The British Government has backed 1 for 7 Billion’s calls for a fairer, more inclusive process to select the next UN Secretary-General at a rare House of Lords debate on UN effectiveness.
Citing the campaign’s list of reforms - from a non-renewable single term of office to a clear set of selection criteria – Baroness Coussins echoed 1 for 7 Billion’s view that “a more open, inclusive way of appointing the Secretary-General could have ‘a transformative multiplier effect across the UN system’”. She added that improved dialogue between states and candidates would give the whole world, not just the five permanent members of the Security Council, a stake in the outcome.
Many participants called for a greater number of female candidates to be considered for the UN’s top spot with Peers suggesting the names of Gro Harlem Brundtland, Helen Clark and Baroness Amos. However, there was broad consensus for a merit-based appointment process that is geared towards securing the best candidate, irrespective of region or gender.
Representing the UK Government position, the Earl of Courtown advocated a specific role for civil society in the selection process:
“[C]andidates should be provided with a platform to set out their manifestos and be questioned by Security Council and General Assembly members, as well as NGOs and civil society. This would allow for greater involvement from the wider United Nations community about issues of concern.”
This is a welcome improvement in the UK’s position, which, earlier this year, did not specify the role that NGOs and wider member states should take in the selection process.
Other proposals endorsed by the Minister during the debate included a clear timeline for candidates to come forward, deadlines for the selection to take place, and a formal call for candidates to be provided by the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council.
The Minister concluded that the UK hopes to work with Costa Rica and Colombia on promoting support for a fairer process during the opening of the next General Assembly Ministerial Week at the end of September.