United Nations member states have emphatically rejected the US candidate to lead the organisation’s migration agency, despite the risk of financial reprisals from the Trump administration.
Ken Isaacs finished a distant third in the last round of voting for the position of director general of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), a position that has been held by an American since the 1960s.
The decisive vote appeared to be a response to Donald Trump’s policies on migration as well as the rejection of a candidate who had tweeted Islamophobic comments and cast doubt on climate change science.
António Vitorino, a Portuguese Socialist party member who is close to the UN secretary general, António Guterres, was elected despite a determined and well-resourced campaign by the US mission to the UN.
Welcoming Vitorino to the job, the UK’s ambassador to the UN, Karen Pierce, noted in a tweet: “This is one of the most important jobs for the UN and the world today.”
The loss of such an important UN post reflects the latest in a long series of steps – some unintentional but most deliberate – by which the Trump administration is peeling away from multilateral institutions, agreements and diplomacy. In recent days it has emerged that Donald Trump severely disparaged Nato and the European Union, and reportedly told aides he wants to withdraw from the World Trade Organisation.
The Trump administration could well retaliate by cutting funding for the IOM, for which the US is the biggest donor. Earlier this month it pulled out of the UN human rights council, which it said had ignored its calls for reform. In January, the US cut its funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, by more than half, as a punitive measure aimed at the Palestinian political leadership.