Christiana Figueres - live commentary from the General Assembly hearing

On 14 July 2016, the twelfth candidate for the position of UN Secretary-General, Christiana Figueres, took part in an informal dialogue at the General Assembly, as provided for by Resolution 69/321. The 1 for 7 Billion campaign welcomes this historic breakthrough and the additional transparency and scrutiny that comes with it.

Rather than offer a complete record, the following commentary picks up on statements pertinent to 1 for 7 Billion's campaign proposals, as well as the candidate's vision for the role of the Secretary-General. The commentary begins at the bottom of the screen.


Thursday 14 July - live from the General Assembly in New York

13:28: Figueres is asked about the Security Council, which the journalist says "actually" calls the shots. Figueres replies that she would say the same thing behind closed doors as in public. 

13:26: A nuclear free world is one of the longest running challenges for the UN, Figueres says. 

13:24: Figueres has full respect for the Eastern European group, but believes the SC and GA should be able to make the most informed decision possible by choosing from a broad slate of candidates. 

13:22: On the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, "it's not about the what, but the how." States have agreed that a two state solution is best. 

13:20: Figueres is asked how Susana Malcorra's candidacy impacts her, as the other Latin American candidate. She expresses her respect for Malcorra, and notes that Member States should be able to choose from many options. 

13:19: Figueres is asked why she believes the UN should apologize for introducing cholera in Haiti. She responds that the UN should do more than just acknowledge that this took place.

13:18: Figueres expresses admiration for Ban Ki-Moon for explaining why, under pressure, he removed Saudi Arabia from the list of children's rights violators. 

13:16: Responding to questions about recent scandals, Figueres expresses zero tolerance for corruption. After a robust investigation, those found guilty must be held to account. 

13:15: Figueres steps outside for a media stakeout. 

13:06: And that's a wrap! In closing remarks, the PGA reaffirms his commitment to hold hearings with any new candidates. He calls for the Security Council to communicate the results of its straw polls, including the first round next week.

13:04: On management style, Figueres says she relies heavily on "collective wisdom." At the same time, when there is no consensus, she would not hesitate to take a leadership role. 

13:01: "There is a moral imperative to act according to our own standards," says Figueres. Figueres has zero tolerance for corruption or sexual abuse.  

12:59: Figueres calls for clear protocol to be in place to address ethical violations. Once there is a robust investigation, individuals should be held to account for unethical behavior. Figueres would ask the violator to step down. 

12:52: Important question about ethics from Sierra Leone! Would Figueres ask a member of her senior team to resign if they violated ethical standards? 

Sierra Leone also asks about how her senior team would work together: would they be a group of "competitive rivals" or collaborators?  

12:49: Asked whether she would support a 20:20 gender ratio in the senior management group, Figueres says that "20/20 is perfect vision." She is committed to gender parity, but invites all to join her in the shared responsibility of promoting women's leadership. 

12:45: Figueres on the ICC: The rule of law is at the heart of the UN. The ICC is our main tool against impunity, and needs our support.  

12:41: Liechtenstein raises recent developments with the ICC. How does Figueres see the role of the SG in relation to the ICC? 

12:36: Morocco asks Figueres what best practices she can bring from her experience as Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC. Great to have a question about qualifications! 

Morocco also asks about the budget of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and geographic balance and gender parity in the senior management group. 

12:30: The SG must engage with everyone, and inspire people to live up to their highest potential, says Figueres.  The UN must be a beacon of hope.

12:23: Figueres gives a shout out to the 1 for 7 Billion campaign! She notes that 1 for 7 Billion has two hundred million members; this means two hundred million people are interested in the selection of the UNSG. We must not squander this trust.  

12:22: Figueres calls for the UN to reframe its role: its mission should not just be to prevent conflict but to establish peace.  

12:19: With that, the PGA transitions to questions from civil society. Two great questions about conflict and the need for UN reform! 

12:17: Figueres cites her track record on civil society participation, and notes that civil society engagement made a difference in the climate talks. "Once we align interests, miracles can happen," she says.   

12:14: Leading public opinion is an important responsibility of the SG, says Figueres. To get the message across, the SG must have content, choose the right media channels, and have spirit. 

12:11: On the SDGs, Figueres discusses the importance of engaging the private sector. Money is "piling up under bankers' pillows" due to negative interest rates--money that could be used to fund the SDGs. The SG must bring the financial sector on board.  

12:08: Canada and Australia add their voice to Finland's question about civil society. 

12:07: Great question about civil society participation from Finland! Finland also raises the issue of communications, noting that the SG is a voice for the UN around the world.  

12:04: In a bit of a reversal, Figueres asks Member States to use their "good offices" to encourage their "best" people to apply to UN jobs.  

12:01: Figueres: The strength of the UN last century was identifying the three pillars; its strength this century will be bringing them together. 

11:59: Figueres says Syria is an example both of SC effectiveness and SC deadlock. She has "deep respect" for the SC's response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, but there is no solution "yet" on the political track. 

11:57: On the Code of Conduct, Figueres thanks Member States who have signed on.  The Code has put the issue of veto restraint on the table in a useful way. 

11:56: Figueres states that she is opposed not just to Islamophobia, but to any "phobias". She wants to engage with leaders across religions.  

11:53: The Small Island Developing States ask for specific measures Figueres would take to make sure the senior appointment process is transparent--and that it appoints officials from Small Island states. 

11:51: Japan asks Figueres what specific actions she would take regarding international peace and security, and particularly the Syrian conflict.  

11:50: Echoing earlier hearings, the G4 raises the issue of SC reform.  They believe the SG can create an environment conducive to reform--does Figueres agree? 

11:47: The ACT group takes the floor to ask Figueres for her views on its "Code of Conduct," an initiative to encourage timely action in the SC to address mass atrocity crimes.  

11:45: On her independence as SG, Figueres states that she has a "solid track record." She would be impartial, but not indifferent, and independent, but committed to collaboration.  

11:42: Figueres is aware of the gender and regional imbalance in the Secretariat, but this must be a group effort! She encourages her "sisters" to apply to UN positions.

11:41: The Global Goals are in the interest of every Member State, argues Figueres. The alignment of national and international interest can "unlock" achievement on the SDGs. 

11:39: Figueres says the SG must be the voice of the most vulnerable and marginalized--the ones who are not sitting here. 

11:35: We need collaboration of AU, EU, and other regional organizations to implement on the ground, says Figueres, but she won't make decisions about exact structures or how to break down silos now. "Form must follow function." 

11:31: For the Group of Friends for a Woman SG, Colombia asks how Figueres would appoint, and encourage Member States to nominate, women for senior posts. Clearly, these appointments are a major concern for Member States! 

11:29: Noting the SG's broad range administrative and diplomatic tasks, the EU asks Figueres about her professional experience to tackle these challenges.  

11:25: The G77 and China asks another great question about "equal and fair distribution" of posts in the UN Secretariat, ensuring gender balance and regional representation. 

11:22: First question comes from the Non-Aligned Movement on the appointment of senior staff--how would Figueres make the process less opaque and ensure her independence when making these appointments? 

11:19: Addressing migration actually involves a variety of interlinked issues, Figueres argues. The SG should lead from behind, allowing everyone to contribute to the solution.  

11:15: Figueres lays out four priorities from her vision statement: strengthening crisis response, peacebuilding and sustaining peace, collaborative diplomacy, and strengthening the UN. 

11:12: And we're off! Figueres notes that her candidacy brings gender parity to the list of candidates, with six women and six men.  She explains why she waited so long to announce; she wanted to make sure she had completed her duties as UNFCCC chair.  

11:00: Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica)