UN Secretary General election process kicks off

UN Secretary General election process kicks off

UN Secretary General election process kicks off

The UN has kicked off the process to elect the next Secretary General, with the Security Council and General Assembly making an unprecedented call to member states to recommend woman candidates for the top job that has been held by a man for the past 70 years.

In a first, UN Security Council President for December US envoy Samantha Power and General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft circulated a letter yesterday to the 193 UN members soliciting names of candidates for the next UN chief and vowing to make the process more transparent and inclusive.

The two also made a special emphasis on the need for members states to nominate women candidates for the job of the world's top diplomat.

No woman has served as Secretary General in the 70 years that the UN has been in existence.

"Convinced of the need to guarantee equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, Member States are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General," the letter said.

Lykketoft said that so far two candidates had been put forward for selection - Croatia's woman Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic and former UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia.

Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has served two five-year terms and his tenure as UN Chief will end next year.

He has been a strong proponent of electing a woman as his successor and has said at several public venues that "it's high time for a Secretary-General to be a woman".
India has also called for changing and improving the existing process of selecting the world body's chief, with its UN envoy Ambassador Asoke Mukerji saying that gender equality and regional rotation should be given due regard.

The next Secretary-General will assume the role in January 2017 and will serve a five year term, which can be renewed by Member States for an additional five years.
According to the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council.

Until now the selection of the Secretary General was made behind closed doors by the Security Council with the five veto-wielding permanent members having the last word.
However as the time to elect Ban's successor nears, there is a growing demand from member states not only to make the process more transparent and inclusive but also to have a woman leader assume the role.

In another unprecedented move, Power and Lykketoft said potential candidates will be given the opportunity to interact with members of the Security Council and General Assembly.

"The President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members oftheir respective bodies, while noting that any such interaction will be without prejudice to those who do not participate.

"These can take place before the Council begins its selection by the end of July 2016 and may continue throughout the process of selection," they said in the letter.

Lykketoft told reporters here that there is a "strong wish" from many UN member states to have a woman Secretary General and it will be for the first time in UN history that the entire UN membership will be included in the selection process.

"The process is started and the wish is that the membership, for the first time in UN history, is included totally in the discussion of the next Secretary-General," Lykketoft said, adding that he thinks "this is a watershed in the way that we are doing things."

"Until [today], the selection process of the Secretary-General has been very secretive and involving mostly – or only – the permanent five members of the Security Council," he said, referring to China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

He added that the permanent Council members "still have a very strong position in selecting proposals for the General Assembly, but I think if, out of this new process we are now embarking on, comes an imminent candidate supported by a majority of the membership, it will actually give the general membership an increased, de facto power in selecting the Secretary-General."

Lykketoft said that the presentation of candidates would also give Member States the opportunity to ask questions about their position on UN priorities, such as the Sustainable Development Agenda, peace and security, and other issues.

Giving a timeline of the selection process, Lykketoft said that the Security Council would select candidates by the end of July 2016 after which the name will be forwarded to the General Assembly.

The letter added that the position of Secretary-General is one of great importance that requires the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, and a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

"We invite candidates to be presented with proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations, and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills," it said.

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