A distinguished Turkish diplomat has been elected President of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA). Volkan Bozkır becomes the first Turkish national to hold the office.
He was unopposed for the position, and elected through a secret ballot on 17 June, receiving 178 votes, with 11 abstentions.
Taking over from incumbent Tijjani Muhammad-Bande of Nigeria, Mr Bozkır will preside over the 75th session to be held in September.
Talking at his inauguration ceremony, which was held via videoconference, Mr Bozkır, aged 69, said:
“This is also a unique privilege as we mark the 75th anniversary of our organisation,” adding that
“The expectations and views of each and every group and their members will be equally important and valuable to me.”
The Ankara-born veteran diplomat pointed to a variety of global issues including humanitarian crises, deadly conflicts and COVID-19, which he said require global responses, and that the General Assembly – ‘the parliament of the world’ – is uniquely situated to steer multilateral efforts:
“Consensus building will be at the core of my efforts. I will use to the extent possible moral authority and the soft power of the president of the General Assembly. The guiding principles of my presidency will be impartiality, effectiveness, transparency and non-discrimination,” Bozkir stated.
The three pillars of the UN – peace and security, sustainable development and human rights – will receive equal and balanced attention during his term in office, he noted.
A pleasure to convene today’s informal meeting with @volkan_bozkir. As we approach #UN75, I wish him all the best. I commend Member States and the @UN Secretariat for their support as we strive to ensure business continuity during this unprecedented time pic.twitter.com/ScoN3QwdPi
— UN GA President (@UN_PGA) June 22, 2020
Who is Volkan Bozkır?
Volkan Bozkır studied law at Ankara University. Following his graduation, he joined the Turkish foreign service in 1972. In a professional career spanning 45 years, he has served in diplomatic and political roles.
As a diplomat, his first overseas post was as Vice Consul of the Consulate General in Stuttgart in 1975. He then became First Secretary of the Embassy in Baghdad, and from there Counsellor of the Permanent Representation to the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development), Consul General in New York, Ambassador in Bucharest, and Permanent Representative of Turkey to the European Union (EU).
Ambassador Volkan Bozkır has served as a Foreign Policy Advisor to Prime Minister Turgut Özal, and the Chief of Cabinet and Chief Foreign Policy Advisor to both President Turgut Özal and President Süleyman Demirel.
He has been the Deputy Secretary General for EU Affairs, the Deputy Undersecretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs responsible for EU Affairs, and Turkey’s Secretary General for EU Affairs.
He turned to politics later in his career and was first elected as a Member of Parliament in 2011, and returned as an MP in three subsequent parliamentary elections. During his nine years as an MP, he has served as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Chairman of Turkey-USA Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Caucus, and Co-Chairman of Turkish-Russian Civic Forum.
He was appointed as the Minister for EU Affairs and Chief Negotiator in August 2014, remaining in the post until June 2016. In July 2018, he was elected for the fourth time as the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. He also chairs the Turkey-Australia Inter-parliamentary Friendship Group.
Volkan Bozkır was awarded the Order of the Star of Romania and the Order of the Merit of the Italian Republic at the “Knight” rank, and the 100th Anniversary Medal of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
He is married, with two children and three granddaughters. He speaks fluent English and French.
Main image, top, of Ambassador Volkan Bozkır and UN Secretary General António Guterres (right). Photo © UN / Manuel Elias