Thursday,23 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)
Thursday,23 November, 2017
Issue 1305, (28 July - 3 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

The next UN secretary-general

Who will be the next secretary-general of the United Nations, asks Camelia Entekhabifard in New York

world
world
Al-Ahram Weekly

Seventy years after the establishment of the United Nations, intended to guarantee international peace after World War II, this institution is once again drawing world attention in its efforts to resolve the brutal conflicts currently afflicting the Middle East.

The solidarity the world needs in order to confront international terrorism and stop the bloodshed in the Middle East is one of the most significant roles played by the United Nations. Five countries — Russia, the United States, China, France and Britain — have veto power at the UN Security Council, meaning that they can always challenge majority wishes in the General Assembly.

The current secretary-general of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, is now serving the last few months in his post after ten years holding the position. He steps down on 31 December 2016, leaving a world that needs strong action and leadership to act against terrorism.

With unprecedented events challenging the international community, rooting out terrorism and bringing the world together will be tasks that make the job of Ban’s successor all the more important. But a strong secretary-general may not find favour among the permanent members of the Security Council, and the 12 bids that have thus far been made for this high-profile position have not excited delegations at the United Nations.

On 21 July, the Security Council held its first round of secret voting on the candidates, with none of the six female candidates proving popular among members of the Council. “Charmless” was the word one diplomat used to describe them.

Despite hopes that the female contenders could remain in the race, the result of the voting was disappointing for the presenting nations, and the top contender to emerge was former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres.

Guterres served as UN High Commissioner for Refugees for ten years, and his extensive UN experience makes him a popular candidate for the post. However, traditionally senior UN positions have rotated among the UN’s main regional groups, and many now believe it is the turn of Eastern Europe to hold the post of secretary-general.

Russia did not vote against Guterres, but made it clear it would prefer the job to go to an Eastern European candidate. It may be that the next challenge will be between the Security Council’s permanent members, with Russia and China on one side and the US, France and the UK on the other over the favoured candidate.

Some delegates at the United Nations said off the record that they believe the Security Council would prefer a less politicised candidate. “A strong secretary-general is a headache for the Security Council,” a Middle Eastern diplomat at the UN said.

Thursday’s vote was designed to narrow the list of the most popular candidates among the12 running for the top UN job. Guterres came out on top, with 12 delegates voting for, three expressing no opinion, and none discouraging him to stand.

The Security Council has five permanent members and ten non-permanent and elective members. Since there is no deadline for the announcement of candidacies, some suggest that other contenders may still join the race.

Once the Security Council and its five permanent members have agreed on a candidate, this person will be presented to the General Assembly. It is expected that sometime between late October and early November the next secretary-general will be elected, ready to begin his or her term in office in January 2017.

Despite hopes that the Security Council might encourage a female candidate, particularly Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand, this month’s poll showed the opposite. Clark finished sixth, and another female candidate, Susana Malcorra, the Argentinian foreign minister, finished eighth.

None of the candidates is yet ready to quit the race, however, doubtless hoping for better lobbying among Security Council members.

 

 

 

 

 

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