Scroll down for details on individual candidates and short takes on their vision statements

  Tuesday 12 April 2016.

  Thursday 14 April 2016.

Secretary-General Selection Has Varied Over 70 Years

24 July 2016
(This is an edited version of a piece from International Documents Review of 21 September 1991; most of it is still relevant, the rest is interesting.)

The president of the Security Council for September, Jean-Bernard Merimee of France, issued a brief statement on Friday, 20 September. It said, “The members of the Council have already started their consultations on the procedure for the election of the Secretary-General of the United Nations. It is their intention to start the process of election itself at the beginning of October, with a view to finalizing it as quickly as possible.

What were the procedures the Council was consulting on? Why was it necessary to consult on them when the Organization has gone through the selection process ten times in its 46-year history? The answers are surprising, for in this citadel of set processes it seems there is no one way to select a Secretary-General. Herewith a brief resume of past experience.

The procedure is based on Article 97 of the UN Charter, which reads, in part, “The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” That is supplemented by Rule 48 of the Security Council’s Provisional Rules of Procedure that says, in part, “Any recommendation to the General Assembly regarding the appointment of the Secretary-General shall be discussed and decided at a private meeting.”

That is further supplemented by procedural Rule 141 of the General Assembly which says “When the Security Council has submitted its recommendation on the appointment of the Secretary-General, the General Assembly shall consider the recommendation and vote upon it by secret ballot in private meeting.” (For over four decades, this rule has been laid aside and the Assembly has acted by acclamation in open session.)

At its first session in 1946, the General Assembly adopted Resolution #11 containing the following provisions:

  • The Secretary-General shall be appointed for five years, the appointment being open at the end of that period for a further five-year term.
  • The General Assembly and the Security Council were free to modify the term of office in the future because the Charter was silent on the matter.
  • Action by the Security Council required an affirmative vote of seven (now nine), without a negative vote from a permanent member.
  • Appointment by the Assembly requires a simple majority unless it determines the matter to be “important,” in which case it will require a two-thirds majority.
  • It is desirable for the Security Council to recommend only a single person to the General Assembly.
  • Both nomination and appointment should be discussed at private meetings, and if voting is necessary it should be by secret ballot in both bodies. (The General Assembly laid aside this requirement in appointing the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie, at an open meeting.)
  • Council’s Arcane Ways

In the Security Council the secret ballot process itself has varied over the years. Since 1946 it has acted without a vote when there was only one candidate, by consensus on other occasions, by show of hands three times, and by casting straw polls. A note circulated to members of the Council during the week of 9 September 1991, set out the straw poll process:

“At the formal meeting of the Council, the President submits a list of candidates. The candidates are listed in the English alphabetical order. Representatives receive one ballot paper for each candidate, with the name of the candidate inscribed thereon by the Secretariat. Five ballot papers are marked Permanent Member and 10 Non-Permanent Member. Members mark each paper with a black pen provided by the Secretariat, placing an X in one of the boxes marked Yes, No or Abstain. (Currently, the words used are Encourage, Discourage and No Opinion.)

“The voting begins with the first candidate. The ballot papers are then collected by the Conference Officer in a ballot box which is placed on the Council table in front of the president. The procedure is repeated for each candidate until the voting on all candidates is completed. Only after the voting on all candidates on the list is completed are the votes counted, with the assistance of the Under-Secretary-General in the presence of the president at the Council table; each ballot is read aloud by the president. The president announces the total result of the voting on each candidate. Immediately after the result of the vote for each candidate is announced, the ballot papers are destroyed in the Council chamber, in the presence of the Council.”


​​​​​UN Begins Search for Next Secretary-General

UN Headquarters, March 2016

For the first time in its 70-year history the United Nations has begun a formal search for its next Secretary-General. It began with a General Assembly resolution (69/321) in September 2015 setting the ground rules for the search, followed by a letter sent out on 15 December, signed jointly by its president and that of the Security Council, inviting member States to submit candidates.

Two paragraphs in the Assembly resolution (which deals broadly with the revitalization of the General Assembly), focuses on the qualities of the person being sought. One “stresses the need to ensure equal and fair distribution based on gender and geographical balance,” and “invites Member States to consider presenting women as candidates.” The other “stresses, in particular, the need to ensure the appointment of the best possible candidate … who embodies the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity … demonstrates a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the United Nations and has “proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills.” The letter indicates a preference for someone to be selected by mid-year 2016. By the first week of April, the General Assembly had received eight nominations (presented below in the same order in which they were received). 

The Candidates

UN Headquarters April 2016

As of 14 April 2016, nine candidates for the post of UN Secretary-General had been nominated and all had engaged in "informal dialogues" with member States.  We present below notes on the individuals and their vision statements, in the same order in which the nominations were made. The bullets at the top of the page link to video of individual presentations in the Trusteeship Council; those to the right of the vision statement summaries link to video of the candidates speaking to the Press.   

Srgjan Kerim   (born 12 December 1948, national of Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), has been a professor of economics (Belgrade University), a businessman (media), Ambassador at the UN and President of the General Assembly (62nd session). His official bio notes also that he is a poet and a member of the Metropolitan Club in New York.

