links about us archives search home
SustainabiliTankSustainabilitank menu graphic

Follow us on Twitter


Posted on on September 5th, 2015
by Pincas Jawetz (

‘The next UN Secretary General will be…’ The beginning of the media buzz.…

The blog Felix Dodds did on who the next Executive Director of UNEP should be seemed to go down well with my readers. Though I did think I missed a potential candidate in Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, who will finish at the UNFCCC after the Paris Climate meeting and therefore be available.

I was contemplating doing a blog about who the next UN Secretary General should be for the beginning of September, but I see that the New York Times and Slant have beaten me to it.

Of course, it helps if you know the process of selection a little better before writing the article. For starters, you cannot have a Permanent Member of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, UK and USA [P5]) as the UN Secretary General. The New York Times suggested Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund. She is unfortunately a French national, therefore she isn’t a possible candidate; nor is the excellent suggestion by Slant of Ertharin Cousin, the US World Food Programme head.

The UN is a set of checks and balances – just like the US Congress. Well… we hope not like the present US Congress.

It makes complete sense that the P5, as they are called, should not have even more power taking the UN Secretary General’s position. Until the mid-2000s, you would not find them on Bureaus of UN Commissions and Conferences, either. It’s not a written rule but one cannot imagine that the other 188 countries would agree to a P5 Secretary General. There is some feeling that the P5 want to ensure that the candidate is not too strong, and that the UN itself is not too strong. Giving away power to the multi-lateral level is not seen as in their interest.

The process:

The election for the next UN Secretary General is due to be held in 2016 to determine who succeeds Ban Ki-moon, whose term as the eighth United Nations Secretary-General will conclude December 31, 2016.

At present, the Security Council recommends a candidate for appointment to the General Assembly – ANY of the P5 can veto a candidate. The issue is discussed and decided in private meetings.
The actual appointment is “by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council,” which is traditionally through a GA resolution.
Historically, the Secretary-General has been selected based on an informal system of regional rotation. The GA Resolution 51/241 states that, “due regard shall continue to be given to regional rotation and shall also be given to gender equality.” To date, there have been NO women, and so it is highly likely that the next Secretary General will be a woman.

There are five regional blocs the UN recognizes when elections are conducted within the UN institutions. The distribution of the past Secretary-General has been:

Western Europe and Other Group (WEOG) (Trygvie Lie [Norway], Dag Hammarskjold [Sweden], Kurt Waldheim[Austria])
Asia (U Thant [Burma], Ban Ki-moon[Republic of Korea])
Latin America and the Caribbean (Javier Perez de Cuellar [Peru])
Africa (Boutros Boutros-Ghali [Egypt], Kofi Annan[Ghana])
To date, no Secretary-General has hailed from Eastern Europe, which is why it is expected that Eastern Europe is likely to have a strong case for that position and that Russia will play a significant role in that choice.

The candidates:

Before going into suggestions, I want to take a step back. There are some suggestions of what the next Secretary General should have, as a skill base, produced by a number of NGOs. Clearly, it would help enormously if the candidates were to have a strong track record of implementing organizational-wide reforms. It would be vital for the UN to publish the job description and the person spec for everyone to see.

The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.

Perhaps candidates should have support from countries making up every region of the UN to be considered?

What I would very much like to see is for the UN Security Council to produce a short list (3 to 5 people). These people could then have a set of televised debates perhaps one in each of the five UN regions, for the world to participate in.

Although I recognize the final decision has to be member states, it would ensure that the candidates would be seen under pressure and would become household names at the start of their term. It would also enable an online conversation about the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate, perhaps even an online poll which member states can take note of in their decision.

It is clear that member states are looking to have a woman as the next Secretary General – though that is not guaranteed.

So far two candidates announced and have the support of their governments. They are:

Mr Danilo Türk (Slovenia), former President of Slovenia, former Assistant Secretary-General of the UN, former Ambassador to the UN, former President of the Security Council of the UN (nominated by the Slovenian government in January 2014)

Ms Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), UNESCO Director-General (nominated by the Bulgarian government in June 2014)

Of the two declared candidates, both have extensive experience in the UN, but only one is a woman. So, Irina must – at this point – be seen as the front-runner of the declared candidates. It’s also true to say she has done an excellent job dealing with the withdrawal of its financial commitment of the US from UNESCO in 2011 and the funding crisis that has caused. She has supported staff and managed to keep the organization active in many areas.

