POLITICS

UN migration agency elects American as 1st woman director

May 15, 2023, 2:44 AM | Updated: 8:02 am

FILE - Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, speaks t...

FILE - Antonio Vitorino, Director General of the International Organisation for Migration, speaks to The Associated Press in Nairobi, Kenya, Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2023. International Organization for Migration chief Antonio Vitorino of Portugal faces what is poised to be a tight race against his Biden administration-backed American deputy, Amy Pope, as the Geneva-based organization chooses a new director-general on Monday, May 15, 2023. (AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi, File)

GENEVA (AP) — Member countries of the U.N. migration agency on Monday elected Amy Pope of the United States as its next director general.

Pope elbowed aside her boss, Antonio Vitorino of Portugal, to get the job of International Organization for Migration director general and will become the first woman to head the Geneva-based agency that was founded in 1951.

Pope currently serves as Vitorino’s deputy and ran against him for the job. She will start her five-year term on Oct. 1, the IOM said in a statement.

The face-off was unusual in that Pope was looking to unseat her boss in a contest between allies: The United States and Portugal are fellow NATO members.

The U.S. government, which strongly supported 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.

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 U.S. out of the U.N.’s main human rights body, shunned globalism and espoused an “America First” policy that rankled many.

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 U.S.-Mexico border, the central Mediterranean, Bangladesh, Ukraine, and Sudan.

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UN migration agency elects American as 1st woman director