Historic Letter to Commence Selection of Next UN Secretary-General


An article by 1 for 7 billion: find the best UN leader

1 for 7 Billion welcomes the ground-breaking joint letter to be sent by the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council on the appointment of the next UN Secretary-General in 2016. The letter marks – for the first time in the UN’s history – the start of an official selection process for this crucial role, which until now has been shrouded in secrecy. It takes forward General Assembly Resolution 69/321, adopted by consensus in September, by soliciting candidates for the post and by outlining some selection criteria.


“This unprecedented joint letter should serve to end the woefully inadequate way in which the Secretary-General has been selected to date: by a handful of powerful countries behind closed doors. By paving the way for more transparency and inclusivity – notably through hearings with candidates – it enhances the chances that an outstanding leader will be found who can successfully confront today’s complex global challenges” said Yvonne Terlingen, speaking on behalf of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign’s steering committee.

To be signed by General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and Ambassador Samantha Power for the United States, which holds this month’s Council Presidency, the letter:

– Stresses that the selection process will be guided by the principles of transparency and inclusivity

– Echoes the selection criteria set out in Resolution 69/321

– Encourages the presentation of women as candidates, as well as men, in letters to the Presidents of the Council and the Assembly while noting the “regional diversity” in the selection of previous post holders

– Commits to circulating candidates’ names on an on-going basis in line with the General Assembly resolution

– Commits the Presidents of the Council and the Assembly to offering candidates dialogues or meetings with their members throughout the process

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– Excludes an end date for submission of candidacies but acknowledges that “early presentation of candidates will help the Council‟s deliberations”

– Provides that the Security Council will start its selection procedure by July 2016 and will make its recommendation to the General Assembly “in a timely manner‟ to give the newly appointed post holder “sufficient time to prepare for the job”.

1 for 7 Billion calls on governments, parliaments and civil society to put forward highly quality candidates so that the best possible woman or man can be appointed. We urge all potential candidates to commit to making the process as open, transparent and principled as possible. 1 for 7 Billion calls on all candidates to: present publicly their vision and objectives; to refrain from reserving key senior positions for certain member states; and to participate actively in hearings with states and civil society.

We also encourage candidates to commit to serve a single, non-renewable term of office. 1 for 7 Billion, together with The Elders and a growing number of governments, supports the appointment of future Secretaries-General for such a non-renewable term, possibly of seven years, as this would strengthen the independence and accountability of the office.

“This decision is a critical step towards real change, illustrating the commitment of both the Security Council and the General Assembly for a more open and merit-based appointment process. We still have much to do to make this decision succeed, but this is one of the best examples in many years of civil society and governments working together to improve and change one of the worst procedures of the UN Security Council,” said William Pace, director of the World Federalist Movement and a member of 1 for 7 Billion’s steering committee.

“At last – some clarity about how the world will go about filling this crucial role,” said Natalie Samarasinghe, Executive Director of the United Nations Association-UK and also a member of 1 for 7 Billion’s steering committee, “Top-quality names, particularly women, from all sectors and regions must now be put forward as soon as possible, to allow ample time for candidates to engage with all UN member states and with their constituency: the world’s seven billion people. We must start a global conversation about what type of person we want in the hot seat, and what we want them to do when they get there.”