United Nations begins informal briefings to select next Secretary-General

A wide view of the proceedings on informal dialogues with candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General. UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

12 April 2016 – Kicking off what he has called a “new and transparent process,” General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft today opened informal dialogues with candidates for the next United Nations Secretary-General, for the first time providing an opportunity for substantive and open engagement with the candidates – for the full UN membership and the public.

“We are sailing into uncharted waters here,” said Mr. Lykketoft addressing the press ahead of the start of the informal dialogues.

Calling the process a “potential game-changing exercise,” he said the informal briefings were part of a “very transparent, very interesting discussion about the future of the United Nations.”

Over the course of the next three days, the official candidates – currently eight of them – will answer questions related to promoting sustainable development, how to improve efforts to create peace, how to protect human rights, how to deal with huge humanitarian catastrophes, and how to resolve challenges defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

At the end of the process, Mr. Lykketoft said, expressing his personal view, one single candidate could emerge, making it difficult for the Security Council – which is tasked with making the official selection, as stated in the UN Charter – to choose another candidate.

General Assembly President Morgens Lykketoft briefs the reporters. Credit: UN News Centre

Defining some of the qualities in who would be the “best person” for the job, Mr. Lykketoft stressed independence, strong moral authority, great political and diplomatic skills, and some experience in being at the head of a huge administration.

As part of the informal dialogues, each candidate will have a televised and webcast two-hour timeslot, starting with a short oral presentation. Representatives from Member States will then ask questions, followed by the President of the General Assembly, who will ask a few of the more than 1,000 questions submitted by the general public on social media under the hashtag #UNSGcandidates.

The three candidates who will go before the General Assembly today are listed below, in order of appearance. They will present their ‘vision statements,’ which address the challenges and opportunities facing the UN and the next Secretary-General, and answer questions from the audience.

Igor Luksic is the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration. He is nominated by the Government of Montenegro.


Irina Bokova is currently the Director-General of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. She is nominated by the Government of Bulgaria.


Antonio Guterres was most recently the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is nominated by the Government of Portugal.


Following their sessions, each candidate will have the opportunity to speak with the press. The events can be followed live on UN WebTV.

Opening the dialogues, Mr. Lykketoft underscored that as the UN grapples with multiple crises and deals with “fundamental questions regarding its own role and performance,” finding the best candidate to succeed Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is “absolutely crucial.”

“Much of what we are embarking on today is without precedent at the UN,” he stressed.

“For the first time in this Organization’s 70-year history, the process for selecting and appointing the next Secretary-General is being genuinely guided by principles of transparency and inclusivity – and the dialogues that we are beginning today are at the very core of this change,” he added.

Mr. Lykketoft reiterated that candidates will be given the opportunity to respond to Member States’ interventions at regular intervals, with Member States speaking on behalf of groups given priority.

A civil society committee had reviewed all the more than 1,000 questions submitted from 70 countries since 26 February, when the call was opened for civil society to submit questions. The committee had agreed on a shortlist of 30 questions, the General Assembly President said.

“The level of interest in these dialogues from the global public and civil society is extraordinary,” he said.

Mr. Lykketoft said that for the purpose of transparency and inclusivity, each candidate will be asked to respond to one or two questions from civil society, time permitting. He also plans to post 10 of the top remaining questions on his website after the dialogues, and encouraged each candidate to answer them in writing.


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