Who’s gonna be the World’s Next Top Diplomat, UN Secretary General Election 2016

Worlds Next Top Diplomat

At the stroke of midnight on 31 December 2016, the current Secretary General of the United Nations, Mr Ban Ki-moon will step down after completing two terms in office. The marathon campaign for the selection of a new Secretary General (SG) to replace Mr Ban has already begun with the UN General Assembly’s letter to all member states inviting nominations for the position. Several candidates have already been put forward in response to the letter.

Importance of UNSG

The Secretary General of the United Nations is the world’s top diplomat. The UNSG is a symbol of United Nations’ ideals and a spokesperson for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them. The current Secretary General, and the eighth occupant of the post, is Mr Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea, who took office on 1 January 2007.

Importance of UNSG election can be gauged from the significance of the UNSG himself. The position of the SG is of great importance and requires the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity. Everything from wars to diseases, condition of climate to catastrophes, is discussed on the platform of United Nations. Secretary General of the UN, being its chief administrator, has responsibility to oversee every proceeding and overall functioning of United Nations.

UNSG Elections 2016

Importance of UNSG elections 2016 goes one step ahead as it is believed that this time SG can be woman for the very first time in the history of the United Nations and SG can be from Eastern Europe from where no one has ever been elected to this post. Furthermore, for the very first time in the UN history, candidates for the SG have presented their visions for the role to the General Assembly and the public.

At a time when appalling conflicts and human sufferings almost all parts of the world especially the Middle East, Africa and Europe are aggravating, violent extremism is threatening us all; women and girls are facing discrimination across the globe; xenophobia in Europe is soaring to unprecedented levels, over 800 million people are still reeling under extreme poverty and more than 60 million human beings have displaced around the world; a unique window of opportunity is found in UNSG election as it would be a key for the United nations to adapt to the challenges and new goals the world is facing.

Procedure of UNSG Election

Article 97 in Chapter XV of UN Charter lays down the procedure for the appointment of the UN Secretary General. It states: “The Secretary General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon recommendation by the Security Council” which means it’s a two-step process.

In first step, UNSC recommends one name for SG which has to be approved by UN General Assembly with two-third majority. Many norms and customs also guide the appointment process. It is continuous practice that SG is not selected from P5 countries and all regions are represented on rotational basis. Previous Secretaries General were selected from the following regions:

  • Western Europe (Trygve Lie, Dag Hammarskjold, Kurt Waldheim)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Javier Perez de Cuellar)
  • Africa (Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan)
  • Asia (Ban Ki-moon, U Thant)

Noticeably to date, no Secretary General has hailed from Eastern Europe.

The Election Process

  1. The Security Council recommends a candidate for appointment to the General Assembly, an issue to be “discussed and decided at a private meeting.”
  2. The Secretary General “shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council,” traditionally through a GA resolution.

   a. The appointment constitutes an “important question” requiring a two-thirds voting majority.
b. The Secretary General will be appointed for five years, with the option of reappointment for a further five-year-term.
c. The GA resolved that “it would be desirable for the Council to proffer one candidate only…and for debate on the nomination in the General Assembly to be avoided.”

There is no formal appointment timetable, though GA resolution 51/241 states that “the Secretary General should be appointed as early as possible, preferably no later than one month before the date on which the term of the incumbent expires.”

Prospective Candidates

1. Irina Bokova

Former foreign minister of Bulgaria and the incumbent Director General of Unesco, Irina Bokova is the first woman and first Eastern European to hold this position. Ms Bokova is forerunner in UNSG election.

2. Helen Clark

Helen Clark, the first woman Prime Minister of New Zealand, is also in the race. She is currently heading UNDP as its administrator — the third most important post in the United Nations. She has spearheaded many welfare and developmental programmes in various developing countries.

3. Natalia Gherman

Natalia Gherman is former acting Prime Minister of Moldova who also served as Moldovan foreign minister. She is considered a lady with strong support within European countries but she lacks prior executive experience in United Nations.

4. António Guterres

António Guterres served as Prime Minister of Portugal and also as United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees for ten years. His reputation as an active administrator may help him in his bid for UNSG race 2016; however, his affiliation with Western Europe may hamper his appeal.

5. Srgjan Kerim

Former Macedonian Foreign Minister and former President of the United Nations General Assembly Srgjan Kerim has held many important diplomatic positions serving both his country and the United Nations. He was the first one to announce his candidature for UNSG 2016.

6. Igor Lukšić

Igor Lukšić hails from Montenegro and he has held various positions like Montenegro’s Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. Though, he has an impressive portfolio as a domestic administrator, he is yet to prove efficacy of his leadership on international stage.

7. Vesna Pusić

Vesna Pusić also hails from Eastern European country Croatia where she acted as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs. She is known for her liberalism and activism for gender equality.

8. Danilo Türk

Former Slovenian President and a renowned expert on international law, Mr Türk is also an insider of UN. Former SG Kofi Annan chose Türk appointed him Assistant Secretary General of United Nations in 2000.

Wild Card

1. Kevin Rudd

Mr Kevin Rudd is a former Australian Prime Minister. He has long made the UN Secretary General’s job the target of his immense personal ambition.

2. Angela Merkel

More of a general than a secretary, Mrs Merkel is precisely the kind of big hitter that many UN watchers believe the organization desperately needs after Mr Ban.

3. Kristalina Georgieva

Kristalina Georgieva, a Bulgarian who is a vice-president of the European Commission, might yet be persuaded to run. The outgoing SG, Mr Ban Ki-moon, had selected her to co-chair a panel looking into the funding of humanitarian aid.


For the first time in the international body’s existence, the nomination process is happening in the open. There is also a strong movement within the UN that the next Secretary-General be a woman, and that the chosen candidate come from Eastern Europe — both of which would be a first for Turtle Bay.

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