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IOM’s Five Points


The current director general of the Portuguese authority, Antonio Vitorino, will compete with his American deputy, Amy Pope, to take over the management of the organization, on May 15th. And she will find herself in a very unusual situation for a United Nations agency, as a lower-ranking employee challenges the general manager, who seeks a second term, which is easy to win under normal circumstances.

The International Organization for Migration, which elects its director-general next week, may be among the newer and less well-known of the United Nations agencies, but it is tasked with dealing with hundreds of millions of migrants around the world.

But what organization are they competing to run?

The International Organization for Migration was founded more than 70 years ago, but it entered the fold of the United Nations less than a decade ago.

Founded in 1951, the aim was to help respond to the chaos and displacement that occurred in Europe in the aftermath of World War II, with the mission of helping continental governments identify resettlement countries for the approximately 11 million people uprooted by the war.

During the 1950s, it arranged the transportation of nearly a million immigrants and moved on to work on other crises around the world.

While its role initially dealt with logistics operations in Europe, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has evolved into the leading international player on migration and internal displacement.

Serving immigrants and governments

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) works in emergencies and advocates for the rights of migrants while seeing humane and orderly migration as a benefit to people seeking to move and the communities in which they settle.

Today, it has 175 member states plus eight observer states with offices in more than 100 countries.

As it grows in size and importance, its traditional approach to providing advice and assistance to migrants and governments alike is causing contradictions and criticism.

Perhaps one of its most controversial activities is the Humanitarian Voluntary Return Program, whose uses included the return of tens of thousands of migrants of various nationalities from Libya.

Confined to the United States?

From the start, IOM has been run almost exclusively by Americans.

With the exception of the period between 1961 and 1969, when the Dutchman Bastian Havemann took over its management, and since 2018, when the former Portuguese Minister of Defense and Deputy Prime Minister Vitorino assumed the position, all the organization’s general directors were Americans.

Vitorino, who took office after member states rejected a candidate proposed by then-US President Donald Trump accused of climate change denial and anti-Muslim intolerance, has strong support from European countries.

But Washington is striving to restore the management of the organization, as it enthusiastically supports the candidacy of Bob, 49, to become the first woman to run it.

Pope confirmed to AFP earlier this year that the aim of her candidacy for the position is not to return the reins of the organization to Washington, but to implement a vision based on moving the body into the “twenty-first century.”

new to the United Nations

In 2016, that is, 65 years after the founding of the International Organization for Migration, it became a United Nations agency that carries out smaller operations in parallel with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Today, she is Coordinator and Secretary of the United Nations Global Network on Migration, which was established in 2019.

It is active in emergencies around the world with the aim of helping people on the move to stay resilient and building capacity within governments to “deal with all forms and implications of mobility”.

increasingly important

From Ukraine to Sudan, via Haiti and Bangladesh, the International Organization for Migration is active in more than 140 countries and is tasked with meeting the needs of some 281 million migrants and hundreds of thousands of others who cross borders irregularly around the world and remain outside official statistics, including victims of people smuggling.

And in 2021, the International Organization for Migration has helped about 32 million people in crisis and provided ordinary services to millions of others, according to its spokesman, Paul Dillon, AFP.

In addition, it called on the governments of the organization to play a greater role in supporting the tens of millions of people displaced within their own countries as a result of conflicts or natural disasters.

The organization’s budget has increased dramatically in recent years from about $1.7 billion in 2018 to about $3 billion last year, according to Vitorino AFP, while the number of its employees increased from 12,600 to about 20,000 during the same period.

Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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