News / Africa

UN Under-Secretary General Discusses Career of Public Service

Under Secretary-General Tegegnework Gettu (right) and John Ashe, (left) the president of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, listen to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s address on January 28, 2013.
Under Secretary-General Tegegnework Gettu (right) and John Ashe, (left) the president of the 68th Session of the UN General Assembly, listen to Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s address on January 28, 2013.
Ashenafi Abedje
Tegegnework Gettu hails from Ethiopia. Since March of 2013, he has served as United Nations Under-Secretary General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference. The UN official says his first year as Under-Secretary-General was productive.

“I just finished my 10-month report to the Secretary General and he seems to be happy. I had six priorities, all of them addressed during my first year. So overall, it was very challenging, but I think I managed to do very well,” he says.

The six priorities included managing last year’s General Assembly session, reorganizing the department, promoting integrated global management, accelerated implementation of technological innovations, and work-sharing with offices in Geneva, New York, Nairobi and Vienna.
Public Service
The UN official says public service is something he grew into as his career evolved.

“Getting trained in development administration and management skills and practically using it - in academics, international organizations and government - I managed to get exposure that progressively attracted me to it,” he explains.
The interview with the UN's Tegegnework Gettu
The interview with the UN's Tegegnework Gettui
|| 0:00:00

He says he has benefited greatly from the opportunities afforded him and from his long years of public service.

Tegegnework is one of a handful of Africans to have held the post of Under-Secretary General – an experience he says he finds humbling.

“As an African, I feel proud I was given this chance,” he says. “I have the double responsibility as an African to make sure that I succeed in this. It also shows that Africans are quite capable of competing and (performing) this kind of a job, and that more opportunities have to be opened up for more Africans.”


Some view UN officials as people who live cushioned lives and are detached from the realities of the world.  Tegegnework considers such portrayals as inaccurate.

“The UN is not a monolithic organization; it has structural limitations and bureaucratic weaknesses,” he notes. “But it has played a very critical role in many parts of the world, and quite a large number of (UN) people have sacrificed their lives. So to reach such a conclusion is unfair.”

Tegegnework says despite the wear and tear, the UN has served the world well the past 68 years – especially the poor, refugees and the dispossessed.


The Ethiopian-born international diplomat has served with the world body for years – especially on issues that pertain to Africa. So how does he assess the continent’s status today – some 50 years after independence? Tegegnework sees a mixed picture with a promising outlook.

“We have lost decades of conflict, lost decades of dictatorships and lost decades of unaccountability in Africa,” he laments. “But the past few years, Africa has been making progress. The continent needs to focus now on continuing economic growth – not only from the service sector, but in the industrialization in agriculture and the creation jobs for the large youth population that is the majority in Africa today.”

Tegegnework says while economic development should not be held hostage to political issues, both democratic governance and economic growth are critical to Africa’s future.
“Economic progress, one way or the other, must be done in Africa because we have good natural endowment and huge labor force. But democratic institutions, accountable government and economic development are critical for Africa now,” stresses the Under-Secretary General.”

The UN diplomat says Africans need to move “from a survival to a stability mode, and on to a successful model mode.” That, he says, will lead Africa to become “significant” in global affairs.
Tegegnework is married and has two children.

You May Like

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Ameyu Etana from: Addis Ababa
June 14, 2014 12:23 PM
Nice to hear from you mr. Tegegnework Gettu. As you noted, we do not have to blame UN as it is but others, who make it speak for few as if it is there merely for them.

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs