Leadership Positions in the Secretariat


United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, at UN Headquarters in New York

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 Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.

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/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/she did not take careful account of the concerns of Member States, but s/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.

The Secretary-General’s day-to-day work includes attendance at sessions of United Nations bodies; consultations with world leaders, government officials, and others; and worldwide travel intended to keep him/her 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 Chairperson of the Administrative Committee on Coordination (ACC), 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/her "good offices" - steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his/her independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

Each Member of the United Nations undertakes to respect the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities.

Deputy-Secretary-General (DSG)

United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Amina J. Mohammed, at UN Headquarters in New York

The post of Deputy-Secretary-General was established by the General Assembly at the end of 1997 as part of the reform of the United Nations, to help manage Secretariat operations and to ensure coherence of activities and programmes. The purpose was also to elevate the Organization's profile and leadership in the economic and social spheres.

The main duty of the Deputy-Secretary-General is to support the Secretary-General.  Some of his/her duties may include, but are not limited to: assisting the Secretary-General in managing the operations of the Secretariat, assisting the Secretary-General in making sure that the different activities and programmes are in line with the Secretary-General’s task of raising the profile and leadership of the United Nations, representing the Secretary-General at conferences, official functions, ceremonial and other occasions as deemed necessary by the Secretary-General, and acting for the Secretary-General in his/her absence.

Under-Secretaries-General (USGs)

While there are many Under-Secretaries-General and other senior staff at the same rank, the position listed below are often the most important to include in a MUN simulation; this may depend to some extent on the substantive issues to be considered during the simulation.


  • Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs

The Department of Political Affairs (DPA) plays a central role in the efforts of the United Nations to prevent and resolve conflict around the world and to consolidate peace in the aftermath of war. To that end, DPA:

• monitors, analyses and assesses political developments throughout the world;

• identifies potential or actual conflicts in whose control and resolution the United Nations could play a useful role;

• recommends to the Secretary-General appropriate action in such cases and executes the approved policy;

• assists the Secretary-General in carrying out political activities decided by him, the General Assembly and the Security Council in the areas of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peacekeeping and peacebuilding;

• advises the Secretary-General on requests for electoral assistance received from Member States and coordinates programmes established in response to such requests;

• advises and supports the Secretary-General in the political aspects of his relations with Member States;

• services the Security Council and its subsidiary bodies, as well as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People and the Special Committee of 24 on Decolonization.

The head of the Department, the Under-Secretary-General, also undertakes consultations and negotiations relating to peaceful settlement of disputes, and is the focal point for UN electoral assistance activities.


  • Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs

The key function of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA) is to provide advice and support to the Secretary-General relating to economic and social issues, to the Second and Third Committees of the General Assembly and to the Economic and Social Council and its subsidiary bodies.

The Department assists to establish a coordinated framework to promote and monitor the implementation of agreed plans, strategies, programmes or platforms of action. DESA supports the coordination functions of central intergovernmental bodies and assists the Secretary-General in enhancement of policy coherence.

It monitors, analyses and assesses economic and social policies and trends, including population trends and development linkages; compiles and disseminates analytical data, statistics and economic and social indicators.

It provides the Secretary-General with advice and support to promote human rights, especially of women, to reach the targets defined in the strategic plan of action for the improvement the status of women in the Secretariat.

It offers policy advisory services to developing countries and countries with economies in transition to strengthen national capacities. It promotes the sharing of development expertise and dialogue with non-governmental organizations and major groups in civil society.

The Under-Secretary-General is responsible for the overall management, supervision and administration of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs. He/She is expected to provide the Secretary-General with the information on issues that fall within the competence of the Department. The Under-Secretary-General also represents the Secretary-General at meetings that address issues overseen by the Department, assists in system-wide coordination of responsibilities by providing substantive support of the Administrative Committee on Coordination. He/She also serves as a chairperson of the Executive Committee on Economic and Social Affairs.


  • Under-Secretary-General for General Assembly Affairs and Conference Management

The  main function of the Department for General Assembly and Conference Management (DGACM) is to support the effectiveness and efficiency of intergovernmental activities and provide technical secretariat services to the General Assembly and its Committees. The Department facilitates conferences and ad hoc meetings held under the auspices of the United Nations and provides relevant documentation services.

It plans and organizes the regular, special and emergency special sessions of the General Assembly. It coordinates activities and the provision of services related to all sessions of the General Assembly, and assists the President of the General Assembly on all matters relating to the session and work of the General Assembly and its General and Main Committees.

DGACM prepares a number of legislative documents, including the reports of the General Committee of the Assembly; preliminary list of agenda items and the provisional agenda of the Assembly; supplementary list of items and the final agenda of regular sessions; programme of work of the Assembly and schedule of plenary meetings; lists of resolutions and decisions and text of decisions adopted by the Assembly.

The Under-Secretary-General is accountable for all the activities of the Department of General Assembly and Conference Management that involves New York Headquarters and the United Nations offices at Geneva, Vienna and Nairobi. This includes the establishment of conference management policies, practices, standards and procedures. The Under-Secretary-General also acts as chair of the Inter-Agency meeting on Language Arrangements, Documentation and Publications.


  • Under-Secretary-General for Communications and Public Information

The Department of Public Information (DPI) raises global awareness of the activities and concerns of the United Nations and promotes understanding of its work. DPI uses outreach programmes, information campaigns, news and feature services, radio and television programmes, press releases, publications, documentary videos and special events to communicate the Organization’s messages. DPI spearheads the UN’s international campaigns; engages prominent personalities as UN Messengers of Peace; and organizes exhibits, concerts, seminars and other events to mark occasions of international importance. It also provides library and knowledge-sharing services. In addition to its staff at UN Headquarters, DPI has 63 UN information centres, or UNICs, worldwide and a regional information centre (UNRIC) in Brussels.

The Department consists of three divisions. Its Strategic Communications Division develops communication strategies and campaigns to promote United Nations priorities. The News and Media Division produces and distributes UN news and information to the media, including daily press briefings and statements by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, the UN websites, radio broadcasts and live TV feeds. The Outreach Division, which includes the Dag Hammarskjöld Library, publishes books, notably the Yearbook of the United Nations, and periodicals such as the UN Chronicle and Africa Renewal; works with NGOs and educational institutions; organizes special events and exhibitions on priority issues; and offers an annual training programme for journalists from developing countries. It also develops partnerships with the private and public sector to advance UN goals.

  • Secretaries of the GA Main Committees (up to a maximum of six, the number will depend on  which GA Main Committees are included in the simulation; this position is often left out of MUN simulations but fails to recognize that this position is vital to the functioning of the Bureau)