America vs. Europe: A tense race to lead the United Nations migration agency unfolds

European nations and the United States are fielding rival candidates to head the UN migration agency in an unusually tense race between allies that begins in Geneva on Monday.

By Gabriel Tetrault-Farber and Emma Farge

More than 100 million people are forcibly displaced around the world and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) works to ensure humane and orderly migration and to intervene in emergencies to help vulnerable populations.

The IOM’s 175 member states have been voting by secret ballot in closed-door meetings since Monday morning.

The candidates include IOM Deputy Director Amy Pope, a former White House adviser with the personal support of US President Joe Biden, and her boss, Portugal’s Antonio Vitorino, who has led the organization since 2018.

Ms Pope announced her campaign last year and has been on unpaid leave from IOM since March, tweeting pictures of herself meeting officials around the world. He promises to “proactively address the challenges of migration and harness the benefits” and says he will focus on its root causes.

Vitorino, a former EU commissioner close to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, cited increasing the organization’s annual budget among his achievements.

Asked about the competition, he admitted it was unprecedented.

“We’ve never had a general manager compete with one of his assistant generals. You could call it a novelty,” he told reporters. He added that he had the support of Portugal and the “strong encouragement” of the European Union.

Diplomats said the two candidates had lobbied hard in recent weeks and were expected to go through several rounds of voting for one of them to secure the two-thirds majority required by the EU’s constitution.IOM. Both candidates personally informed them of their victory.

A diplomat joked that the ballot would be secret to avoid incurring the wrath of Brussels or Washington.

Voting may continue till Tuesday depending on the number of rounds.

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