The Slovenia Times

Türk calls for gender equality, migration policy in UN hearing


In his brief presentation, Türk highlighted his long experience with the UN, where he worked as Slovenia's ambassador in the 1990s and as assistant secretary general to Kofi Annan for political affairs in the 2000s.

He recalled how it was precisely during the time he served as assistant secretary general that the idea of the Human Rights Council had matured, the institution now having turned out to work well in practice.

Outlining his vision for the UN, Türk said it was crucial to work with member states, but stressed the importance of sovereignty.

In his vision, a written document submitted to the UN, he also highlighted how important it was to work with regional organisations, and protagonists outside government such as the civil society.

In terms of topics, Türk singled out today sustainable development, arguing that the momentum behind the sustainable development drive may not be lost. His vision also puts maintenance of international peace and security and human rights at the centre.

In the subsequent Q&A session, Türk was quizzed on a variety of topics.

Several countries asked how he would ensure gender and geographical balance in senior UN posts and the UN Secretariat.

He said he would pay special attention to appropriate gender balance and regional balance. "I believe the key to successful management is the building of trust and confidence, and team work."

He also stressed that as president of Slovenia (2007-2012), four of his seven nominees for the country's top court were women.

Quizzed by an EU representative about migrations, Türk said that the current measures taken in Europe were "temporary and should not be seen as permanent".

They are, however, a "useful reminder" that migrations have to be put on the UN agenda. "Now is the time for a global policy framework for migration governance," he said, while at the same time calling for a gradual approach.

Quizzed about Palestine by the representative of Palestine, Türk said the two-state solution was "the imperative" which the UN has been committed to for a long time. Palestine will be a priority for the new secretary general in their first year in office, he noted.

As for ways of "ending the occupation and saving the two-state solution", as the Palestinian representative put it, Türk said diplomacy needed to be "energised" but it was too early to be specific on what kind of instrument should be used.

The representative of Israel, meanwhile, pressed Türk about whether he would be as concerned about Israel as about Palestine, and solicited his view on the spread of Anti-Semitism.

Türk said the two-state solution implied concern for Israel as well and said incitement of terrorism "is a crime and needs to be combated".

"Anti-Semitism has to be condemned like all other forms of racist and xenophobic attitudes," he added.

Türk was also asked about how the UN should address terrorism in general. He noted that terrorism was not a monolithic phenomenon and the UN's response should be correspondingly varied.

Indeed, Türk said "heavy-handed" military responses were not always the best, noting that the UN also needed "counter-narratives".

There were also questions about the effectiveness of sanctions, with Türk noting that the UN should be "prudent" when it comes to imposing sanctions while being realistic from the start about suspending and lifting them.

He ended his presentation on an emotional note, remembering all colleagues he knew at the UN who lost their lives in the line of duty.

Türk's appearance before the General Assembly was part of the new selection process, which the UN wants to make more transparent. However, the candidate will ultimately be picked by the UN Security Council.

In a press conference following the hearing, Türk said what made him qualified for the top job at the UN was his "experience, commitment and vision".

He also stressed the need for the UN to be better at communicating its policies. If elected he would appoint a communications chief who knows how to communicate with young audiences, and strive to reduce UN-speak so that "at least 30% of what I say is not UN-ese".

Quizzed by a journalist, he said he was in principle in favour of a freedom of information policy at the UN since the organisation needed to be transparent. But he was quick to point out that sometimes "ideas need to mature" before they are presented to the public.


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