His six-chapter
vision statementNew Horizons Manifesto” begins: “Undoubtedly, we have been tempted as humanity. The world is facing indescribable terrorist attacks, extremism, gender violence, poverty and starvation, environmental disasters and drought, civil wars and uprisings. And if there is anything that can bring us back to humanity, is · the faith, belief and partnership between nations and peoples that can restore our war tom and desolate communities." That is followed by:  ·
“Every time I approach the United Nations building, I contemplate the visual symphony of the 193 flags. They represent a perfect harmony and peaceful unity, beautiful in its diversity. They remind me of the colors of the rainbow. All together they personify hope, redemption and escape from humanity's self-inflicting suffering. They proudly represent the cause and purpose of the United Nations. Under one breath, they represent the world.” Later in the Vision Statement Mr. Kerim writes:“After·70 years we ought to realize that times have changed, the world has changed and the UN is due to change. This is why my first priority is management reform.” He asserts: “There is absolutely no need to speculate on the role of the SG in the UN system. The UN is very clear: In Chapter: V, Article 9 it says: The SG is "the Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization. As such the Secretary General and the Secretariat should serve Member States in the implementation of all significant priorities on the UN agenda and facilitate inclusivity and comprehensiveness throughout the organization.”


Vesna Pusic (born 25 March 1953 in Croatia) has been an academic sociologist, feminist NGO and politician, currently the country's Foreign Minister/Deputy Prime Minister. Her formative political experiences were during the post-Cold War breakup of Yugoslavia. That puts into perspective the opening lines of her vision statement: “The United Nations is a flawed institution but also an essential one. The flaws are inherent in an organization that represents every country in the world and that, in its core mission of peace and security, has to accommodate the positions of powers as diverse as the P-5. The job of any Secretary-General is to keep the UN’s flawed structures working in the interests of the member states and the universal goals of peace, development, and a sustainable environment. I also hope that the next Secretary-General will work to make the United Nations a less flawed institution.”

vision statement sets the following priority tasks of the Secretary-General : 1) Focus on maintaining and enhancing the quality of the United Nations diplomacy; 2) Strengthen the Department for Political Affairs, especially, its Mediation Support Unit, enhance the peace and development advisers  and the Electoral Assistance Division ; (3) improve UN management, herself devoting some time daily to key issues. “Major reform is worth pursuing. But, there is no substitute for a hands-on Secretary-General deeply and personally concerned with the successful operation of the organization .”  She emphasizes the need to 1) to reach those left behind by progress and 2) environmental sustainability, and considers the treatment of minorities and women as “two litmus tests” of the health of a society.

Igor Luksic  (born 14 June 1976 in Montenegro), has seen a rapid rise through the ranks after graduating from college in 1998 and getting first a post-graduate degree and then a doctorate in 2005.  Between January and May 2001, he “performed duties of Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,” from “January until April 2003, he was public relations adviser to the Prime Minister and from March 2003 to February 2004 he served as Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs.” That was followed by stints as Finance Minister (2004-2010), Prime Minister (2010-2012) and then as Deputy PM and Foreign Minister (2012 to present). He has published three books of poetry and prose "The Book of Laughter," "The Book of Fear," and "The Book of Doubt," themes likely to be of interest to anyone who gets the SG job.

His vision statement is entitled "ENSURING AN EFFECTIVE AND EFFICIENT UN SYSTEM IN ADDRESSING EXISTING AND EMERGING CHALLENGES BY EXTENDING PARTNERSHIPS AND STRENGTHENING COORDINATION "Responsibility, Inclusiveness and Engagement."  It says the "role of the next Secretary General will not be to reinvent the wheel," but to "optimize delivering on agendas agreed," making the UN "more effective, efficient and relevant," increasing the value of existing investments and leaving no one behind.  To those ends, he suggests the creation of a "Peace Operations Group within the [UN System] Chief of Executives Board" under the close supervision of the SG and Deputy-SG to provide the Security Council and the Peace Building Commission "with necessary and improved insight enabling better decisions and improved coordination." He would also outpost the Deputy-SG to Nairobi in the interests of the equivalence of the northern and southern hemispheres. Further, he would transform the "UN Development Group ... into a UN Sustainable Development Group, co-chaired by the UNDP Chief Administrator and Human Rights High Commissioner." As "human rights permeate the whole 2030 Agenda ... [and] are at the same time in the core of the peace operation," he says there should be debate about making the Human Rights Council one of the primary organs of the United Nations (i.e. on par with the General Assembly and Security Council). Overall, he would "reinvent multilateralism through the principles of responsibility, inclusiveness and engagement."​  

Danilo Turk (born 19 February 1952 in Slovenia) has been professor of law at Ljubliana University, minority rights activist in former Yugoslavia, key draftsman of the UN-declared “Right to Development,” his country’s first ambassador to the UN, an elected member of the Security Council, and UN Assistant-Secretary-General for Political Affairs under Kofi Annan. After the UN job he was elected President of Slovenia (2007-2012).

vision statement affirms the primary responsibility of the SG to the world’s people before moving to three “vital partnerships” (sovereign governments, regional organizations, civil society) and three key areas of work (peace and security, sustainable development, human rights and humanitarian activities). It concludes with “a clear and strong commitment to be a skillful and effective chief administrative officer of the Organization and a prudent steward of its resources.” He emphasizes within this overall framework the critical importance of the the rights and welfare of women and children​.

