Danilo Turk is the former president of Slovenia and one of eight currently declared candidates to be the next United Nations Secretary General. He was president from 2007 to 2012 and also served as his country’s ambassador to the UN for many years.

Danilo-TurkTurk was born in 1952, just seven years following the Nazi occupation of Slovenia. He shares how his mother’s experience of being sent to a forced labor camp at the age of 14 affected his own childhood. That included an intense focus on eduction. By the time he was 14, Turk was devouring the greek classics, like Thucydides. By 18 he was in law school, discovering concepts of human rights.

We have an extended conversation about the intellectual curiosity that lead Turk to human rights law and what it was like being a human rights legal scholar in the former Yugoslavia, which was then a communist country. We discuss his role during Slovenia’s 1991 secession from the former Yugoslavia and the brief war that ensued, and the tactics he used as Slovenia’s first ambassador to the UN to introduce this new country to the world.

I caught up with Dr. Turk at his hotel room in Dakar, Senegal, where he was chairing a conference about the intersection of water and peace. We kick off with a brief discussion about that issue.

In the next several months, the world will select the next Secretary General of the United Nations. There are so far eight candidates to succeed Ban Ki Moon, and this conversation is part of a special podcast series in which the candidates discuss the big moments in their lives and careers that helped to shape their own worldview. The idea here is to introduce the candidates’ personal and professional histories into the public discourse and hopefully illuminate how past experiences may guide their decision making as Sec Gen.

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