Next UN chief should be a woman, says Ban

16 Aug 16

The United Nations secretary general has said it is “high time” for a woman to lead the organisation after its more than 70 years of existence.


UNDP administrator Helen Clark. Photo: UN

UNDP administrator Helen Clark is one of five women in the race to succeed Ban Ki Moon as UN secretary general. Photo: UN


In an interview with the Associated Press, Ban Ki Moon said choosing a female candidate is his “humble suggestion”, but the rest is up to member states.

Out of the 11 candidates in the race to succeed Ban, whose second five-year term comes to an end on 31 December, five are women.

They include UN Development Programme administrator and former New Zealand prime minister Helen Clark, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova, who heads the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, and Susana Malcorra from Argentina, formerly Ban’s chief of staff.

In the two informal polls held so far, female candidates have reached only third place, while former Portuguese prime minister and UN refugee agency chief Antonio Guterres came first in both.

Another straw poll – where the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have the choice to either discourage, encourage or declare no opinion on a candidate’s bid – is scheduled for the 29 August.

The polls are intended to inform candidates and the council on where individuals stand in the race. One candidate who came last in the first poll, Croatian foreign minister Vesna Pusic, has alreadt dropped out.

One or two further straw polls are expected to be held in September, at which point the 15-member Security Council will recommend a candidate to the 193-member General Assembly for approval.

Ban stressed that the decision is up to member states, not to him. But he said there were “many distinguished, motivated women leaders who can really change this world, who can actively engage with the other leaders of the world”.

Both the UK and the US have also called for a female to lead the UN.

Ban also praised the General Assembly for improving transparency in this year’s race by holding the first-ever public hearings for all candidates vying for the role. 

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