Irina Bokova (born 12 July 1952 in Bulgaria) graduated from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and joined her country’s Foreign Ministry in 1977. She was posted to Bulgaria’s mission to the United Nations and attended a number of UN conferences including those on Women in Copenhagen (1980), Nairobi (1980) and Beijing (1995). She was Member of Parliament (1990-1992, 1990-1995), Foreign Minister, Ambassador to France, Monaco and UNESCO, which she now heads (2nd term, ending in 2017). Since 2014 she has been chairing the High Level Committee on Management of the UN System’s Chief Executive Board.

vision statement, entitled “Peace, sustainability and dignity - the new humanism for the world today,” emphasizes the need to "tackle a horizon of pressing challenges and threats.” Peace "cannot be limited to the absence of war" and "must be built on the robust foundations of prevention and mediation." While preventing conflict remains the highest UN priority, a range of new threats require global responses that require "building a roadmap by all stakeholders and UN agencies where the responsibilities are clearly stated." Migration and refugees are also a "multidimensional crisis"that requires a leading UN role. She emphasizes the importance of the 2030 Agenda because development builds resilience to a range of problems, including conflict and climate change. If selected she "would abide by the principles of the United Nations and the responsibilities of the Secretary-General, defined in Chapter XV of the United Nations Charter." take account of the "concerns of all Member States, while always upholding the shared values and moral authority of the United Nations."  

Natalia Gherman (born 20 March 1969 in Moldova) is the only candidate to mention her father and son by name in her official bio. She received her BA from the State University of the Republic of Moldova and her MA in War Studies from King's College, University of London. A career diplomat who began her career in 1991, she has been  for the past three years Moldova's Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. 

Her vision statement postulates that as our challenges "become more global in nature and our respective futures grow increasingly interrelated, the UN is now more than at any previous time in history the expression of humanity's collective commitment to action." To end poverty, defeat war, protect human rights or preserve the natural environment "an effective UN has never been so necessary or so demanded."  She would strengthen regional arrangements, improve coordination against terrorism,  "consolidate" commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, and deal better with the  "drug problem, which is often associated with terrorism financing, money laundering, trafficking in human beings and organized crime." She underlines the importance of balancing the environmental, social and economic components of sustainable development, of proper management and public outreach, especially to youth.

Antonio Gueterres (born 30 April 1949 in Portugal) was Prime Minister of Portugal (1995-2002) and served two terms as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2005-2015).

Hisvision statement notes that understanding mega trends is crucial at a time when threats and opportunities are enhanced on an unprecedented scale by “multiple, evolving and mutually-reinforcing shifts” in “geopolitical, demographic, climatic, technological, social and economic” dynamics. Inequality, exclusion, dwindling resources and governance shortcomings are contributing to the eruption of violent and increasingly asymmetrical conflicts. The UN is uniquely equipped to “connect the dots” and adopt a “holistic approach” attentive to “peace and security, sustainable development and human rights.” The UN must be the instrument of holistic solutions, lead gender equality, empowerment and mainstreaming of women, and seek humanitarian outcomes with political and developmental solutions. He urges a “surge in peace diplomacy,” a new “operational peace architecture,” a convergence of strategies and policies on preventive approaches, investment in capacity and institution-building, an end to terrorism and an emphasis on values. Accountability must be system-wide and within each organization, coordination must be delivery-oriented, reform must be a “permanent attitude,” and the organization should stand for the highest ethical standards.   

Helen Clark (born 26 February 1950 in New Zealand), was an academic for eight years before entering parliament and going on to hold a number of senior posts in government from 1985 to 2000. She was the first woman to become Prime Minister and one of the longest serving (1997-2008). She quit parliament when appointed Administrator of the UN Development Programme in 2009 (reappointed to a second four-year term in 2013). As UNDP Administrator, she chairs the United Nations Development Group, a committee consisting of the heads of all United Nations entities working on development issues.

Her vision statement is entitled "A Better, Fairer, Safer World." In summary, she envisages a United Nations that  "Delivers results to benefit current and future generations; Is a flexible, practical and effective organisation; Anticipates and responds to the world." As a candidate for Secretary-General, she commits to: "Uphold the United Nations Charter; Act honestly, listen and work with everyone; Give my all to the United Nations and its Member States." 


The work of the last 70 years has provided “a clear platform from which to turn the ideals of the Charter into reality. … Last year was an extraordinary year for global agenda-setting. In 2015, Member States concluded the visionary and ambitious 2030 Agenda and Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development, and the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction. In order to deliver for current and future generations, the United Nations’ sustainable development, peace and security, and human rights agenda should prioritise: 1) Ending poverty and achieving inclusive and sustainable growth 2) Preventing global environmental degradation and building resilience 3) Faster progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment 4) Creating opportunities for youth 5) Maintaining the impartiality and integrity of the United Nations. Achieving point 5 will require (a) Focusing on results; (B) Delivering real transparency (C)Investing in people and performance; (d) Championing coherence. To anticipate and respond to challenges the UN should have “first class crisis management;” flexible support systems tailored to problems and a solutions oriented approach. The Organization’s central concern should be the world’s people.​

Vuk Jeremic (born 3 July 1975 in Belgrade, Yugoslavia), was Foreign Minister of Serbia (2007-2012) and presided over the 67th session of the UN General Assembly. He is now President of a Belgrade think tank, Center for International Relations and Sustainable Development (CIRSD) and Editor-in-Chief of Horizons, a public policy journal. He attended high school in London and graduated from Cambridge University with a degree in theoretical physics before switching to Public Administration and International Development, which he studied at Harvard. Before entering politics Mr. Jeremic worked in London for Deutsche Bank, Dresdner Kleinwort Benson, and AstraZeneca Pharmaceuticals.

vision statement presents initiatives on Sustainable Development; Climate Change; Conflict Prevention and Peace Operations; Human Rights and Humanitarian Relief; and United Nations Revitalization. There are specific commitments to place sustainable development and control of climate change at “the center of UN work,”  and to “develop a framework for a new generation of UN stabilization missions, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.” A five-year plan would “consolidate the UN's contribution to peace in Africa and transition a range of security responsibilities to the African Union and sub-regional organizations,” A new “Working Group on Terrorism, Extremism, Information, and Technology” would propose strategies to help States needing such support to counter terrorism while respecting human rights and upholding rule of law. Other programs will develop responses to nonconventional security threats and advocate strengthening the international regime against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. There are specific pledges to strengthen human rights protections and humanitarian aid. On UN revitalization, there is a pledge to appoint women to 50 per cent of senior management positions. “A revamped media and communication strategy” will “enhance the global visibility and understanding of UN activities.”

