Today, I host an important call. You can find it here
“The UN Secretary-General plays a crucial role in tackling global challenges and improving the lives of seven billion people. It is vital that the best person is chosen for the job. But the selection process is secretive and outdated. Just five countries hold sway over a decision that affects us all. The next Secretary-General will be appointed in 2016.
Individuals from across the world as well as organisations including Amnesty International, Avaaz, Forum Asia and more than 100 others are already on board. Eminent personalities like Kofi Annan and increasing numbers of governments support our aims. Candidates are putting themselves forward. Horse-trading is already underway. We need to act now.”
“Monday’s UN General Assembly debate saw a near universal demand for transforming the way in which the UN appoints its next Secretary-General.
32 member states and the EU spoke at the debate, voicing broad support for many of the concrete proposals made by the 1 for 7 Billion campaign.
“Not only did an unprecedented number of states speak, but their statements were stronger and – crucially – more detailed, setting out concrete, practical proposals to make the process more transparent and inclusive. We believe this spells the end of the outdated and opaque process that hasn’t been updated since 1946”.
The impact of the campaign was visible during the debate, with Liechtenstein, Mexico and Brazil making specific reference to it.
Nearly all states backed the need for a clear timeline and open exchanges with candidates. The majority (21 in total) called for female candidates to be seriously considered this time. No woman has ever held the UN’s top job.
Significantly, 10 states, including Brazil and Malaysia, called for an end to the “rubberstamping” function of the General Assembly, urging the Security Council to give the UN’s wider membership a real choice by putting forward more than one candidate.
Eight states, including Algeria, on behalf of the 120 member states of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) supported consideration of a single, non-renewable term for the next SG.
The Council’s “backroom deals” with candidates also came under fire, with Algeria, on behalf of the NAM, India, Nicaragua, Brazil and Indonesia, calling for a merit-based appointment without pressure on candidates to make promises on other senior appointments.
Highlights of the debate included particularly strong statements made by the NAM, Costa Rica and India on the need for the Security Council to present more than one candidate. The Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group, representing 27 states, laid down a practical guide for action, proposing a joint letter by the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council to open the selection process with a call for nominations and an end date.
In another welcome development, Canada reintroduced its important ‘non-paper’ on the selection of the Secretary-General, calling for substantive reform in the UN’s 70th anniversary year.
Vague statements made by the EU and Germany were particularly disappointing.
Predictably, only China, Russia, and the United States, three of the five Security Council members with the power to veto candidates, made statements in favor of the status quo. France remained vague. The UK displayed some leadership, proposing a clear ‘structure’ in the recruitment process, including a deadline for candidate declarations and a timetable for appointment. Matthew Rycroft, the UK’s new Permanent Representative to the UN, said:
“Yesterday’s debate is an excellent basis for negotiating a strong resolution, cementing an open and inclusive appointment process. The job of the SG is one of the most challenging and influential in the world, affecting the lives of seven billion people. We must now push hard to translate words into action in the tough negotiations that lie ahead.”
A comprehensive reform of the selection process for future UN Secretaries-General should include all of the following:
- The position and qualifications should be advertised in all countries, with a call for nominations by Member States, parliaments and civil society organisations, and include a closing date for nominations.
- A formal list of selection criteria should be published by the UN; these criteria should stress that the best person should be chosen irrespective of his or her country of origin.
- A clear timetable for the selection process should be made public by the President of the General Assembly and President of the Security Council, no later than the start of the GA’s 70th session.
- A list of all the official candidates and their CVs should be published by the President of the GA at the end of the nomination phase and by the Security Council President when considering its list of preferred candidates.
- The President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council will be jointly responsible for regularly updating the UN membership and general public on the selection process once the full list of candidates has been announced.
- Each candidate should release a manifesto, which should include their policy priorities and a commitment to selecting senior UN officials on the basis of merit, irrespective of their country of origin.
- Once the names of all candidates have been announced, the General Assembly should organise a series of open sessions that will enable member states as well as the public and media to scrutinise candidates and their manifestos.
- The GA should insist that candidates do not make promises to individual countries on senior appointments, and member states should undertake not to seek such promises.
- The Security Council should be encouraged to present two or more candidates for the General Assembly to appoint as Secretary-General.
- The term of the Secretary-General should be limited to a single, non-renewable period of seven years.