Until January 20, 2017, Sarah Sewall, Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, concurrently served as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. The Trump Administration is yet to designate the new Special Coordinator.
The appointment of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 and is an indication of the United States’ commitment to a negotiated resolution on Tibet that preserves the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of the Tibetan people.
Role of the Special Coordinator
The Special Coordinator’s central objective is to promote substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives with a view to resolving differences. The office also maintains close ties with the NGO community and the public. Consistent with the overall U.S. goal of promoting the protection of human rights, this office will advance this goal in Tibet and seek to assist in preserving the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic heritage of Tibetan people.
Creation of the Special Coordinator Position
Prior to the creation of the Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a bill to establish the position of United States Special Envoy for Tibet was introduced in the 103rd Congress. Provision to create the position was also introduced as sections of the foreign relations authorizations bills in the 104th and 105th Congresses.
In each case, the legislation called for the Special Envoy to be given ambassadorial rank. Former Senator Pell, underscoring the need, stated that "a Special Envoy for Tibet would ensure that this important element of United States-China relations was continually reflected in policy discussions on a senior level."
Trepidation by the Clinton Administration prompted a compromise, and on October 31, 1997, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright named Gregory Craig, Director of Policy Planning, to serve as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.