Susana Malcorra: (born 1954) has been the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Worship of Argentina since January 2016. Before that, she was Chef de Cabinet to Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon (2012 - 2015) and  Under-Secretary-General of the newly created UN Department of Field Support (2008-2012). Prior to joining the UN she was  Chief Operating Officer and Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP). A graduate of Rosario University in Argentina with a degree in electronics, she had a 25-year career in the private sector that concluded with a stint as CEO of Telecom Argentina. She is married, has a son and speaks five languages (Spanish, English, French, Italian and Portuguese).

Her vision statement entitled "A United Nations centered on people, planet and prosperity; driven by issues; and focused on delivering impact," says that the Organization was designed "to address the world's most intractable problems" and since its inception "has been at a critical juncture. As long as the United Nations is needed, the Organization must evolve and continuously strive to do more for present and future generations."  The statement asserts that "The nature, scope and complexity of the issues before the United Nations over its 70 years have radically evolved. While the United Nations Charter is undiminished in its relevance, our capacity to adapt to the new landscape and respond to unknown perils is at stake. The benefits of the interconnectivity of the world we currently inhabit seem, at times, outpaced by the threats that challenge the resilience of communities and national governments and our ability, and that of partners, to effectively provide assistance. ...  An issues-based approach propels us from the siloes that divide us to the issues that connect us. Today's challenges require that we find solutions in the liminal space at the nexus of the peace and security, development, and human rights pillars."

Miroslav Lajčák: (born 1963) is the Foreign Minister of Slovakia who served in the same capacity in 2009-2010 and 2012-2016 (when he was concurrently also Deputy Prime Minister). A career diplomat with degrees from the Moscow State Institute for International Relations and the Comenius University in Bratislava, he has been Ambassador to Japan and Yugoslavia and served as Chairman of the official Council for Human Rights, National Minorities and Gender Equality.  In 2006 he organized under the auspices of the European Union the referendum on the independence of Montenegro. Following that he was appointed High Representative for Bosnia Herzegovina. In 2010-2012 he served as Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia in the newly formed diplomatic service of the EU - European External Action Service (EEAS) in Brussels. 

vision statement envisages "a modern, efficient organization that enjoys the trust of all" with "a dynamic, creative and stay-the-course leader ... who views reforms as a way of thinking, a continuous process of change and adaptation" and has "a keen sense of ethics and morale. Noting that since 2008, major violent conflicts have almost tripled, he urges "more cooperation in norm-setting at the international and regional level, tailor-made regional and national strategies to address specific drivers, more preventive approach," stepped up efforts to curb weapons of mass destruction getting into the hands of non-State actors and terrorist groups." Saying that "Early warning and prevention are pivotal in every single challenge" he underlines the importance of prevention, noting that the "world spends 1 dollar on conflict prevention for 1885 dollars it spends on military budgets."

Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica (born 1956 in San jose, Costa Rica), was nominated on 7 July, after she completed her second term as Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). A career diplomat whose first posting was to Bonn, Germany in 1982, she has served as Director of International Cooperation in the Ministry of Planning, Director of Renewable Energy within the secretariat of the Organization of the American States (OAS) and as the founder-Director of the non-profit regional capacity-building Center for Sustainable Development of the Americas (CSDA). She has served on many boards of non-governmental organizations, and was a sustainability adviser to several corporations. She is a published author, frequent lecturer, and thought leader. 

Her vision statement entitled "Restoring Hope" states that the strength of the United Nations in the 21st Century must be built on integrating the three main pillars of its Charter: peace and security, human rights, and development, so that success in one fosters success in the others. Calling for "a new model of collaborative diplomacy" and "stronger mechanisms for managing critical cross-border issues, including resource management, refugees, and migration," Ms. Figueres sets out "four core priorities:" 1. Peaceful settlement of disputes and strengthening our crisis response capacity; 2. Planting the seeds today to achieve a sustained peace tomorrow; 3. Forging an inclusive model of multilateralism through collaborative diplomacy and 4. Strengthening the United Nations Leadership.

Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva-Kinova of  Bulgaria was born on 13 August 1953 in Sofia. She is an economist currently serving as European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources, affiliated with the European People’s Party. From 1993-2010, she served with the World Bank Group in a number of positions, rising to become its vice president and corporate secretary in March 2008.

Her single-spaced, three-page vision statement “is clear and simple. In a changing world it needs to move with the times, renew its relevance, and deliver for those in need.” That requires action across three areas. First, “on peace and security, the Secretary-General needs to prioritize conflict prevention and resolution; and rejuvenate the effectiveness, integrity and authority of UN peacekeeping.” Second, “the world has to deliver on the ambitious agenda across sustainable development, climate change, and human rights we have collectively agreed upon.” The “Secretary-General must ensure that progress remains on track. Third, the Secretary-General must earn the trust of member states to execute the reforms and good management practices needed for the UN to live up to the demands of the twenty first century.


  Tuesday 7 June 2016.




