Under the Charter of the United Nations, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. With Mr Guterres taking office on January first 2017, Mr Ban will step down after serving two terms.
Ban's predecessors as Secretary-General were: Kofi Annan (Ghana) who held office from January 1997 to December 2006; Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt), who held office from January 1992 to December 1996; Javier Pèrez de Cuèllar (Peru), who served from January 1982 to December 1991; Kurt Waldheim (Austria), who held office from January 1972 to December 1981; U Thant (Burma, now Myanmar), who served from November 1961, when he was appointed acting Secretary-General (he was formally appointed Secretary-General in November 1962) to December 1971;Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden), who served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in Africa in September 1961; and Trygve Lie (Norway), who held office from February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.
The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General's selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.
Although there is technically no limit to the number of five-year terms a Secretary-General may serve, none so far has held office for more than two terms.
Equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the Secretary-General is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesman for the interests of the world's peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them.
The Charter describes the Secretary-General as "chief administrative officer" of the Organization, who shall act in that capacity and perform "such other functions as are entrusted" to him or her by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the Secretary-General to "bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security". These guidelines both define the powers of the office and grant it considerable scope for action. The Secretary-General would fail if he did not take careful account of the concerns of Member States, but he must also uphold the values and moral authority of the United Nations, and speak and act for peace, even at the risk, from time to time, of challenging or disagreeing with those same Member States.
That creative tension accompanies the Secretary-General through day-to-day work that includes attendance at sessions of United Nations bodies; consultations with world leaders, government officials, and others; and worldwide travel intended to keep him in touch with the peoples of the Organization's Member States and informed about the vast array of issues of international concern that are on the Organization's agenda. Each year, the Secretary-General issues a report on the work of the United Nations that appraises its activities and outlines future priorities. The Secretary-General is also Chairman of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), which brings together the Executive Heads of all UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies twice a year in order to further coordination and cooperation in the entire range of substantive and management issues facing the United Nations System.
One of the most vital roles played by the Secretary-General is the use of his "good offices" -- steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.
Article 97 of the UN Charter provides that, “The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” In other words, Article 97 creates a two-stage process: a recommendation by the Security Council followed by a decision by the General Assembly.
While nothing in the Charter prevents the Security Council from recommending more than one candidate, General Assembly resolution 11 (I) of 24 January 1946 stipulates that it is desirable for the Security Council to “proffer one candidate only” and that has been the consistent practice.
The Security Council adopts a resolution setting out its recommendation. This resolution has consistently been adopted at a private meeting of the Council, since rule 48 of the Provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council states, “Any recommendation to the General Assembly regarding the appointment of the Secretary-General shall be discussed and decided at a private meeting”. In years when a number of candidates are being considered, the Council will conduct balloting before adopting its resolution. In years when only one candidate is being considered, the Council’s normal practice is to proceed directly, without prior balloting, to adopting a resolution, usually by acclamation.
Yes, General Assembly resolution 11 (I) of 24 January 1946 specifies that the recommendation of a Secretary-General by the Security Council is a “substantive decision” and that therefore the negative vote of a Permanent Member can prevent the adoption of a draft resolution setting out a recommendation.
The first step is for the Council President to consult informally with the other Council members and determine a date for holding the private meeting to adopt the Council’s recommendation. Once that date has been agreed by the Council members, the Council President writes a letter informing the Assembly President, who in turn informs the General Assembly Member States. It is common also for the two Presidents to meet in person to discuss preparations for the election.
Following adoption of the Security Council’s recommendation, the practice is for the Council President to write a letter informing the Assembly President.
The common practice is for the Council President to go to the press Stakeout following the adoption of the Council’s recommendation to brief the press.
When adopting its resolution, the practice of the Council has been to specify the term of office for its recommended candidate, and the Assembly acts similarly when adopting its resolution appointing the Secretary-General. Except for some adjustments during the early years of the United Nations, the terms of office of Secretaries-General have been fixed at five years.
There is no requirement for recommended candidates to be endorsed by the regional groups. Nonetheless, it is a common practice for those groups to write a letter to the UN membership in support of a candidate, and such letters are brought to the attention of the Council members.
United Nations General Assembly appointed by acclamation António Guterres of Portugal as the ninth UN Secretary-General, upon recommendation by the Security Council, completing a two-step process mandated by the UN Charter.
Visiting Riyad camp in Darfur, as UN refugee chief, António Guterres told the leaders that no one would be forced to return home, and that UNHCR and the African Union were working to improve camp security. “The main job of the UN here is to try to force things in order to have peace,” he said, referring to the stalled Abuja peace talks between the Sudanese government and the two Darfur rebel movements. Photo: UNHCR/Hélène Caux
More than 140,000 Karen refugees – who fled conflicts in Myanmar – live in nine camps along the Thai-Myanmar border. Visiting Thailand, United Nations High Commissioner Antonio Guterres took a tour of the Thai government’s Tham Hin camp, where he underscored: “Refugees are victims, not a threat,” adding “they may be victims again if security concerns do not take into account their real situation.” Photo UNHCR/N.Tanprasert
As UN refugee chief António Guterres visited some of the estimated 2.1 million displaced people in eastern provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The volatile security situation limits the access of UNHCR teams to many areas of the North Kivu province – restricting the amount of assistance. “I am deeply concerned by the suffering of the people and the terrible humanitarian situation they are facing, made even worse by this fresh round of fighting,” he said. Photo: UNHCR / D. Nthengwe
The UN refugee chief wrapped up a tour of North Africa after securing an agreement to expand confidence-building measures for Sahrawi refugees. He said UNHCR could not solve the problems of the Sahrawis, as they were political, but could only offer “to relieve some of the pain.” Photo: UNHCR/M.Echeverria
In the small port town of Obock, Djibouti, Mr. Guterres raised awareness about the tens of thousands of Somalis and Ethiopians who risk their lives to cross on crowded, rickety boats from the Horn of Africa. "The journey is dangerous. Many people have perished and those who survive the crossing have suffered," he told a group who had been waiting two days for smugglers to show up. Photo: UNHCR/ R. Russo
During a visit to Somalia, the UN refugee chief called for greater efforts to provide life-saving aid to displaced Somalis inside their country. “I am always fighting to make sure Somalis have the right to seek asylum,” adding that they should also “have the right to choose to stay in their own country.” Photo: UNHCR/Siegfried Modola
Making his third visit to Ecuador for UNHCR, the High Commissioner spoke with urban refugees from Colombia about their challenges, including documentation problems. Mr. Guterres pledged to continue working with the Ecuadorean government “to ensure implementation of the legal framework for protecting refugees or to bridge the gap between the legal framework and the reality.” Photo: UNHCR / E. Leon
Amid a continuing exodus of Syrians into Iraq's Kurdistan region, the United Nations High Commissioner praised the regional government for sheltering almost 200,000 people, including the most recent 47,000 arrivals. "This influx represents a huge strain on the economy and infrastructure, and having a war next door is always a threat," said the UN refugee chief. Photo: UNHCR/ S. Baldwin
With more than 2.3 million registered Syrian refugees in the region, Turkey is hosting hundreds of thousands of them. At the Harran-Kökenli Refugee Camp in Turkey, UNHCR joined top officials from Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq and Egypt in calling on the international community to boost solidarity with countries hosting the bulk of the refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict. Photo: UNHCR
Assessing conditions on the Greek island of Lesvos, the main landing spot for tens of thousands of people taking smuggler boats from the nearby Turkish coast, Antonio Guterres said European governments had yet to match the “gigantic effort” that the island and its people had made in trying to cope with the huge influx. Photo: UNHCR