Secretary of State Colin Powell has eliminated 23 out of 55 special envoys, representatives, and advisor positions in a move to downsize the State Department, but the Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is among the positions he will retain.

“This is a significant indication that Secretary Powell believes in the efficacy of giving Tibet special consideration at the State Department and a welcome move on the part of the Bush Administration,” said Mary Beth Markey, Director of Governmental Relations for the International Campaign for Tibet. “Certainly many of our friends in Congress who pressed for the establishment of this position will be pleased with the decision and join us in anticipating the timely appointment of our next Tibet Coordinator.”

The position of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues resulted from a 1997 agreement between then Secretary of State Albright and the Chairmen and Ranking Members of the Senate Foreign Relations and House International Relations Committees. The Executive-Congressional agreement also reflected congressional intent that the Special Coordinator report directly to the Undersecretary for Political Affairs and have adequate resources, staff and bureaucratic support for its mission.

The central objective of the Tibet Coordinator is to promote substantive dialogue between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama and his representatives. Other responsibilities include seeking to protect Tibet’s distinct identity and pressing for improved respect for human rights.

While Powell has yet to fill the position in the new administration’s State Department, previous Tibet Coordinators were Gregory Craig, who served concurrently as Director of Policy Planning, and Julia Taft, who served concurrently as Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugees and Migration.

The positions that Secretary Powell cut include a special coordinator for Iraqi transition and envoys for the Balkans and the Middle East. In addition to the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Powell has retained other country-specific positions for Sudan and North Korea, as well as positions that focus on arms control agreements and humanitarian concerns such as war crimes and the removal of land mines.