Informal Dialogues With Candidates for the Post of Secretary-General

Trusteeship Council Chamber

​                            Tuesday 12 April 2016                                       Wednesday, 13 April 2016                                    Thursday, 14 April 2016

9 to 11 AM

11 AM to 1 PM

3 to 5 PM

                                                Tuesday, 7 June 2016                                                                                                                                   Monday 3 October

11 AM to 1:00 PM

​                                                                                                            Thursday, 14 July 2016                                            

3 to 5 PM                                                                                                                                                                                                  RED BUTTONS: WITHDRAWN 

Scroll down for previous updates 


5 September 2016: Antonio Guterres of Portugal won the 6th straw poll in the Security Council and will be formally nominated as the 9th Secretary-General on Thursday, 6 October. He received 13 "encourage" votes and two "no opinion" votes, one of them from a permanent member, casting a red colored ballot. 

After the morning session at which the vote was held, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin emerged with all other members of the Security Council to announce the result. If those who cast the "no opinion" votes agree, the Council could forward the nomination to the General Assembly by acclamation. 

Vuk Jeremic of Serbia and Miroslav Lajčák of Slovakia were tied in second place, receiving 7 encourage votes, two short of the nine required to push the process to another straw poll. Both of them also got 6 discourage votes, two of them from permanent members and 2 no opinions. 

The leading woman candidate, Irina Bokova of Bulgaria got a 7-7-1 count. Helen Clark of New Zealand  followed with 6-8-1. Susanna Malcorra of Argentina came next with 5-7-3. 

Kristalina Georgieva of Bulgaria and Danilo Turk of Slovenia tied with 5-8-2 in 6th place. 

In 7th place was Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia with a vote of 5-9-1. Natalia Gherman of Moldova was last with 3-11-1.


5 October 2016:  As the Security Council gets set to pick the next Secretary-General from the field of 10 candidates who have presented their vision statements, it is necessary to keep in mind what they have said, and as importantly, what they have not addressed. Herewith our take, a la Sherlock Holmes, on the dogs that did not bark:

The parlous state of the world economy: Not a single candidate addressed the pervasive sense of fear in global markets. With Japan and the European Union in unexplored “negative interest rate” territory, with China struggling to make a difficult transition from trade to consumption-led growth and global debt about 250 per cent of world GDP, it is obvious that something has to give. To ignore the dire implications of global economic trends, as the League of Nations did in the run-up to the Great Depression, is to invite a repetition of history (which is, in fact, already happening in terms of surging support for far-Right political parties in Europe).

How to deal with terrorism: All candidates mentioned terrorism as a global problem but not one had more than formulaic prescriptions to deal with it. There was resounding silence on the role of tax havens, shell companies and money laundering in enabling international terrorism. Although terrorism is among the most serious impediments to sustainable development, no one noted that Agenda 2030 pays it scant attention: 3 mentions in a document of over 15,500 words, with all of 23 words devoted to action.

The erosion of UN capacity and moral authority:  Several candidates emphasized the need for UN reform, but no one honed in on the mundane but critically important issue of the low quality of analytical reports issued by the Secretariat. Nor did anyone note the need for curative action on the devastating ethical failures of UN responses to cholera in Haiti and sexual abuse of children by Peacekeepers. (In speaking to the Press, one candidate defended the victimization of the whistleblower who brought the sex abuse scandal to light.)

Implications of the connectivity revolution: Most delegates spoke in general terms of technological change but none focused on the rapid growth of global connectivity: the smart phone and broadband Internet are driving a wave of change that will be as important as the industrial revolution and will certainly require a major reorientation of UN processes.  (See here)  


3 October 2016: On the same day as Kristalina Georgieva the second Bulgarian candidate for the post of Secretary-General set out her vision before a packed audience in one of the large basement Conference rooms at UNHQ, the incumbent of the office suggested at a Press briefing in Geneva what qualities might be most useful in his successor. 

As with the 12 candidates who have preceded her to the inquisition, Ms Georgieva (spoken with a hard G), got more or less the same questions from more or less the same cast of delegates/group spokesmen. One exchange stood out: about the image of Africa she used at the beginning of her statement (7:30 minutes into the video). The Ambassador of Kenya (1 hour 43 minutes in), took umbrage, and she explained herself (1 hour 55 minutes).

The first question Mr. Ban was asked after his opening statement was about the "character traits" he considered most important for the next Secretary-General. He replied that it was a "sense of balance" between ideals and the realities on the ground.  A little later (23 minutes in), he noted that he had asked the President of the General Assembly to take up with his successor the proposal for a high-level panel on "decision-making at the UN."​


6th StraW Poll on 5 Oct

5 October 2016: 1 October 2016: According to Sputnik International, the next straw poll is to be on 5 October. There is also mention of 6 October on a non-Russian web site that reports some discomfiture among Security Council members about the Bulgarian government's second nomination (see below). Reportedly, those Council members, including the Russian Federation, have written asking for clarification of who exactly is the Bulgarian nominee.

The 6th straw poll will be the first to use color-coded ballots that will make clear who is favored or opposed by the permanent members of the Council (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States). 

It is possible the Council could move to a formal vote if the 6th straw poll reveals a candidate with the minimum 9 supportive votes necessary and no vetoes. In 1991 and 2006 the Council moved to a formal vote after only one color-coded ballot; in 1996 there were six of them before Kofi Annan got the job. ​

Georgieva 2nd bulgarian candidate for SG


28 September 2016: The Bulgarian government has nominated a second candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General, switching support from UNESCO head Irina Bokova to Kristalina Georgieva, a vice president of the European Commission. However, Ms. Bokova has announced that she will remain in the race.

