Member countries of the UN migration agency have elected Amy Pope of the United States as its next director general.
Ms Pope elbowed aside her boss, Antonio Vitorino of Portugal, to get the job of International Organisation for Migration director general and will become the first woman to head the Geneva-based agency that was founded in 1951.
Ms Pope currently serves as Mr Vitorino’s deputy and ran against him for the job. She will start her five-year term on October 1, the IOM said in a statement.
The face-off was unusual in that Ms Pope was looking to unseat her boss in a contest between allies: The United States and Portugal are fellow Nato members.
The US government, which strongly supported Ms Pope’s candidacy, welcomed the news.
“Ms Pope’s election reflects a broad endorsement by member states of her vision to keep people at the heart of IOM’s mission, while implementing key governance and budget reforms to ensure IOM is prepared to meet the challenges it faces,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
Eight of the 10 IOM directors general since the agency was founded 72 years ago have been American.
Mr Vitorino, a former Portuguese government minister, swept into the job in 2018 after IOM member countries rebuffed a candidate put up by the Trump administration, which pulled the US out of the UN’s main human rights body, shunned globalism and espoused an “America First” policy that rankled many.
The IOM has nearly 19,000 staff members in 171 countries who provide migrants with food, water, shelter and paperwork help, and responds to mass migration crises in places as diverse as the US-Mexico border, the central Mediterranean, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Sudan.