Bulgaria’s UN top job candidate Kristalina Georgieva asserted on Monday she would “work to amplify the voice of goodness in our world” if she became the next Secretary General.
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“Goodness is universal, but quiet. Hate is loud,” she said at the informal dialogue at the United Nations General Assembly General, highlighting her work as EU Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management as a source of knowledge on crisis response and multilateralism, but also as the job that most impacted her and made her “a better person”.
Georgieva, now Commission Vice President for Budget and Human Resources, took up the humanitarian portfolio between 2009 and 2014, in the previous commission college.
She was grilled by the UNGA for just over two hours. Her late entry (with Borisov nominating her to replace UNESCO chief Irina Bokova last week, which set her hearing three months later compared those of other candidates) also triggered some comments.
The EU Commissioner pointed to her ability to “bring people together around solutions” as a key asset at a time an increasing number of people call into question the role of multilateral institutions.
“The reason I am here today is because I am being invited to present this vision of inclusion of all of us in the United Nations,” she added.
Georgieva drew a parallel between a moment when she was holding her granddaughter in her arms as the latter was crying and had to depart for the Sahel within a day where, in a nursery, she saw children so weak the couldn’t even cry.
The sight of those children prompted her to begin raising funds that would address the situation, Georgieva asserted, later emphasizing again the need to prevent crisis from happening and devote funding to that end, rather than just solve them.
Fending off criticism that her choice of imagery of Africa came from the 20th century, portraying the continent in a negative light and focusing on those left behind, she added Africa was a source of opportunities much more vibrant than Europe which had to be seized.
Other issues included in the informal dialogue included Syria, the Middle East, peacekeeping missions, multilingualism, the cholera in Haiti and the UN’s response to the outbreak, terrorism, Ukraine, and reform to the UN.
She made clear that effort was needed to prevent cases of peacekeepers engaged in sexual exploitation, including work with the troops “before they go to the field”, promotion of high standards of behavior among them and assurance no wrongdoing on their behalf would be left without consequences.
“I have seen the world changing,” Georgieva said, defending her record of impartiality. She pointed out her years at the World Bank and the time of restructuring shareholding while she was Corporate Secretary at the institution. “I had to carry out reforms, changing shareholding, and give 25 chairs to Africa. We did it. It wasn’t easy, but it happened.”
Her experience at the World Bank, which deals with 186 countries, is a proof she is able to withstand pressure, she argued.
The Bulgarian candidate made it clear she would easily commit herself to multilingualism at the United Nations, given the EU Commission’s own record of working with 24 languages, an issue falling within her own portfolio.
She spared no criticism for the UN, which needs a “myriad of reforms because we have a myriad of problems. But not all problems were born equal… The fact something is difficult is not an excuse not to be done.”
The candidate was relatively vague when answering to questions such as the UN’s role in the crisis in Ukraine, while admitting she was still making herself familiar with others but made sure she would study them in detail if elected.
Georgieva on Monday became the 13th person to attend an informal dialogue this year, just two days before a vote at the UN Security Council where – for the first time throughout the race – coloured ballots will be used to illustrate UNSC members’ preferences.
Bokova, the previous Bulgarian nominee, is still running, her refusal to withdraw having caused remarks from some countries which demanded clarifications on Sofia’s statement that Georgieva was now the “sole and unique” candidate of the Southeastern European nation.
Georgieva earlier voiced her confidence she could win over António Guterres, the former Portuguese Prime Minister who has been the frontrunner in the “straw polls” held by the UNSC so far.
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