UN Security Council votes on next secretary general

22 Jul 16

The United Nations Security Council has conducted the first secret ballot to decide who will succeed Ban Ki-Moon as the UN's next secretary general.


United Nations Security Council. Credit: UN

United Nations Security Council. Credit: UN


The results of the vote, which took place behind closed doors yesterday, will not be revealed, although candidates will be informed of the outcome.

The security council’s five permanent members – Russia, the UK, China, France and the US – plus the 10 rotating members, conducted what is known as a ‘straw poll’. Each of the 15 members put forward their opinion on the candidate, either encouraging their bid, discouraging it or declaring no opinion.

Japan holds the security council presidency in July and ambassador Koro Bessho said the straw poll was an “indicative vote – to inform the candidates where they stand in the race, and to inform council members how the race might go from here”.

Twelve people have put themselves forwards as candidates, half of whom are women. Both the UK and the US have called for the selection of a female secretary general for the first time in the UN’s 70-year history.

The candidates include: Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand and chief of the UN Development Programme; Antonio Guterres, the Portuguese former head of the UN’s refugee agency, who is rumoured to have come out on top in yesterday’s ballot; and Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova, director general of UNESCO, who would be the first ever UN leader from Eastern Europe, the only region in the world to not have fielded a secretary general so far.

The organisation hopes to choose a leader that can reinvent the UN’s reputation. It is currently though to be opaque and ineffective. Its image has been further tarnished with criticisms of an insufficient response to the Syrian war, slow action in the face of the Ebola outbreak and scandals involving sexual abuse by peacekeepers in Africa.

Some candidates may drop out if they are put off by the results of this first round, while new candidates can still put themselves forward. However Bessho urged that they do this as soon as possible to allow the UN has enough time to review their application.

The straw polls will now continue until a majority candidate is chosen who is not vetoed by a permanent member of the security council. The name will then be transferred to the UN General Assembly who will confirm the candidate’s selection.

Despite the secretive vote, the UN has worked to make the selection process more transparent this year. For the first time, candidates were asked to submit a resumé, which can be viewed by the public online. They also undertook informal briefings with the General Assembly and held public hustings.

Two of the candidates were unable to come to New York to attend, but the other 10 fielded questions from diplomats and the public in a debate that was televised and webcast around the globe.

It is hoped the final candidate will be selected by October, to take over at the start of 2017.

The winner will succeed incumbent Ban Ki-Moon, the UN’s eighth secretary general, who will have held the post for a decade when he steps down on 31 December this year.  

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