I GREW UP in the poorest part of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. My mother was illiterate and my father was semi-literate but a decorated soldier. My parents instilled in me the value of education from early on.
FOLLOWING THE 1974 MILITARY COUP in Ethiopia, I ended up as a political refugee in the UK. I was accepted as an undergraduate at the University of Manchester to study economics with a scholarship from the World University Service (UK).
I ASSUMED THAT the political situation in Ethiopia would change and I could go back home to pursue my career in agricultural economics. In the end, I signed up as an articled clerk at Arthur Young in London. I was admitted as an ACA in 1985.
I DECIDED TO MOVE from the World Bank-funded International Livestock Research Institute in mid-2003. I responded to a vacancy notice at UNESCO – an organisation I admired and whose core objectives I share.
WITHIN SIX YEARS I modernised enterprise risk management and internal control, moved financial reporting to the International Public Sector Accounting Standard and secured a clean audit opinion consistently. I became deputy director general in 2010.
THE FRUITS OF UNESCO’S EFFORTS are not easy to measure, it’s difficult to attribute impact and demonstrate easily value for money. Its funding is short-term and unpredictable and the pressures to show quick results are enormous.
I WANT TO SEE A BETTER WORLD for the generations to come. I want to see every child everywhere getting the same, if not better, opportunity to go to school as I did, to learn to live together. This is not a pipe dream. It is doable and within reach.
Accountancy training has given me the ability to see the wood for the trees
I have never shied away from challenges and I will not start now
My personal story is just another indication that given an opportunity, many can make the impossible possible