Key Points:

New Zealander David Shearer has been named as the United Nations deputy Special Representative to Iraq and will head up humanitarian and development projects.

The UN scaled down its staff in Iraq after mission chief Sergio Vieira de Mello and 22 others were killed in a bombing in Baghdad four years ago.

But earlier this month the UN Security Council passed a resolution to renew its commitment to Iraq and assist the local government in advancing dialogue, political reconciliation and a review of the Constitution.

Mr Shearer has worked in Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and in Serbia during the bombing of Belgrade.

He has headed up the UN office for the coordination of Humanitarian Affairs based in Jerusalem since 2003.

Last year he was in charge of the UN humanitarian efforts in Lebanon as Lebanese returned to their homes following bombing raids by Israel.

Mr Shearer was named the New Zealand Herald's Person of the Year in 1992 and was awarded an MBE the following year for humanitarian work in Somalia, where he headed up the Save the Children Fund.

Mr Shearer was an adviser to the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Phil Goff until 2002 when he stood for Labour in the Whangarei seat and lost.

Mr Goff, who went to Papatoetoe High School with Mr Shearer, has kept in contact with him as he travels around the various trouble spots of the world.

"David's a pretty special guy. He's hugely regarded by those he works with and people within the UN," Mr Goff said.

"He'll do as good a job as can be done in a situation that is clearly having tragic consequences in the sheer loss of life and sectarian violence," Mr Goff said.

He said Mr Shearer's new post is important, daunting, and despite the UN taking all possible security precautions, dangerous.

Mr Goff said Mr Shearer's wife and two children will be based in Jordan.

"He has a very impressive curriculum vitae of international service and New Zealand should be rightly proud that a Kiwi has been chosen for what has to be one of the most difficult jobs in the world."

Mr Goff said he hopes once Mr Shearer's international career is finished, he returns to New Zealand and enters into politics.

The New Zealand Herald contacted the United Nations office in Iraq but Mr Shearer has not arrived in Baghdad yet.

A staff member from the office said Mr Shearer was expected within two weeks.