Former Danish prime minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt is vying for the top job at the United Nations’ refugee agency just as Europe faces one of its biggest migration crises in decades.
Her candidacy for the post of UNHCR commissioner was put forward by Denmark’s current premier, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, following discussions with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The outgoing commissioner, Antonio Guterres, is expected to end his 10-year tenure at the end of 2015.
The Geneva-based organization has been appealing to reluctant European governments to respond to a massive influx of refugees fleeing conflicts in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. According to the UNHCR, more than 300,000 asylum seekers have crossed the Mediterranean Sea so far this year.
Dealing with “more than 60 million” displaced people worldwide represents a “giant task,” Thorning-Schmidt said Friday at a press conference in Copenhagen alongside her successor.
If appointed, Thorning-Schmidt would be the second former Danish premier to take up the post after Poul Hartling, who picked up a Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the agency in 1981.