Dalia Grybauskaite: The Next UN Secretary-General?

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Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaite addressing the UN General Assembly on Sept. 26, 2013 (UN Photo/Ryan Brown)

Sept. 27, 2013 – It’s still a few years away but already there’s speculation about who will succeed Ban Ki-moon when his second and final term as secretary-general ends in 2016.

Eastern Europe is the only one of the five United Nations regional groups that has never had a secretary-general and there’s a view inside the UN that Eastern Europe’s turn will come at last.

Last year’s General Assembly president, Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, and current UN envoy to Afghanistan, Slovakia’s Jan Kubis, are among the names that have been mooted.

But the UN has also never had a female secretary-general and for an organization that spends a lot of time and resources promoting gender equality, there’s also a lot of talk that it’s past time a woman was at the helm after eight successive male secretaries-general.

Enter Lithuania President Dalia Grybauskaite. A former EU budget commissioner, she was elected as an independent candidate in 2009. Dubbed the Steel Magnolia, she cites Margaret Thatcher and Mahatma Gandhi as her political role models. Lithuania currently holds the presidency of the European Union and is expected to secure a two-year term on the Security Council for 2014-16, during which time the next UN chief will be selected.

In her address to the General Assembly on Thursday, Grybauskaite spoke about how her country, once a recipient of international aid, is now a donor country, and that the 21st century “must be the age of solidarity, equality and sustainable development.” And she began and ended her address speaking about the post-2015 development process, which will be guided by the next secretary-general.

But she also spoke about “those who want to enforce a specific course of development on others, by economic pressure, energy levers or cyber tools, by distorted information, or threats.” No doubt a reference to Russia. And therein lies the major obstacle to her possible selection as the next UN secretary-general: avoiding a Russian veto.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

First Timers Chad, Georgia, Lithuania and Saudi Arabia Among Those Vying for UNSC Seats in 2014-15

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The new Security Council members will deliberate in the newly renovated council chamber which re-opened this month. (photo: courtesy of Norway/UN)

April 10, 2013 – Six countries have declared their candidacy for the five vacancies up for grabs in October’s election for a non-permanent seat on the Security Council.

So far, Chad, Chile, Georgia, Lithuania, Nigeria and Saudi Arabia are running for election to the Council for 2014-15, though it’s looking more like an election process than race at this stage. 

Among the six, Georgia and Lithuania are the only two running in a competitive race. One of them will replace Azerbaijan who currently occupy the Eastern Europe seat, but whose term ends Dec. 31, 2013. Neither Tbilisi nor Vilnius has served on the Council, and Lithuania, if successful, would be the first Baltic country elected to the 15-nation body.

Chile, whose likely next president, Michele Bachelet, recently stepped down as head of U.N. Women, last served on the Council in 2003-04 and was one of the the so-called ‘Middle Six’ delegations whose vote was fought over by those for and against the invasion of Iraq. 

The Latin America group at the UN typically presents a “clean slate” for candidates meaning each candidate runs unopposed so Santiago is virtually guaranteed to replace Guatemala.

Nigeria and Chad are running for the two African seats to replace Morocco and Togo. Nigeria has served four times on the Council, most recently in 2010-11 while Chad has never. Unless other candidates are announced in the interim both are assured of a two-year term.

Saudi Arabia, one of the 51 founding members of the U.N. in 1945, has also never served on the Council. It looks set to replace Pakistan for the Asia-Pacific group Arab swing seat – the African and Asian groups take turns every two years to nominate an Arab country: Morocco was elected from the African group for 2011-13 so it is now Asia’s turn to nominate an Arab state.

- Denis Fitzgerald