Looking for: new UN Secretary General, must have GSOH

For the first time in the history of the UN public General Assembly (GA) hearings were held to elect the next UN Secretary General, during which candidates were asked nearly 800 questions over the course of three days.


Nine candidates are competing to replace Ban Ki Moon as the Secretary General of the UN, a position often referred to simply as the ‘most important diplomat” or “the toughest job on Earth.”

Under the new election process, first candidates must be recommended for the consideration of the General Assembly by the Security Council. A General Assembly ‘resolution,’ which requires the agreement of a “two-thirds” voting majority, can then appoint a Secretary General. As Secretary General, candidates will serve for 5 years with the option of reappointment for a further 5 years.

Informally, the UN uses a system of “regional rotation” with previous Secretary Generals being selcted from Western Europe (Trygvie Lie, Dag Hammarskjold), Asia (U Thant), Western Europe (Kurt Waldheim), Latin America and the Carribbean (Javier Perez de Cuellar), Africa (Boutros Boutros-Ghali and Kofi Annan), and Asia (Ban Ki Moon).

1 for 7 Billion is the campaign which has brought the previously secret UN Secretary General election to the world stage, aiming to show how important the post is to the rest of the world. Supported by over 750 organisations worldwide, the campaign has a combined reach of more than 170 million people.

Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association UK and co-founder of the 1 for 7 Billion Campaign said that while there are concerns that this is simply gimicky publicity, the new process has “raised the cost of making a poor appointment.”

While no Secretary General has so far been chosen from Eastern Europe, a large selection of Eastern bloc applicants could see this record changed. Likewise, as there have been no female leaders many expect that female candidates have the best chance of being elected. The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a collection of non-bloc-affiliated states has even suggested that only female candidates should be considered.

While the Security Council will discuss the prospective candidates behind closed doors, and eventually suggest their recommendations to the UN General Assembly, the new informal dialogue format which was recently publicized is meant to give people a clearer sense of a democratic institution, while introducing some of the proposed plans and visions.

Who is standing?

Irina Bokova, Bulgaria, Director General of UNESCO

Helen Clark, New Zealand, Former Prime Minister of New Zealand and an administrator for UN Development Progamme (UNDP)

Natalia Gherman, Moldova, Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

António Guterres, Portugal, Former Prime Minister of Portugal and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees

Vuk Jeremić, Serbia, President of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, and a former Minister of Foreign Affairs

Srgjan Kerim, Macedonia, Former Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly

Igor Lukšić, Montenegro, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Vesna Pusić, Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs

Danilo Türk, Slovenia, Chair of the Global Fairness Initiative and the former President of Slovenia


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