Turkish diplomat Volkan Bozkir was elected 75th President of the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, reported the UN News. Bozkir was the sole candidate in the secret ballot. Needing a simple majority to be appointed, he received 178 votes; 11 countries abstained.
Born in 1950, Bozkir studied law and has been a diplomat and politician for over 45 years. Among his diplomatic roles, he has been First Secretary of the Turkish Embassy in Baghdad, Consul General in New York, Ambassador in Bucharest and Permanent Representative of Turkey to the EU.
Moreover, he has held senior advisory positions in Turkey and in 2011 was elected as an MP. Parliamentary roles include Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman of the Turkey-USA Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Caucus and Co-Chairman of the Turkish-Russian Civic Forum.
His presidency of the General Assembly coincides with the 75th anniversary of the organisation. In his vision statement, Bozkir said: “The 75th anniversary of the UN gives us a unique opportunity to renew our commitment to multilateralism and the central role of the UN therein. I will represent the membership as a whole, take the views and interest of all member states into account and reconcile them to the best of my abilities.”
Turkey, of course, is host to around four million refugees from neighbouring conflict zones. As far as Bozkir is concerned, the UN is the most important platform to give voice to the most vulnerable, namely, refugees, immigrants and stateless persons. He stressed that he will ensure that the General Assembly emphasises humanitarian action in a world of growing inequalities. “I will especially endeavour to contribute to the efforts of the international community and the UN initiatives to ensure impartial and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance and full respect for international humanitarian law in conflicts and crises.”
Countries suffering from the consequences of racism and disrespect around the world hope that his election will strengthen global solidarity and cooperation. “We believe that under his leadership,” tweeted China’s Mission to the UN, “#UNGA will strengthen solidarity and cooperation, uphold multilateralism and carry forward the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.”
Widely regarded as the country which inflicts most suffering and oppression on other nations, nevertheless the US tweeted from its Embassy in Turkey that it hopes that Bozkir will advance “international peace and prosperity”.
Following the election of Bozkir as General Assembly President and five new non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, a similar hope was expressed by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrel. “With these elections comes responsibility,” he said. “The European Union looks forward to working with all to address global challenges in these uncertain times and to support international peace and security.”
Turkey has provided a lot of humanitarian and medical aid recently to states which could not deal with crises before and during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. Even some wealthier countries suffering from severe shortages of essential medical equipment have had reason to thank the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“In addition to meeting the needs of our own people, we have provided medical assistance to 125 countries around the world,” Erdogan revealed last week. Such a generous response to the coronavirus crisis, which has flummoxed many supposedly more advanced nations, may be one reason why Turkey’s Bozkir won near absolute support in the General Assembly ballot this week.
That was certainly the gist of the message from Somalia, which is one of the countries that regularly receives Turkish aid. The Presidency of the Federal Republic described Bozkir’s election as, “A deserved leadership owing to Turkey’s humanitarian and brotherly diplomatic outreach.”
The oppressed people of Indian-occupied Kashmir hope that the new UN official will help them in their struggle for freedom and justice based on his country’s record of standing alongside the vulnerable and oppressed nations of the world. Ghulam Nabi Fai, Secretary-General of the World Kashmir Awareness Forum, wrote on Thursday: “If the people of… Kashmir had the freedom to express their sentiments, you would no doubt have heard their loud voice rejoicing at the fact that the distinguished representative of brother country — Turkey — is presiding this year over the parliament of nations.”
He added that he trusted Bozkir to bring his “immense influence to bear on initiating a peace process, which will lead to a speedy, just and honourable settlement of the dispute and restore their inalienable rights to the people of Jammu and Kashmir.”
The international community clearly has a lot of trust in Bozkir and his country due to their record in humanitarian affairs. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi congratulated Bozkir, saying, “Turkey being the world’s largest refugee hosting country, we at UNHCR count on his knowledge and experience to keep States focused on this issue in a constructive, principled manner.”
If the world is convinced that it needs wise leadership to save it from conflicts, racism and hostility, it seems as if it has chosen the right person to lead the UN General Assembly over the 12 months from September. Nominated by the ambitious President of Turkey, the most ethical and helpful country in its efforts to help others without looking for individual or political gains, Bozkir appears to be a good fit for the role he has been assigned.
Furthermore, his election suggests that there are still people around the world who are genuinely interested in solving the global crises that affect us all. We should, therefore, all hope and pray that Volkan Bozkir is given the support that he needs to make the 75th anniversary session of the General Assembly its most successful yet.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.