UN General Secretary Selection: The Process Continues

Published on 23rd August 2016

Twelve candidates have lined up for the race to succeed the outgoing United Nations Secretary - General Ban Ki Moon. Ten of the twelve candidates participated in a televised debate in July 2016 as a way of exhibiting transparency and inclusivity in the selection process. For the very first time in the 70 years history of UN, candidates were asked to submit their resumes and take part in informal meetings with the General Assembly.

The seat has attracted notable career diplomats including eminent women leaders in national governments, international organizations, business communities, and political communities. The candidates include former Slovenian President Danilo Turk; former U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres; U.N. cultural organization UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; Montenegro Foreign Minister Igor Luksic; former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna  Pusic; Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak; Moldova's former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman; former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic; former Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan  Kerim; former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the U.N. Development Programme; Argentinian Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra; and former U.N. climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica.

As a matter of precedent and convention, rather than a written rule, the informal system of regional rotation has been used in the recent past to appoint the Secretary General. General Assembly resolution 51/241 states that, due regard shall continue to be given to regional rotation and gender equality. Asia, Latin America and Caribbean, Western Europe, and Africa so far have produced a Secretary General and there has been a widespread call from UN member states to appoint the next Secretary General from Eastern Europe. Some quarters are agitating for a female candidate to be considered for the position of Secretary-General. This view will continue to be at play as member states search for a strong Secretary – General with adorable style of leadership.

Under the United Nations Charter, the Secretary – General has to be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. The selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council. As the symbolic head of the UN, the Secretary-General serves as both its top diplomat and its chief administrative officer, overseeing sustainable development, international peace and security initiatives. The Security Council is expected to conclude on the successor of Ban Ki Moon in October 2016 and ascend to the office in January 2017.

Ban Ki Moon’s successor will grapple with key issues in the office, which include climate change, civil war in Syria and the recent upsurge of fighting in South Sudan, sexual abuse scandals involving UN peacekeepers in Africa, International Criminal system and leadership at large. The next UN Secretary- who will tackle global challenges involving over seven billion people must exhibit a leadership style that will make UN more inclusive, accountable, democratic, effective, and reflective.

The outgoing Secretary General Ban Ki moon whose two terms in office will end in December 2016, will be remembered for spearheading the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Paris Climate Agreement agreed in 2015 which are testament to the UN’s global role and reach.

By Simon Achieno

Current Affairs Analyst.


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