Ms Georgieva is a former World Bank official with supposedly better ties in Washington than Ms Bokova, who has done poorly in all five of the Security Council’s straw polls so far.

António Guterres of Spain has been a steady leader in the polls and in the fifth round, conducted on 26 September (see below), was the only candidate to get more than the minimum nine supportive votes necessary for formal selection; he got 12.

Ms Georgieva is scheduled to present her vision statement and appear for questioning by delegates at an “informal dialogue” convened by General Assembly President Peter Thomson on Monday, 3 October between 11 and 1:00 in Conference Room 1. There is no word yet as to when the 6th straw poll will be held.

Unlike earlier rounds, the 6th and successive straw polls will have color coded ballots showing the votes of the veto-wielding permanent members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States). ​The President of the Security Council in October will be the Russian Federation.



26 September 2016: Antonio Guterres of Spain continued to lead in the Security Council’s fifth straw poll on candidates bidding for the office of UN Secretary-General. The former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (until last December) got 12 "encourage" votes, two "discourage" votes and one “no opinion” vote.

None of the other candidates got the minimum of 9 supportive votes necessary to get formal approval by the Security Council. Women candidates continued to lag the field.

In second place was former Foreign Minister of Serbia Vuk Jeremic with an 8-6-1 count.

Placing third because of one additional negative vote was Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak with an 8-7-0 count

Argentina’s Susanna Malcorra (former Chef de Cabinet to Ban Ki Moon) was tied in fourth place with former Slovenian President Danilo Turk. Both polled 7 encourage -7 discourage – and 1 no opinion.

UNESCO chief Irina Bokova of Bulgaria came in sixth with a vote of 6-7-2.

Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim and Helen Clark tied for seventh place with a 6-9-0 vote. 

Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman came last with a vote of 3-11-1

70th Assembly ends with no agreement on SG terms

13 September 2016:  The 70th session of the General Assembly ended today without consensus on the text under consideration on the appointment of the Secretary-General. Speaking of that at his final press conference at the United Nations, Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft said consultat-ions were continuing, and the matter of co-facilitators was under consideration.
PS: Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica is withdrawing her candidacy for the post of Secretary-General. The third to do so.



9 September 2016: The fourth straw poll on the 10 candidates still vying to be the next Secretary-General of the UN saw some shifting of the field but Antonio Guterres of Portugal continued to lead, with Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia in second place and Vuk Jeremic of Serbia in third. Only they got the minimum 9 positive votes necessary for formal approval. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, the leading woman, got only 7 "encourage" votes.  The tally wa as follows: 
       (encourage-discourage-no opinion) 
• Antonio Guterres, Portugal: 12-2-1
• Miroslav Lajcak, Slovakia: 10 - 4 - 1
• Vuk Jeremic, Serbia: 9 - 4 - 2
• Srgjan Kerim, Macedonia: 8 - 7 - 0
• Irina Bokova, Bulgaria: 7 - 5 - 3
• Danilo Turk, Slovenia: 7 - 6 - 2
• Susana Malcorra, Argentina 7 - 7 - 1
• Helen Clark, New Zealand: 6 - 7 - 2
• Christiana Figueres, Costa Rica:  5 - 10 - 0
• Natalia Gherman, Moldova: 3-11-1

No Vetoes in 4th, 5th polls

9 September 2016: The fourth and fifth straw polls on the candidates seeking to be Secretary-General will not have color coded ballots distinguishing the five veto-wielding permanent members from the elected 10. Nor will they be presided over by New Zealand, the president of the Council for September. Because one of the candidates, Helen Clark, is from that country, New Zealand has recused itself. Instead, the Russian Federation, the president for October, will be in charge. It is expected that the first poll in October will have color coded ballots and lead quickly to a choice of the next Secretary-General.  After the 4th poll on 9 September, the fifth will be held on 26 September.


29 August 2016: Except for Antonio Gueterres of Portugal who continued to top the field, there was considerable churn in the Security Council's third straw poll on those vying to be the 9th Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia shot up from near last to second place, even getting the minimum 9 supportive votes needed for selection. Irina Bokova of Bulgaria maintained her heavyweight status among the women candidates, rising to third place, replacing Susanna Malcorra of Argentina who was displaced two slots down, coming in behind Vuk Jeremic of Serbia.

Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia was 6th, followed by Helen Clark of New Zealand at 7, Danilo Turk of Slovenia at 8, and Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica tying with Natalia Gherman of Moldova at last place. 

The Tally

 The votes below are in the following order:

Encourage - Discourage - No Opinion

Antonio Guterres (Portugal): 11-3–1
Miroslav Lajcak (Slovakia): 9–5–1
Irina Bokova (Bulgaria): 7–5–3
Vuk Jeremic (Serbia): 7–5–3
Susanna Malcorra(Argentina) 7 -7–1
Srgjan Kerim (Macedonia): 6 – 7 – 2
Helen Clark (New Zealand): 6–8–1
Danilo Turk (Slovenia): 5–6-4
Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica): 2–12-1 
Natalia Gherman (Moldova): 2–12–1

Assembly Prez on 3rd Straw Poll

29 August 2016: General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft issued the following satement following the Security Council's third straw poll to pick the next Secretary-General:

"The President of the Security Council for the month of August, H.E. Ambassador Ibrahim of Malaysia, called to inform me that the third informal straw poll of the Security Council for the position of Secretary-General took place earlier today. Thanking him, I also recalled my letter dated 21 July 2016 in which I recognize the informal nature of the straw polls, while stressing that the absence of any further details beyond the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place adds little value and does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency."


