1 for 7 Billion makes the case for the Secretary-General to stand for a single term

Mary rob.jpg

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign has published a paper setting out the arguments for the UN Secretary-General to stand for a single, non-renewable term of office. The paper has been released ahead of a General Assembly debate on this proposal on 29 February.  

Convened by the co-chairs of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the revitalization of the General Assembly, this informal debate will focus on the possibility of modifying the Secretary-General's term office and of the Security Council putting forward more than one candidate to the General Assembly - both reforms tabled by the 1 for 7 Billion campaign

The paper by 1 for 7 Billion highlights the extensive support shown by a range of UN experts on the single term proposal, notably Mary Robinson, the former President of Ireland and member of The Elders, and by former Under-Secretary-General Sir Brian Urquhart, who has stated: "The seven year, single term of office is the key to improving the appointment process. It should be established as soon as possible."

The paper sets out clear arguments for why a single, non-renewable term of office is essential to securing the best possible UN Secretary-General at the end of 2016. 1 for 7 Billion stresses that the leader of the UN "must be able to act decisively in moments of crisis", rather than being beholden to the will of the most powerful members of the Security Council. A Secretary-General who does not have to concern herself or himself with campaigning for re-election will have the political space to make critical and potentially life-saving decisions.

A longer term of office would also give the next Secretary-General an "uninterrupted timeline" to support the UN in its delivery of two major agreements that will shape international development for the next 15 years: the Sustainable Development Goals and the new climate framework. In this way, a longer, single term would strengthen the Secretary-General's ability to fulfil his or her global responsibilities in a rapidly changing world. 

1 for 7 Billion also notes that reforming the Secretary-General's term of office would not require amendment to the UN's constitution: the Charter. There is clear precedent to show that the length of term is open to revision: former Secretary-General Trygve Lie was re-appointed for three, not five years, and U Thant was initially only appointed for a single year. 

With support for a single term building among UN member states, UN experts and civil society, 1 for 7 Billion welcomes the forthcoming General Assembly debate on this issue. 

Click here to read the paper

Photo: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (left) and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland and member of The Elders (right). Copyright UN Photo/Ky Chung