Kristalina Georgieva, a latecomer to the race to be the next secretary-general, told the General Assembly on Monday that it is time for the United Nations to remake the case for nations to work together to address the many global challenges and that she is uniquely qualified to do that.
A Bulgarian diplomat and former World Bank vice-president, Georgieva highlighted her experience in multilateral settings and her ability to “bring people together around solutions that we can all support.”
“I can get things done,” she said. “I have led successfully reforms that have made organizations more vibrant. In every instance, I combined a commitment to inclusion with a focus on results and in every instance it required diplomacy to negotiate diverse national interests toward a common purpose.”
Georgieva is currently vice-president of the European Commission and its commissioner for budget and human resources. She formerly held the post of European commissioner for international cooperation, humanitarian aid and crisis response.
The 63-year-old Georgieva also recalled holding her healthy, noisy granddaughter in her arms one day and then the next traveling to Africa’s Sahel region where she stood in a nursery full of children so weak they couldn’t even cry.
“In a rich world like ours, this must not happen,” she said, adding that the U.N. had a responsibility to promote change and adapt to a challenging world where a growing number of people were questioning the role of multilateral institutions.
Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov asked Georgieva to enter the race after deciding to drop his country’s support from UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, a fellow Bulgarian who has made a disappointing showing in the latest informal polls among members of the U.N. Security Council.
Under the U.N. Charter, the secretary-general is elected by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In practice, this has meant that the five permanent council members with veto power — the U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have the final say.
By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions of the world. Officials from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Western Europe have all held the world’s top diplomatic post. East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn. A group of 56 nations are campaigning for the first female U.N. chief.
Both Georgieva and Bokova will be on the ballot in the next informal poll on Wednesday which is considered the most important so far. That’s because it will be the first using different colored ballots to distinguish between the five permanent Security Council members who have veto power and the 10 non-permanent members who don’t.
Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres has led all five informal polls, but he has received two “discourage” votes. There has been a lot of speculation about whether Russia, which is a member of the East European group, would vote for him.
Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who holds the Security Council’s rotating presidency this month, told a news conference late Monday that: “We do believe that it’s the turn of Eastern Europe to provide the next secretary-general. We would very much like to see a woman.”
Churkin also said “there’s a good chance” that after Wednesday’s informal poll the council will move to a formal vote a few days later.
“Then things will become clear as to: Do we have a candidate who we are prepared to recommend to the General Assembly? Are we close to having a candidate whom we might be prepared to propose to the General Assembly? Or do we need to start from scratch?,” Churkin said.
He expressed hope the next secretary-general will be selected in October.
Since Georgieva’s nomination, two East European candidates who dropped out of the race, Croatia’s former Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and Montenegro’s Foreign Minister Igor Luksic, have endorsed her along with the governments of Hungary and Latvia.
Wrapping up her session in the packed General Assembly chamber, Georgieva said: “Our problem in the world today is that goodness is quiet. Hate is very loud. You can hear it everywhere.”
“Should I be selected to be secretary-general, my job would be to amplify the voice of goodness,” she said.