For first time in history, selection of next UN Secretary-General will include input from all Member States

President of the General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft. UN Photo/Mark Garten

15 December 2015 – The 193 Member States of the United Nations will for the first time be included "totally" in the selection of the next UN Secretary-General, the President of the General Assembly said today, pledging to make the process as transparent and inclusive as possible.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft highlighted a joint letter with the President of the Security Council that was sent out to all UN Member States today and which, he said, officially "starts" the process of soliciting candidates leading to the selection and appointment of the next UN chief.

According to the UN Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly following the recommendation of the Security Council.

The letter issued today acknowledges the importance of transparency and inclusivity in the process. It also encourages Member States “to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of Secretary-General.”

In a new development, the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council “will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members of their respective bodies…these can take place before the Council begins its selection by the end of July 2016 and may continue throughout the process of selection,” according to the letter.

“The process is started and the wish is that the membership, for the first time in UN history, is included totally in the discussion of the next Secretary-General," Mr. Lykketoft said, adding that he thinks “this is a watershed in the way that we are doing things.”

“Until [today], the selection process of the Secretary-General has been very secretive and involving mostly – or only – the permanent five members of the Security Council,” he said, referring to China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Of course, he continued, the permanent Council members “still have a very strong position in selecting proposals for the General Assembly, but I think if, out of this new process we are now embarking on, comes an imminent candidate supported by a majority of the membership, it will actually give the general membership an increased, de facto power in selecting the Secretary-General.”

Mr. Lykketoft went on to explain that the presentation of candidates would also give Member States the opportunity to ask questions about their position on UN priorities, such as the Sustainable Development Agenda, peace and security, and other issues.

“But I would also say it would give the opportunity of candidates to answer questions about how should the UN system…possibly be made better to deal with a more holistic view of the world challenges expressed in the Sustainable Development Goals,” he noted, expressing the hope that such consultations would illuminate prospective candidates’ political and organizational priorities.

To a question on the format of such consultations with prospective candidates, he said: “We are foreseeing open meetings with the membership of the United Nations, where you gentlemen and ladies of the press can follow the presentations and questions and answers [to and from] the candidates…that is my plan.”

The next Secretary-General will assume the role in January 2017 and will serve a five year term, which can be renewed by Member States for an additional five years.

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