During a press conference hosted by members of the ACT grouping: Estonia and Costa Rica, 1 for 7 Billion called on journalists to play a crucial role in opening up the process to select the next UN Secretary-General.
Estonia's Permanent Representative, Sven Jürgenson, began by highlighting the breakthrough General Assembly Resolution 69/321, adopted earlier this month, which sets out proposals for a significant improvements to the selection process, including a call to all member states for nominations, basic selection criteria and hearings with candidates.
Speaking for the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, UNA-UK's Executive Director Natalie Samarasinghe explained that, whilst the resolution does not contain all the reforms advocated by the campaign, it represents major progress and will require concerted effort not just from member states and civil society, but also from the press, to ensure that it is fully and swiftly implemented:
"There is a crucial role for journalists here, explaining to the public why the issue matters, monitoring implementation of GA Resolution 69/321 and shining a light on states that are blocking progress"
This call for greater press engagement was reinforced by a letter sent to members of the UN Correspondents Association that morning by Edward Mortimer, former Director of Communications for Secretary-General Kofi Annan:
"We also need journalists, particularly those like you who really know and understand the UN, to scrutinise candidates' experience and, as far as possible, to engage them in public discussion. Any undertakings they give should not necessarily be taken at face value, since with the best will in the world they will not always be able to deliver. More important is that the global public should be able to form an impression of the candidates' personalities, especially their integrity and ability to lead."
During the press briefing, journalists were alerted to the following 1 for 7 Billion resources that have been developed to help open up the selection process:
- A map illustrating where member states stand on the various reform proposals
- A mock job ad for the position of Secretary-General published in The Economist
- An online poll for the public to share their thoughts on the next Secretary-General
- A list of candidates, official and speculative
Later in the conference, Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Juan Carlos Mendoza García welcomed Resolution 69/321 but highlighted that it does not include the crucial reform proposals of more than one candidate for the General Assembly to choose from and the possibility of a single, non-renewable term, both of which receive widespread support among member states.
Speaking for 1 for 7 Billion, WFM-IGP Executive Director Bill Pace further noted that the resolution failed to address the unfortunate practice of extracting promises of high-level appointments from candidates in return for support. He went on to say that the 1 for 7 Billion campaign intends to raise this issue, as well as the possibility of candidates voluntarily agreeing to a single term, directly with candidates.