command, Staff and War College levels. He possesses a range of experiences in other leadership, staff, liaison and operational tasks, including as a Military Observer in the then United Nations Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUC). From 2015 to 2016, he served as Senior National Representative in the United States Central Command Headquarters (CENTCOM) in Florida. Most recently, Major General Ur Rehman served as the Commander of an Infantry Brigade from 2016 to 2017 and of an Infantry Division from 2017.

 Major General Ur Rehman holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the Pakistan Military Academy in Kakul, a Master of Business Administration degree from the Canadian School of Management Institute of Graduate Studies in Lahore, a Bachelor of Science (Hons) degree from the University of Balochistan in Quetta, a Master of Science degree from the Command and Staff College in Quetta, a Master of Science (Hons) and a Master of Philosophy degree from the National Defence University, Islamabad. Born in 1969, Major General Ur Rehman is married and has two children


MINURSO CMS Mrs. Veneranda Mukandoli-Jefferson


Veneranda Mukandoli-Jefferson (Rwanda)

Chief of Mission Support

Appointed as MINURSO CMS effective 1 Dec 2017. Prior to MINURSO, she served as Chief Mission Support (CMS) with the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) from 1 July 2016 – 30 November 2017. She also served as Deputy Director of Mission Support (DDMS) in Haiti from January – 30 June 2016. She served as Chief of Mission Support with the United Nations Office for West Africa (UNOWA), the Cameroon-Nigeria Mixed Commission (CNMC) and the Office of the Special Envoy for the Sahel (OSES) from May 2011 to January 2016. She also served as Chief Administrative Services (CAS) with the United Nations Mission for the Central Africa Republic and Chad (MINURCAT) from March 2009 – April 2011 and Chief Administrative Services with the United Nations Mission for Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE) from January 2007 to February 2009. Prior to that, she was Chief Finance Officer with the United Nations Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL) and with the United Nations Missions in Sierra Leone (UNAMSIL) and Budget Officer with UNHQ /FMSS. Prior to joining UN, she held different positions with the City and the State of New York, USA: Senior Economic Analyst with the New York City Economic Development Corporation, August 1996 – July 1999; Senior Analyst with the New York City Administration for Children Services; Legislative Fiscal Analyst with the New York State Legislature: NYS Assembly Ways and Means Committee, 1994 – July 1996 and Research Analyst with the New York State Department of Economic Development. She also worked in Rwanda as Senior Policy Analyst and Senior Financial Analyst respectively with the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Caisse Hypothecaire du Rwanda. She holds a Master’s degree in Economics from the State University of New York at Albany, New York, USA and a Master’s Degree in Finance and Accounting from the Academia de Studii Economice de Bucuresti, Romania. She is fluent in both English and French.



Nick Birnback (USA)

MINURSO Chief of Staff 

Nick Birnback has served the United Nations for 25 years, most recently as the Chief of Public Affairs for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations in New York. Prior to this assignment he served as the Chief of Public Information and acting Chief of Staff for the UN Political Office for Somalia (UNPOS), and has worked in a number of capacities both in the field and at Headquarters including as Special Assistant to the Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary General at the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea, an Information Officer in Liberia and Sierra Leone, a Civil Affairs Officer and Special Assistant to the Deputy Commissioner of the UN Mission’s International Police Task Force in Bosnia and Herzegovina and an information Officer and Acting Spokesman for the United Nations Mission in East Timor. He has also worked as a Political Officer in the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (now the Department of Peace Operations), an Information Officer in the Department of Public Information (now the Department of Global Communications) and an External Relations Officer for the UN Department of Political Affairs’ (now the Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs) Electoral Assistance Division.

Mr. Birnback has a BA in International Relations from Tufts University and a Masters’ Degree in Public Policy from Princeton University.