Length of S-G Term Under Review

25 August 2016: On the day the Security Council holds its third straw poll to select the next Secretary-General (29 August), the General Assembly will be meeting informally to consider how best to proceed with the resolution on her/his appointment. One of the elements of that resolution will be the length of the term s/he should serve.

The meeting will be under the co-chairmanship of the Ambassadors of Croatia and Namibia who are steering the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly. It will convene in the Trusteeship Council for an “exchange of views on the desirability and timing of a co-facilitation process” for the resolution. The final meeting of the 70th session of the General Assembly is expected to be on the draft of the resolution 

Other Developments

  • Two of the heavyweight women contenders – UNDP head Helen Clark of New Zealand and UNESCO head Irina Bokova of Bulgaria – are reportedly making the rounds of Security Council member countries. Both have polled embarrassing numbers of “discourage” votes in the first two rounds. Their travels are being funded by their home countries.

  • Igor Luksic of Montenegro is the second candidate to drop out of the race. Vesna Pusic of Croatia was the first.

Clark Continues Candidacy

16 August 2016: Helen Clark of New Zealand, who got 8 "discourage" votes in the last straw poll (see below), will not drop her bid to become UN Secretary-General. Reports citing the country's Prime Minister John Key say that the government will continue to fund Ms. Clark's bid and that it is trying to find support for her candidacy from one of the permanent members. 

Susanna Malcorra of Argentina, who came in third in the last straw poll, albeit with one less than the minimum 9 supportive votes needed for selection, was reported as saying in Buenos Aires that her performance in the straw polls reflected bias against women at the UN. 

Incumbent Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon broke his silence on the issue of who should replace him, telling journalists that it should be a woman. His term ends on 31 December 2016, and there is a great deal of chatter about him running to become President of the Republic of Korea.

3rd Straw Poll on 29 August

12 August 2016: According to the president of the Security Council for August, Ramlan Bin Ibrahim of Malaysia, the third straw poll on the candidates vying to be Secretary-General will be held on the 29th of the month. In the second straw poll on 5 August (see below), one candidate, Antonio Guterres of Portugal got 11  in favor, 2 against and 2 no opinion votes.

He was the only candidate to get more than the minimum 9 supportive votes necessary for selection by the Council.  The third poll will reveal whether the two opposed votes were cast by permanent members of the Council and constituted vetoes barring his immediate election. If the negative votes prove to be from non-permanent members and Mr. Gueterres continues to be the only candidate with the minimum number of votes to pass muster in the Council, there would be a formal meeting to confirm his nomination to the General Assembly.


5 August 2016: Going by early leaked results, all the favorites dropped in the Security Council’s 2nd straw poll on those bidding to become the UN’s ninth Secretary-General. Both women front-runners dropped steeply. 

Field leader Antonio Guterres of Portugal got 11  in favor, 2 against and 2 no opinion votes instead of the first round 12-0-3. Either one or both of the negative votes must have been vetoes, otherwise he would be the next S-G. 
Vuk Jeremic of Serbia rose to second place but without the minimum 9 votes needed for selection; he polled 8-4-3 (compared to the earlier 9-5-1).
Susana Malcorra of Colombia became the highest ranking woman with 8-6-1, getting more pro and con votes, from the previous 7-4-4.
Danilo Turk of Slovenia dropped precipitously to 7-5-3 (from 11-2-2). Irina Bokova of Bulgaria also sank, to 7-7-1 (from 9-4-2). Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia sank even more, getting 6-7-2 (instead of 9-5-1). So did Helen Clark, who got 6-8-1 (down from 8-5-2).  Others were Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica: 5-8-2; Natalia Gherman of Moldova 3-10-2; Igor Luksic of Montenegro 2-6-7; Miroslav Lajcak of Slovakia 2-9-4.​

GA to SC: Poll Secrecy "Undignified"

5 August 2015: A statement issued on 5 August by General Assembly President Mogens Lykettoft said:

"The President of the Security Council for the month of August, H.E. Ambassador Ibrahim of Malaysia, called to inform me that the second informal straw poll of the Security Council for the position of Secretary-General took place earlier today. Thanking him, I also recalled my letter dated 21 July 2016 in which I recognize the informal nature of the straw polls, while stressing that the absence of any further details beyond the fact that the informal straw poll has taken place adds little value and does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency. The lack of transparency is undignified for the UN and for the candidates."

Council Denies Assembly Straw Poll Info as Twitter Carries Full Results

21 July 2016: In an almost comic commentary on UN stick-in-the-mud practice oblivious to 21st Century reality, the Security Council declined to share the results of its straw poll on candidates for Secretary-General with the General Assembly even as Twitter carried the information in full. Underlining the embarrassing situation was a letter from General Assembly president Mogens Lykettoft to all Ambassadors at the UN saying he had not been given the information.

The results constituted a splash of cold water on the hopes of women/Eastern European candidates: the front-runner was Portugal's former Prime Minister Antonio Guterres who was UN refugee chief for 10 years. He led the field with 12 "Encourage" (and 3 "No Opinion") votes. Danilo Turk, Slovenia's former president and an Assistant-Secretary-General under Kofi Annan between 2000-2005, came in second with 11 supportive, 2 "Discourage" and two "No opinion" votes.

