Earlier this month, the Barbican hosted the first ever overseas United Nations debate as part of the 1 for 7 billion election campaign searching for a new UN Secretary General.
While only 3 of the 12 candidates could attend the debate, it was an historic occasion for both the UN and London. The UN is actively seeking to make the election of the new Secretary General a more democratic and transparent affair, because previously the organization has conducted elections behind closed doors.
As reported in KCW Today’s May edition, it has been widely speculated that the next UN Secretary General will be from Eastern Europe (in keeping with the tradition of regional cycles) and, for the first time in the organization’s history, is likely to be a woman.
Despite these predictions, all three of the debaters to attend the hustings, which was jointly hosted by Guardian Live and United Nations Association UK (UNA-UK), were male.
With many now more determined than ever to see a female UN Secretary General elected, many of the questions asked of the three men involved their stances on feminism and female rights.
The three candidates to attend were: António Guterres, Former Prime Minister of Portugal and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Vuk Jeremić, President of the Centre for International Relations and Sustainable Development, and a former Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Igor Lukšić, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs for Montenegro. The debate was chaired by the Guardian’s Mark Rice-Oxley.
Introducing the candidates, the executive director of UNA-UK, Natalie Samarasinghe, the co-founder of the 1 for 7 billion campaign, said: “For 70 years the appointment of the Secretary General has been shrouded in secrecy,” adding that “the selection process for the Pope was more transparent.”
When it came to the debate, Guterres, Jeremić, and Lukšić were challenged by both the moderator and audience to offer a platform for their candidacy, having to speculate about international security, human rights, and feminism. Not only is it far too early to speculate on which of the three might have done well enough to eventually win the UN post, since many of the other candidates were not present the hustings was criticized by some for being unrepresentative of the real race.