A few other possible candidates have indicated an interest from Eastern Europe. They are:

Mr. Vuk Jeremi? (Serbia), former President of the United Nations General Assembly and former Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs

Ms. Vesna Pusi? (Croatia), Croatian Minister of Foreign and European Affairs
It is still early days in that we are about a year away from the beginning of the informal process for selection. My further suggestions will ONLY be women.

Other possible candidates from Eastern Europe might be:

Kristalina Georgieva (Bulgaria), Vice-President of the European Commission

Dalia Grybauskaite (Lithuania), President of Lithuania she would be be the first former Head of State to be a UN Secretary General.

If for some reason it does not go to Eastern Europe then it is likely to go to Latin America and Caribbean Group as the region has only had the Secretary General once. There are two excellent potential women candidates in:

Michelle Bachelet (Chile), President of Chile and former Executive Director of UN Women – though not finishing her term before going back to stand for election as President of Chile. She would also be the first former Head of State to be a UN Secretary General, which has some clear advantages when dealing with governments.

Alicia Bárcena Ibarra (Mexico), Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. Alicia was also the UN USG for Management and Budgetary Affairs so in a reforming UN would already have a very clear idea where that reform could come from. She also has been a strong advocate for the SDGs and is well liked within stakeholders.

If it were to go to Africa, then the candidate that seems to have some support is Ellen Johnson Sirleaf – the 24th President of Liberia and Africa’s first democratically elected female Head of State. She’s serving her second term as President after winning the 2011 presidential election. She also co-chaired the UN Secretary Generals High level panel that brought forward some great suggestions for what the SDGs should be in 2013.

If for some reason, it were to go to the Western European and Others Group (WEOG) – which I very much doubt it will – then Margot Wallstrom, currently Foreign Minister of Sweden is a good candidate. She was also the UN experience as the representative for women and the EU Environment Commissioner and, subsequently, its VICE-PRESIDENT.

There is also Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Denmark), former Prime Minister of Denmark,
and Federica Mogherini (Italy), current High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the European Union’s foreign minister both would also be strong candidates.

If you are interested in this process, there is an NGO campaign called “1 for 7 Billion,” which has developed its own set of criteria for a new Secretary General and has met the incoming President of the UN General Assembly Mogens Lykketoft.

The new Secretary General will not only have to oversee the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals, but the continuing crisis in the Middle East and Eastern Europe, as well as the humanitarian crisis around refugees, Climate Change and the emergence of new technologies and their massive impact on global work force – in particular –tomorrow’s youth unemployment crisis.

Let’s choose a UN Secretary General who can address these issues effectively.
Posted 2 days ago by felix dodds
Labels: Alicia Bárcena Ibarra Dalia Grybauskaite Danilo Türk Irina Bokova Kristalina Georgieva Michelle Bachelet, Vesna Pusi? and Vuk Jeremi?, also new UN Secretary General UN Secretary General election 2016.


Some of the comments Felix Dodds posted:

Ross BaileySeptember 2, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Good blog Felix. Will be fascinating to see what happens next.

You’ve made very clear that she would be an outside but in reality, surely no chance for President Sirleaf surely? She would bring real gravitas but isn’t 78 quite old to be starting an 8 year term.

Stephanie HodgeSeptember 4, 2015 at 2:14 PM

The UN is in need of another period of reform, so it is ‘fit for purpose’ in ensuring that the new Sustainable Development Goals become the agenda of all its organs over the next 15 years.

Loy RegoSeptember 4, 2015 at 4:10 PM

Thanks Felix. Far more substantive than the NY Times article, which emphasized only gender as a factor. Keep blogging.

Loy RegoSeptember 4, 2015 at 4:14 PM

.. and in implementing reform, making the UN fit for purpose, and advancing the SDGs while reversing climate change and building climate and disaster resilience, we need a “Super woman’ selected through a new process and therefore having a greater public buy in than ever before.

