Hometown: Moscow, Russia
Organization / Affiliation and job’s title: Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva
Arrived in Geneva: August 2019
Tell us who you are and what you do in Geneva.
I am an economist and an international civil servant. On August 2019, I moved to Geneva to become the 13th Director General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. I am also the first woman to occupy this position and hopefully the first of many.
With more than 35 years of experience in public service, diplomacy and journalism, I began my career as a reporter for “The Economic Gazette” in Moscow. I subsequently joined the Government of the Russian Federation in 1989 and served in several capacities, including as the Third and Second Secretary at the Russian Permanent Mission to the European Union in Brussels, Deputy Director and then Director of the Department of International Cooperation of the Russian Federation.
Before joining the UN, I also worked at the Eurasian Economic Commission in 2012 as a Member of the Board (Minister). I was responsible for implementing integration policies within the Eurasian Economic Commission, coordinating the formation processes of the Supreme Eurasian Economic Council, and international cooperation between the Eurasian Economic Union and third countries. I was also in charge of relations with international organizations.
On 30 May 2019, Secretary-General António Guterres appointed me to head UN Geneva. This means that I undertake special political assignments and represent the Secretary-General in relations with Permanent Missions and observer offices based in Geneva, as well as with our Host Country authorities. This also includes the maintenance of cooperation with regional organizations specialized agencies and programmes based in Switzerland and Europe as well as with other inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations and established institutions, including research and academic institutions headquartered in Europe.
How do you – or your organization – reflect the 2030 Agenda’s paradigms of innovation, integration and collaboration in your work?
The 2030 Agenda and its paradigms are at the core of who we are and what we do here at UN Geneva. We play a paramount role in supporting other United Nations agencies, partners organizations and other stakeholders to convey the messages enshrined in the SDGs and their targets to the international community, be it through the SDG Lab, the Perception Change Project, the UN Information Service, the UN Library and Archives or other departments. To this extent, collaboration is a key driver in our daily work, as we continuously strive to build common ground for multilateralism and dialogue across the unique and rich ecosystem present in Geneva – with more than 40 international organizations, 750 NGOs, 181 Permanent Missions, as well as other public and private institutions in Geneva.
We are also extremely lucky to operate in an ecosystem like Geneva, a real hub of innovation and diplomacy, whose diversity of voices and expertise offers us daily inspiration for new partnerships and approaches. This spirit allows us to analyze our work through unexpected lenses, to question ourselves, learn, reinvent our methods and ultimately develop effective strategies and best practices for the achievement of all the 17 Sustainable Development Goals.
What is on your mind right now?
The COVID-19 pandemic of course and keeping everyone among the UN family in Geneva safe. But also, the ways forward: together with my colleagues at UN Geneva, we are focusing on building forward better by finding new, more inclusive and sustainable approaches to recover post-COVID and using the 2030 Agenda as the roadmap to do so. While advancing these objectives, we are investing significant efforts in reinvigorating our global multilateral system and increasing support to Member States in multilateral cooperation. We are particularly lucky here in Geneva as the city hosts an incredible hub of diverse stakeholders with different although complementary skills and expertise. It is a priority for me to safeguard and promote a renewed spirit of International Geneva that is able to find, through collective actions, effective solutions to delivering on the SDGs in countries.
What do you find unique about the Geneva ecosystem of actors?
I strongly believe that International Geneva represents a central hub for collective action that impacts positively on everyone’s lives and has done so for a century already. Not only is Geneva a unique place for multi-stakeholder dialogue, negotiation and cooperation, it also offers a vast expertise on diverse topics such as diplomacy, science, human rights, sustainable development and health. The Geneva 2030 Ecosystem is an essential connector and enabler of such value added that helps all stakeholders to anticipate opportunities and tackle current and future challenges. The city has therefore an important role to play in our common efforts to recover and build a better future for all.
What is one thing that most people do not know about you?
I love photography. Last year, during the lockdown, I took some pictures of the Palais des Nations with my infrared camera, for my own pleasure. These pictures ended up being posted on the walls of the city of Geneva thanks to a project with the Centre de la Photographie de Genève.