Race for Next UN Secretary-General Taking Shape

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

The six official candidates to date to succeed Ban Ki-moon

Feb. 22, 2016 – There are now six official candidates to succeed Ban Ki-moon and become the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations.

Four of the six declared candidates hail from the Balkans with the former Yugoslav countries hedging that strong trade links with Russia, as well as EU membership in the case of Croatia and Slovenia, and EU accession status, in the case of Macedonia and Montenegro, could see them bridge the West-Russia divide in the UN and get the support of both.

Besides Croatia’s Vesna Pusic, Macedonia’s Srgian Kerim, Slovenia’s Danilo Turk and Montenegro’s Igor Lusik, the two other candidates are Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova and Moldova’s Natalia Gherman.

Bokova, the current director-general of UNESCO, was nominated earlier this month by the Bulgarian government despite much speculation that her compatriot Kristalina Georgieva was Sofia’s favored candidate – the EU budget commissioner is also favored by the Western P5 countries, Britain, France and the US.

But all is not lost for Georgieva as the candidate process does not rule out a UN member state nominating two candidates nor does it stipulate that a candidate has to be nominated by their country of citizenship.

The sixth and most recent declared candidate is Moldova’s Natalia Gherman. UN Tribune was first to write about Gherman as a potential successor to Ban Ki-moon, noting back in April 2015 that Moldova’s strong ties with Russia, its non-membership of NATO, as well as her own pro-EU outlook, could see her emerge as a compromise candidate.

Gherman is scheduled to speak at New York’s Columbia University next week and it is interesting to note in her bio she lists fluency in English, German, Romanian and Russian – but not French, an unofficial requirement of UN secretaries-general. But there’s little reason for her to worry about this as it’s widely known that Ban Ki-moon was taking intensive French classes after his election, and French-languaue reporters still like to test him on his proficiency.

There are no clear favorites yet to succeed Ban and the list of candidates is sure to increase but what is clear so far is that the next secretary-general will come from Eastern Europe – there is no requirement as such but it is the only region not to have had a secretary-general and there is wide agreement in the general membership, if not the P5, that it is Eastern Europe’s turn – and that the UN may well elect its first female secretary-general.

Update: Feb 29, 2016 – Former UNHCR chief Antonio Guterres has been nominated by the Portuguese government. Guterres is a former prime minister of Portugal and served as UN refugee chief from 2005-15, during the worst refugee crisis in UNHCR’s history. The Portuguese government made the announcement on Monday. He is the first candidate to be nominated by a non-Eastern European member state and his candidacy, while popular, is likely to face stiff resistance from veto-wielding Russia.

- Denis Fitzgerald
@denisfitz

Related: Natalia Gherman – Could Moldova’s Foreign Minister be the Next UN Secretary-General?

UNDP Inks Agreement With Controversial John McCain Institute

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Feb. 4, 2015 – The United Nations Development Program has signed a formal agreement with the controversial International Republican Institute (IRI) whose chairman since 1993 is John McCain. The IRI is considered by many as the foreign policy wing of the Republican Party.

It was established by former United States president Ronald Regan in 1983 as a response to a ban by previous president Jimmy Carter on CIA funding of individuals, political parties and non-governmental organizations favorable to US interests.

The mission of the IRI, which is funded by the US Congress, is to promote democracy and freedom and it is primarily involved in supporting and monitoring elections but it has also been accused of undermining democracy in Haiti, Venezuela and Honduras.

The UNDP said the memorandum of understanding it signed with the IRI on Tuesday “will strengthen the partnership and facilitate better coordination between UNDP and IRI in assisting countries to strengthen democratic governance systems and processes and achieve peaceful settlement of disputes.”

The UNDP is the development-arm of the United Nations and has an annual budget of some $5 billion. Its current administrator is former New Zealand PM Helen Clark. Clark is tipped as a potential next UN secretary-general and, if she decides to announce her candidacy, will need the support of the Republican-controlled US Congress to get the post. The United States, as a permanent member of the Security Council, has a veto on the secretary-general nomination.

Republicans have called for cuts in US support to the United Nations and its specialized agencies and last month a Republican senator, Rand Paul, said he would be “happy to dissolve” the UN.

The IRI’s current president, Mark Green, is a former congressman from Wisconsin. He supported a number of votes when in congress to decrease funding for the United Nations.

-Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

UN to Re-Examine Death of Dag Hammarskjold

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Feb. 9, 2014 - Ban Ki-moon has asked the General Assembly to look into new evidence concerning the 1961 death of Dag Hammarskjold.

Ban’s request came in a Feb. 4 letter to the 193-member Assembly and may result in a re-opening of the UN investigation into the circumstances surrounding the former Swedish secretary-general’s death when the plane he was traveling in crashed over Zambia.

A 1962 investigation proved inconclusive.

The new evidence was presented to the UN secretariat in September last year. A statement at the time from Ban’s office said Hammarskjold had given “unparalleled service to the UN and paid the ultimate price” and that “the United Nations is among those most concerned in arriving at the whole truth.”

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Letter from Ban Ki-moon asking UN General Assembly to look Into new evidence concerning death of Dag Hammar…

 

photo/UN photo

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

Will Ban Ki-moon’s words be used to bolster US case for strike against Assad?

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For many months, it has been evident that President Assad and his Government have lost all legitimacy.” – Ban Ki-moon, June 7, 2012

Sept. 5, 2013 – These words from the UN secretary-general could be used in arguments to justify a US strike against targets inside Syria by the United States in the coming weeks.

The UN charter prohibits military action against another member state unless authorized by the Security Council or in self-defense. 

But the US has argued that the Assad government has lost legitimacy, and they have the words of Ban Ki-moon to back them up.

The secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly at the recommendation of the Security Council and the question of whether he is a secretary or a general is open to interpretation, that’s to say how much weight do his words carry. Here is the UN charter’s vague description of the role of the secretary-general.

As this ASIL article by Kenneth Anderson points out, saying a government has lost legitimacy is a political statement not a legal statement but the US “might go a step further and say that the Assad government is no longer the legitimate, lawful government of Syria, and argue that it uses force not against UN member state ‘Syria,’ but rather against the illegitimate Assad regime and in collective self-defense of the Syrian people.”

While such a claim will be contested, not least by Russia, who could argue that “the Assad government meets essentially all the formal requirements of international law to be the legal government,” a number of countries including the six countries comprising the Gulf Cooperation Council have recognized the Syrian Opposition Coalition (SOC) and the 22-nation Arab League has given Syria’s seat to the SOC, against the objections of Algeria, Iraq and Lebanon. Britain, France, Italy and Spain have also recognized the group as a legitimate representative.

One way around the legitimacy question would be a General Assembly vote on who should represent Syria at the UN, though the US is thought to be unwilling to establish such a precedent should countries unfriendly to Israel consider a similar move in the future with regard to Palestinian representation.

Ban said today in Russia that he has taken “note of the ongoing debate over what course of action should be taken by the international community” regarding the allegations of chemical weapons use and that “all those actions should be taken within the framework of the UN Charter, as a matter of principle.”

- Denis Fitzgerald

photo: UN photo/Eskinder Debebe

Mary Robinson’s Appointment Highlights Lack of Women Among UNSG Envoys

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March 19, 2013 – Former Irish President Mary Robinson’s appointment on Monday as Secretary-General Ban Ki moon’s special envoy to Africa’s Great Lakes Region makes her only the sixth woman to currently hold such a post.

Of the 37 current personal and special representatives, envoys and advisors of Ban, 31 are men.

Non-governmental organizations have been pointing out for years that women are underrepresented in peace negotiations. In fact, no woman has ever been the lead negotiator in UN-sponsored peace talks.

Resolution 1325 passed in 2000 aimed to address that and calls for equal and full participation in peacekeeping, peacemaking and peacebuilding but progress has been slow because of a long held preference for appointing men to post-conflict roles.

As UN secretary-general in 2001, Kofi Annan had 54 personal envoys, including deputies, but only one was a woman.

That has slowly begun to change under Ban and he appointed Hilde Johsnon from Norway as his special representative to South Sudan, Karin Lundgren of Sweden as his special representative to Liberia and Margaret Vogt of Nigeria as his special representative and head of the integrated peacebuilding office in Central African Republic.

Among deputy personal envoys, he has appointed Finalnd’s Kaarina Immonen to Liberia and Burkina Faso’s Rosine Sori-Coulibal to Burundi.

Mary Robinson will represent Ban as the UN readies a new plan to end conflict in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A full list of Ban Ki-moon’s personal envoys is here.

- Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: Un Photo/Paulo Filgueiras