Bokova deplores ‘undignified’ campaign against her UN bid

Andrew Mitchell, 2nd left and his preferred candidate, Kristalina Georgieva. [European Commission]

Irina Bokova, Bulgaria’s candidate for UN Secretary General, has deplored the ‘undignified campaign’ against her, which according to former Irish Minister for European Affairs Dick Roche ‘seems to be part of a crude effort to ‘strong arm’ Bulgaria to replace Bokova with Kristalina Georgieva, the Commission Vice-President, in the race for the UN top job.”

The last in a series of publications intended to harm Bokova was the op-ed by Andrew Mitchell, a former UK international development secretary, published in The Times, bearing the title “We’ve got to avert this looming disaster at the UN.”

Mitchell argues that the election of Bokova, who is his own words performed strongly in the two rounds of secret voting held so far, would be a catastrophe. A third vote will be held on Monday (29 August) and the fact that article was published four days before appears to confirm that it is designed to impact on the vote.

Mitchell says Bokova has been a “disaster” in her current position as head of UNESCO, and that Britain’s experts at the Department for International Development (DFID) have consistently placed Unesco as one of the worst-performing UN agencies. “The prospect of Ms Bokova doing to the UN what she has done to Unesco is too awful to contemplate”, he writes.

Preference for Georgieva

“Should Monday’s vote result in deadlock, and if Ms Bokova receives so few votes she drops out, a new candidate should be put forward. Easily the best would be another Bulgarian, Kristalina Georgieva”, Andrew Mitchell writes.

Mitchell also calls Bokova “a relic of the Communist past”. Before 1989, Bokova served as a diplomat. spoke to Bokova who said she was appalled by the “undignified” campaign against her. She said that while it was true that the DFID Multilateral Aid Review had a critical assessment of Unesco, alongside other UN agencies, the author of the op-ed did not mention that this review was published at the beginning of 2011, only a year following her election.

According to Bokova, Mitchell omitted to mention that the 2011 Review clearly stated “a new senior team is already setting the right direction. There is a good recent track record of bearing down on costs and improving efficiency”.

Bokova added that Mitchell forgot to mention that the UK government’s own “2013 Update to the Multilateral Aid Review” highlighted the improvements to Unesco “in work planning, budgeting, HR policies, transparency and cost control, which have strengthened organizational effectiveness.” At that time, Unesco issued a statement, welcoming the change of positions of DFID.

Bokova said that she managed to successfully overcome a financial crisis following the loss of 22% of Unesco’s regular budget, following the US withdrawal of funding to the organisation following the accession of Palestine in 2011. But she added that this did not prevent her, after a first successful mandate, to be re-elected as head of Unesco in 2013 with the full and open support of both the US and UK governments.

Bokova also said that aside from the UK government’s own acknowledgement of her reform programme, two of Unesco’s largest donors, Sweden and Norway, gave similar praise for her leadership and management the Organization.

Bokova also said that aside from the UK government’s own acknowledgement of her reform programme, two of Unesco’s largest donors, Sweden and Norway, gave similar praise for her leadership and management the Organization.

Indeed, Sweden’s assessment says that “Irina Bokova enjoys great confidence among the Member States. She purposefully drives the ongoing reform work and in close cooperation with these. The Director-General is appreciated internally for her communicative way of working and her active efforts to make UNESCO more visible.”

Bokova therefore called the attacks against her “completely unjustified” and added that her critic obviously had its own agenda and candidate. She stopped short of naming Kristalina Georgieva, for whom Mitchel had expressed his preferences.

The fact remains that while Georgieva has had ambitions to be nominated for the UN top job, the Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov chose Bokova.

Georgieva won’t run for UN Secretary General

The Bulgarian government announced today (8 February) that Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva will continue with her duties – putting an end to expectations that she would run for UN Secretary General to replace Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires on 31 December 2016.

Roche, who has been a supporter of Bokova in recent months, Andrew Mitchell’s, called the attack on her “inaccurate and crass in equal measure”.

“He produces no shred of evidence to support his claims regarding Irina Bokova’s period as DG of Unesco,” Roche continued.

“The facts challenge Mitchell’s view.  Contrary to his jaundiced analysis, Irina Bokova has, by common consent, been a reforming presence within Unesco. She is rightly credited with reinvigorating a UN agency that had been in difficulties. She has been twice elected as Director-General, and in her role as DG she has won international respect for her outspoken campaigning against the destruction of heritage sites in Iraq, Syria and Mali,” Roche said.

He said further that Mitchell’s attack falls back on the smear tactic, which ‘seems to be part of a crude effort to ‘strong arm’ Bulgaria to replace Bokova with Georgieva”, but added that this was likely to fail.

“By calling Bokova ‘a relic from the communist past,” he chooses to overlook the courage she demonstrated as part of the small group of political leaders who led Bulgaria out of that past and into its future as a member of the EU and of NATO,” Roche said.

Bokova: There was opposition in Bulgaria against membership application

Twenty years ago, on 15 December 1995, Bulgaria presented its EU membership application, ending months of uncertainty over its geopolitical aspirations. On the occasion of this anniversary, EURACTIV spoke to several political figures from that period.

“While Mitchell is entitled to his views, he is not entitled to invent facts,” the former Irish minister concluded.

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