UNITED NATIONS — European commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, a latecomer to the race to be the next secretary-general, says being the first U.N. chief from Eastern Europe and the first woman to be the world’s top diplomat would demonstrate the inclusiveness and universality of the United Nations.
But the Bulgarian diplomat and former World Bank vice-president said in an interview with The Associated Press ahead of her hearing in the General Assembly on Monday that it’s the skills and determination she would bring to the job that count most.
“I am very clear in defining directions,” Georgieva said. “I look forward with clarity. I am able to convince. I have my own convictions and I am able to carry people with me. And I have very strong managerial skills, proven, that I can get a job as hard as it may be, done.”
The 63-year-old grandmother said there was “an element of surprise” when Bulgarian Prime Minister Boiko Borisov asked her to enter the race after deciding to drop the country’s support from UNESCO chief Irina Bokova, a fellow Bulgarian who came in sixth of nine secretary-general candidates in the fifth informal poll in the U.N. Security Council on Sept. 26 which was led by former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres.
“I gave it some thought because I recognized that it’s so late in the process,” Georgieva said. “But then, I also thought, ‘If I don’t run, how would I know if I have a shot or I don’t?’ To find out, I have to run.”
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.
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. Ten candidates are vying to succeed Ban Ki-moon whose term ends on Dec. 31.
Since Borisov announced Georgieva’s candidacy on Wednesday, there have been diplomatic rumblings about her late entry and the fact that Bulgaria now has two candidates.
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 council members who have veto power and the 10 non-permanent members who don’t.
As a late-comer to the contest, Georgieva acknowledges she is at a “disadvantage” because she has less time to introduce herself.
“My job is to put my best foot forward, and hope that I will be judged on merits and not on length of campaigning,” she said in Saturday’s interview during a break from preparing for Monday’s question-and-answer session in the 193-member General Assembly, a hearing all the other candidates have gone through already.
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 to choose the first female U.N. chief.
Since her nomination, Georgieva said 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.
Georgieva said regional representation and gender equality are important because “the United Nations is the most inclusive organization we have.”
“The principle of universality is, for a good reason, cherished,” Georgieva said. “But wouldn’t that mean that all regions in the world should be able to see themselves up there at the top of the organization…? And wouldn’t it be just fair that half of the population of the planet that hasn’t yet seen itself there is able to do so?”
When and whether this happens at the same time, or in sequence, remains a question, she said, “but inclusiveness is for the betterment of the functioning of the United Nations.”
If she becomes secretary-general, Georgieva said, an urgent priority will be to work at all levels to resolve the Syria conflict, to make conflict prevention a priority, to implement the U.N. development goals for 2030 and the Paris agreement to tackle climate change, and to “get smarter” about reforming the United Nations.