Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Race for the New UN Secretary General
By: Sydney Spencer, Program Assistant UNA-NCA Global Classrooms

The race has officially begun for those campaigning to replace Ban Ki-moon as the Secretary General of the United Nations.  As of December 31, 2016, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will step down from his position and a new Secretary General will officially be appointed.  This raises some pressing questions, which I will try to answer here.

What are the qualifications?
The UN Charter only states one main qualification for a Secretary General appointment.  This is that the candidate must be nominated to the General Assembly by the Security Council, subject to veto by any P5 member state, and must receive a majority vote by the General Assembly.  By requiring a nomination from the Security Council, hours of debate and disagreement are avoided as most member states are already in agreement.

What is the selection process?
In the past the selection process has been a secretive one. This year, however, the General Assembly passed a resolution to reform the process, making it more transparent and encouraging participation from the global community.  This year, candidates were nominated by their home country and their biographic information, as well as a mission statement, was immediately publicized.  The world was encouraged to send in questions for the candidates to answer during the first open debate in April and over 1,000 questions were received concerning UN reform, the Syrian refugee crisis, and UN peacekeeping missions.  A second open debate occurred in London at the beginning of June and was broadcast to the world.  According to UNA-NCA President, Ambassador Donald T. Bliss (ret.), “The United States has supported a more open process, and we urge Ambassador Power to work with the other members of the Security Council’s P-5 to respect the process and select the most qualified candidate, leaving secret deal making and geographical limitations behind.” Read President Donald T. Bliss’ full statement on the Secretary General selection process.

What role does civil society have?
As previously noted, this year’s race for secretary general is the most public it has been in seventy years.  The public nature of the candidacy has encouraged civil society to be more involved in this year’s process as they watch debates, send in questions for candidates, and use social media to express their views through the use of #UNSGCandidates.  It is clear that, opposed to previous years, no candidate will be selected without civil society’s input. 

Who are the candidates hoping to receive a nomination in December?
There are currently 11 candidates campaigning to receive a nomination from the Security Council.  These candidates are: Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Natalia Gherman (Moldova), Igor Luksic (Montenegro), Danilo Turk (Slovenia), Helen Clark (New Zealand), Antonio Guterres (Portugal), Vesna Pusic (Croatia), Srgjan Kerim (Macedonia), Vuk Jeremic (Serbia), Susana Malcorra (Argentina), Miroslav Lajcak (Slovak Republic). Of these 11 candidates, five are women.  As no woman has ever been selected as Secretary General, this represents an extraordinarily large percentage.  All five women have backgrounds in international relations and current ties to the United Nations.  There are rumors that Angela Merkel, the current Chancellor of Germany, and other notable politicians may enter the race at a later date.

Who is in the current front runner?
This question can be rather subjective and can differ from country to country, however many UN delegates have voiced their opinion placing Irina Bokova of Bulgaria as the frontrunner.  Considering half the world’s population consists of females, the global community is adamant that a woman be represented in this high level position. Bokova is receiving a lot of attention as she is the first woman who has ever had a great chance of being nominated as the Secretary General.  There is also an informal (and sometimes violated) rotating system of nominations between regions of the world.  As a citizen of Eastern Europe, the next nomination places Bokova in the prime position to receive the nomination.  Her qualifications include: being the first female head of UNESCO, serving as a former ambassador to Morocco and France, and demonstrating a proficiency in four languages (English, French, Spanish, and Russian).  Being proficient in four languages makes her particularly favorable to the P5 member states as she will be easily able to communicate without a translator and, therefore, able to better understand the causes for which each member state lobbies. Although Bokova seems to be the front-runner for the position at the moment, the race could take a turn at any moment.

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