The public wants a UN leader with "the courage to stand up to powerful countries"

In September 2015, 1 for 7 Billion launched a public poll to generate discussion on the role of the UN Secretary-General.

The poll asked questions about the issues the next Secretary-General should prioritise and the qualities she or he should possess to be an effective leader of the United Nations when H.E. Ban Ki-moon's term expires later this year.

The 1 for 7 Billion poll was completed by 599 participants. It was launched in early September 2015, before any official candidates had been confirmed by the UN, and closed in February 2016. The poll was held to stimulate interest on this topic and spark a public discussion on what makes a 'good' Secretary-General, now that the General Assembly has agreed to a fairer process. 

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign supports a transparent and inclusive selection process open to public scrutiny.  We do not take a position on, or endorse, individual candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General.

The results

The most striking result of the poll emerged in response to the question on the qualities the public consider most desirable in the next Secretary-General. Having "the courage to stand up to powerful countries" was the clear front runner with nearly a third of the votes. Having "integrity and embody[ing] the values of the UN Charter" came second with 21 per cent of the votes.

On the next Secretary-General's priorities for 2017 and beyond, the most popular belief (at 26 per cent) was that "preventing armed conflicts" should be top of the agenda. This was followed closely by 23 per cent of people who believed that tackling climate change should be the priority.

When given an open question asking who they would like to see lead the UN, members of the public opted overwhelmingly for female candidates, with the top five names as women (in alphabetical order): Irina Bokovia, Director-General of UNESCO; Helen Clark, Administrator of the UN Development Programme, Sigrid Kaag, UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon; German Chancellor Angela Merkel; and Mary Robinson, former President of Ireland.

There was a wide range of serious and not-so-serious responses. Other popular suggestions included President Barack Obama, Malala Yousafzai, Pope Francis, Aung San Suu Kyi and the latest official candidate: former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres.

1 for 7 Billion held this poll to encourage discussion among the public about the desired role and qualities of the next UN Secretary-General. The results represent our supporters' priorities and send a clear message to those in the Security Council that there is a strong public preference for the UN's next leader to be independent and willing to stand up to powerful countries. 

A major outstanding reform proposal advocated by 1 for 7 Billion is that the UN's leader stand for a single, longer, non-renewable term of office. Our research paper on this shows that such a reform could dramatically increase the Secretary-General's independence and free her or him from the distraction of re-election.

Click here to read our paper on the single term

We would like to thank all those who took part.

Click here to view the list of confirmed candidates