The leading woman candidate was UNESCO chief Irina Bokova of Bulgaria with 9 supportive, 4 Discourage and 2 No Opinion votes. Former Foreign Ministers of Serbia Vuk Jeremic and Macedonia, Srgjan Kerim, also received 9 favorable votes but with more "Discourage" votes. New Zealand's former Prime Minister Helen Clark, currently head of the UN Development Program, got 8 supportive votes (one less than the minimum required for election), a damaging 5 "Discourage" votes and 2 "No Opinion". Another supposed front-runner, Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who was Ban's chief of staff, received less support than Clark as did Slovakia's Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak. The rest of the field -- Moldova's Natalia Gherman, Montenegro's Igor Luksic, former UN climate chief Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica and Croatia's  Vesna Pusic-- trailed badly. Pusic
received 11 Discourage votes. 

The current field of 12 will certainly narrow before the next straw poll, which could happen as early as next week; new candidates might also emerge. It is not clear when the ballot papers will begin to indicate vetoes cast by permanent members of the Security Council (in the past they have been of a different color).

Meanwhile, a number of speakers in the 18 July Security Council meeting on Working Methods referred to consultations in the General Assembly on the resolution appointing the next Secretary-General. Among the elements being considered is a non-renewable 7 or 8 year term instead of a renewable 5-year term. 


Straw Polls on SG to Begin 21 July

17 June 2016: The Security Council will begin straw polls to pick the next Secretary-General on 21 July. The 15 members of the Council will be able to indicate whether they "encourage", "discourage" or have "no opinion" on each candidate for the post. Those with little support will be winnowed out, leaving the front runners to go head to head.

There are 11 declared candidates so far, five of them women and eight from Eastern Europe. Other names are expected to be added to the list before and during the straw polls, which can continue for some time if there is no meeting of minds among the veto-wielding permanent members of the Council (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States).

Any seven of the ten elected members of the current Council (Angola , Egypt, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Senegal, Spain, Ukraine, Uruguay, Venezuela) can also collectively stop a candidate because a majority of nine is needed for a decision.    

Those mentioned by mass media as front-runners are all familiar faces at the UN:

Helen Clark of New Zealand has been head of UNDP for almost a decade,

Irina Bokova of Bugaria has been at the helm of UNESCO for about the same time;

Susanna Malcorra of Argentina has held various posts at the UN for a number of years.

Antonio Gueterres of Spain, the only male candidate noted by mass media, was UN High Commissioner for Refugees for a decade.

According to a 16 June report by AFP, the Council is expected to decide by October on a single nominee.

Search for Next S-G Enters New Phase

7 June 2016: After the two-hour grilling of the 11th candidate for the post of Secretary-General, the search for the next head of the United Nations has passed into a new phase. Announcing that from the podium of the Trusteeship Council, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft who organized the "informal dialogues" said that while he was willing to receive new nominations, time was getting short. (The expectation is that the Security Council will hold its first straw poll on candidates in July.) 

The General Assembly resolution that enabled the hearings (see main story) did not provide for General Assembly straw polls to decide on the standings of declared candidates, Mr. Lykeketoft said.  He expected that if the Security Council picked someone other than the declared candidates, the person would appear for questioning by delegations; to do otherwise would not be fair.

In a remarkably frank observation, Mr. Lykketoft said he expected the Council would act in a manner that would preserve the working relationship between it and the General Assembly. 

Following the end of the session that questioned Susanna Malcorra the Argentine Foreign Minister, Mr. Lykketoft expanded on that thought. He said the "balance" between the General Assembly and the Security Council had changed. For the first time there was a list of candidates, and he was "totally confident" the Council would pick from it. 


First Phase of "Informal Dialogue" Ends

14 April 2016: General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark termed it the "most difficult job interview in the world" for "the most difficult job in the world." Members of the General Assembly subjected nine candidates for the post of Secretary-General to intense two-hour sessions of "informal dialogue," asking over 800 questions in the first-ever effort to formally seek out the best person to lead the world body.
In the 70-year history of the UN that search has always been the prerogative of the five Permanent Members of the Security Council (Britain, China, France, Russian Federation, United States), and results have been extremely mixed (see sidebar links). Widespread dissatisfaction with the outcome of the last selection process led to civil society demands for change and the assertion of a new role by the General Assembly. 
Seven of the nine candidates who emerged in the first phase of the search were Eastern European (from Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia), one was Spanish and one from New Zealand. Four were women, the first to be formally considered for the post since Vijayalakshmi Pandit of India, Jawaharlal Nehru's sister and President of the General Assembly in 1953. (She was dismissed in a secret straw poll by the Security Council as it looked for a replacement for Trygve Lie.)
Each candidate presented a written "vision statement" (link below) and answered a wild melange of questions from delegates. There were many common themes, most prominently commitments to gender balance and empowerment of women, promises to emphasize human rights, pledges to emphasize UN work on sustainable development and determination to fix peacekeeping operations and architecture. UN reform was also a shared horse, although the horsemanship was a decided variable. One proposal was to establish the Deputy-Secretary-General in Nairobi! 
Most of the questions were from delegates speaking on behalf of groups, ranging from the Non-Aligned Movement and Group of 77 to ad hoc configurations such as the 56 States pushing for a woman to be appointed SG. At the opposite end of the spectrum was Saudi Arabia, questioning if there were indeed universal human rights. 
In general, there was a rather surprising acceptance of the status quo: no one promised significant change. With the General Assembly special session on illicit drugs just days away, no one spoke of the need to discard the prohibitionist approach that has made trafficking such a gold mine for terrorist mafias and crooked bankers. With the news wires still resonating with the revelations of the Panama Papers, no one called for a global ban on shell companies. Neither did anyone venture into the minefield of real-life powder-keg issues. The scary IMF report on world financial stability issued this week went unnoticed, as did the maritime disputes roiling East Asia.
In concluding the first phase of the dialogues, General Assembly president Lykketoft called for more candidates to present themselves.