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Catawba College Alumnus William Lacy Swing '56 Officially Named Head of IOM

June 19, 2008

Category: Academics, Alumni, Politics

By BRADLEY S. KLAPPER, Associated Press Writer

The U.S. retained its four-decade control over the leadership of the world migration body Wednesday.

U.S. diplomat William Lacy Swing, a former U.N. envoy to Congo, won a two-thirds majority of votes from the member countries of the International Organization for Migration for a five-year term to be its director.

The 125-nation agency, which has an annual budget of nearly $800 million, has been run by an American since 1969, and has long been viewed as a U.S.-dominated body.

Swing will replace Brunson McKinley, another former American diplomat, who served 10 years as director-general and was seeking a third consecutive term. Swing also beat out Sergio Marchi of Canada and Prof. Luca Riccardi of Italy.

"My vision for IOM is for a collaborative organization of professionals built on trust and one that listens to member states," Swing said in a statement.

All but one of the directors have been Americans since the organization was established in 1951 to resettle European migrants and refugees at the time of World War II.

The body's 5,600 employees now work with U.N. and other agencies to move refugees to new host countries, provide aid to people in wars and disasters, and combat human trafficking around the world.

McKinley _ a distant relative of the 25th U.S. president, William McKinley, who was assassinated in 1901 _ previously enjoyed U.S. support, but Washington has a policy that top posts in international organizations should be limited to two terms.

He had also been criticized by rival candidates for an alleged go-it-alone leadership style.

In April, Deputy U.S. Secretary of State John Negroponte introduced Swing to foreign ambassadors.

The IOM must "work continuously to strengthen the trust of member states through improved coordination and transparency," Negroponte said. "It must have leadership capable of achieving these goals."

He said Swing "understands the importance of member states, international partners, and internal staff, and will focus on improving relationships with all three."

Before heading the U.N.'s peacekeeping operation in the Congo (MONUC) from 2003 to January this year, Swing was a six-time U.S. ambassador (including Democratic Republic of Congo and Haiti) and U.N. representative in West Africa who, according to IOM, showed "a proven ability to manage complex multilateral operations and to collaborate productively with foreign governments, United Nations agencies and other intergovernmental institutions."

Swing, born in 1934, holds bachelor degrees from Catawba College in North Carolina and Yale University. He did postgraduate studies at Tuebingen University in Germany and Harvard University. He speaks fluent French and German.