Felix Dodds comments on sustainable development, coffee & life


Sep 2 a reply note from Felix Dodds:
‘The next UN Secretary General will be…’ The beginning of the media buzz

The blog I did on who the next Executive Director of UNEP should be seemed to go down well with my readers.

UN publishes draft SDG Summit outcome and policy briefs for September Summit

The General Assembly will convene a meeting on 1 September at 10 a.m. in the General Assembly Hall to take action and transmit the draft outcome for consideration at the 25-27 September Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda.

Upcoming climate change related events. Green Economy Principles:

I am attending a very interesting Green Growth and Travelism Summer School organized by he Green Growth and Travelism Institute at Hasselt University in Belgium. A very interesting venue where a former prison has been converted into a prison.

Yet again another article on why the SDGs are not perfect………………………

I have to say I am getting bored with armchair journalists and academics who think they know better than 193 countries, thousands of NGOs and experts. So I am going to try and make this the LAST comment on an ill informed article….but i cant promise it.
Very nice graphic for the 5Ps in the preamble to ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

As the SDGs start to be promoted there is the need for good graphics. This is the best one i’ve seen so far for the 5 P’s that are in the preamble to ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Bringing the ?SDGs? to life: real change for real people video by IIED.

Time for all of us to be creative – Nice contribution from IIED. Are there any other creative ideas out there? If so send them to me at felix[at and the best i’ll promote here in the blog.

With the next meeting of the Inter-agency and Expert Group on SDG Indicators (IAEG-SDGs), in Bangkok 26-28th of October they have opened a consultation on the development of a global indicator framework for the Sustainable Development Goals.

Bjorn Lomborg Wrong Again:

I had missed Bjorn Lomborg’s article in the Guardian “These are the four SDGs we need to agree on to help the planet” in the section sponsored by Business call to Action.

Summer book reads from some of my friends:

Im enjoying a little downtime after the crazy 2015,2014,2013,2012 processes and wanted to share some books out by some of my friends which you may enjoy for summer reading.

Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

We now have an agreement and a very good name for the agreement it will be called ‘Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.’ This was important because of the ongoing discussion in the negotiations of taking poverty eradication out of sustainable development.

Comments on the new Post 2015 text:

Well who would have expected me to be writing another blog about another final text? Governments return at 11am Sunday to try and finish the negotiations on the Post 2015 Development Agenda. I myself left on Friday assuming it would finish then and went to see Mission Impossible last night.

Comments on the new Post 2015 text

Love the new preamble YES YES YES People need to read the SDGs and their targets and not a summary in a preamble.
We are here to help with delegate therapy

Bracketing Therapists – As the negotiations are coming to an end on the Post 2015 Agenda you must be worrying what you will do with all that time you now will have.

Part 2: NGOs such as Save the Children and Corporations —- Tuesday also saw a very good article in the Guardian which raises some very serious issues relating to Save the Children’s relationship with the corporate sector.

It was a good warning for all NGOs to look at who they are having funding from in the corporate world.

Part 1: The UN and Corporations

Tuesday I went to an excellent side event by the Global Policy Forum who pre-launched what I think is an excellent report called Fit for Purpose: Private funding and corporate influence in the United Nations.

Some initial thoughts on the Final Declaration Draft:

Wow we are, we hope, into the last five days of the Post 2015 process!!!!

By Friday there should be an agreement and lots of hugs, I understand, all round. Between now and then though there is some tough negotiations to be undertaken.

The year of negotiating precariously

This is a reproduction of the Guardian article written by myself and Michael Strauss ‘The year of negotiating precariously’ in the Guardian on the 23rd of July 2015 which can be read on the Guardian web site.

New Book Governance for Sustainable Development: The Post-2015 Agenda is an unprecedented effort that embodies universal aspirations for achieving a better, more just, equitable, peaceful and sustainable future. Representatives from 193 governments and multiple stakeholders, from all sectors, have actively participated in its creation.

Civil Society Response to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda on Financing for Development Addis Ababa, 16 July 2015

Below is the CSO response to the Addis Ababa Action Agenda. As very little changes have happened in the txt relating to sustainable development and sustainable development goals. My criticism of that text stands.


Be Sociable, Share!

Leave a comment for this article