Danilo Türk - live commentary from the General Assembly hearing

From 12 - 14 April 2016, candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General are taking part in informal dialogues 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 a complete record, the following commentary picks up on statements pertinent to 1 for 7 Billion's campaign proposals.

Tuesday 13 April - live from the General Assembly in New York

09:00: Danilo Türk (Slovenia)

09:07: Danilo Türk begins to present his vision statement - recognises that these informal dialogues are "an important innovation".

09:08: Danilo Türk reflects on his experience at the UN, particularly at the UN Security Council. He recognises the role of diplomacy in preventing conflict, particularly in African countries such as the CAR.

09:10: Danilo Türk discusses the founding of the Human Rights Council as an important UN reform, and the role of the Universal Periodic Review in holding states to account for human rights violations.

09:12: Türk says that his vision statement is based on "commitment. Commitment based on experience".

09:14: Türk recognises that UN Secretary-General has a responsibility to take action in preventing and responding to crises by appealing to the Security Council, under Article 99 of UN Charter, but a heavy duty for prevention still remains with UN Security Council.

09:16: "We have to mainstream human rights and make sure they are part of the whole UN [system]", says Türk, concluding his vision statement. Now onto questions from member states.

09:17: Thailand on behalf of G77 and China ask about "imbalance in geographic spread of staff" in the UN system. How would Türk ensure fair regional distribution? 1 for 7 Billion holds that merit, not geography should be prioritised in UN appointments. Thailand goes on to ask great question about what selection criteria Türk would use to appoint senior staff.

09:18: Uganda on behalf of African Group of States asks about Türk's plans for reform of UN Secretariat - how would he ensure better allocation of resources?

09:25: EU representative asks how Türk's managerial skills could help tackle the crises the world is currently facing - good to get a question that interrogates the qualifications of candidates!

09:29: Türk responds to first set of questions. On geographic imbalance - says that "building of trust and confidence and good teamwork" and both key in the Secretariat. This requires both gender equality and demographic equality. He says candidates for senior appointments must come from all regions - 1 for 7 Billion argues that merit should be the most important consideration in appointing UN staff.

09:32: On reform of Secretariat: Türk says that the current recruitment process for senior UN staff must be shortened - a clear nod to a more efficient Secretariat.

09:37: Responding to EU - "the time has come to put migration issues on the agenda." We need "a global policy framework for good migration governance", and "the development of new legal norms". "We must bring the International Organization for Migration closer to the UN, possibly within the UN system".

09:39: Türk expresses "commitment to transparency" across the UN system.

09:40: Liechtenstein on behalf of Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group: SG should be proactive in reaching out to the Security Council in moments of crisis, what are Türk 's views on this? How would he ensure Security Council prevention of atrocity crimes? Does Türk support the veto restraint initiative?

09:50: Question from Denmark: the UN system should work for the world's people - how would Türk improve participation of civil society and other stakeholders?

09:51: Germany on behalf of the 'Group of Four' asks about Türk 's vision for reform of the Security Council. Second question: what is Türk's vision for improving the "cumbersome budgetary processes" of the United Nations?

09:57: Türk responds to Tunisia's question on gender equity in the Secretariat. He says that there should be a 50:50 split of men and women in senior UN positions. He adds that women should not just be seen as "victims" in conflict, but as "agents of peace", as set out by Security Council Resolution 1325.

10:00: Türk says that he is supportive of UN Security Council reform, and this should be in the hands of UN member states. "But if I was invited to present my ideas, I wouldn't hesitate...", he adds.

10:03: Great question from St Vincent and the Grenadines on behalf of the Caribbean Community: how would Türk reform the "architecture" of the United Nations?

10:12: Canada and Australia ask Türk whether he "would speak truth to power" and tell Security Council "what it needs to hear, not what it wants to hear" - this came out on top in 1 for 7 Billion's public survey, asking the public what they wanted from the next UN leader!

10:16: UK representative: "We talk a lot about the UN being 'fit for purpose', but what 'purpose' should the UN be 'fit for'?"

10:17: Türk responds to question from Jordan: "Palestine and the Middle East would be among my priorities for the first year" - expresses concern that the two-state solution has stalled.

10:20: Türk says that we need new forms of civil society cooperation with the UN - "I would run a consultation early on to identify how to progress with this."

10:21: Türk in response to Maldives question about more posts for Small Island States: "I say, come with good candidates". Türk emerges as first candidate in these debates to openly priortise merit above regional representation!

10:23: In response to question from Canada and Australia: "I spoke truth to power when I was not in government and when I worked at the UN for a small state" - a promising precedent!

10:24: Replying to the UK's question: Türk says: "The purpose of the United Nations is peace and peace is not mere absence of war. Peace is stability. Peace is social coherence..." He admits that it is not easy for the UN to achieve this purpose, but it is possible.

10:29: And now onto questions from members of the public, including on topics related to international peace and security, the availability of water and the role of the private sector.

10:32: Another good question on qualifications, this time from Japan. What was Türk's most important achievement as President of his country? And would he respond to crises as a Secretary, or as a General?

10:33: Switzerland asks how Türk would better coordinate the three strands of the United Nations, particularly considering the interrelated nature of development and international peace and security.

10:40: Interesting question from Hungary on how Türk would better communicate the work and values of the UN "outside the UN" - a good reminder that the United Nations represents (and must communicate with) the world's seven billion

10:42: Indonesia asks about how Türk would improve management of the Secretariat, so it is more accountable and effective. Reform of the Secretariat has certainly emerged as a running theme in these hearings. 

10:44:  South Africa says some countries have "undue influence over the Secretary-General" - how would Türk "deal with this interference and micro-management?" Another question relating to the need for the SG to 'speak truth to power'.  1 for 7 Billion maintains that standing for a single term would give the SG the political space she or he needs to make decisions in moments of crisisRead our policy paper on the single term proposal

10:53: Mr Türk thanks the PGA, with some irony, for giving him 17 minutes to respond to 19 interventions! 

10:55: Türk says that the Secretary-General is neither 'Secretary' nor a 'General' - he or she "has to be a humble, knowledgeable servant of the Organization who can tell states and bodies what they need to hear and what they need to know" - once again, raising the need to 'speak truth to power'.

10:58: Türk: the Secretary-General "has to use telephone diplomacy, and must be available 24 hours a day". He recognises that new techonology such as Skype could be valuable in improving communication and diplomacy. 

11:00: In response to Hungary, Türk recognises that UN dialogues "are boring" to the general public; "our language [only] appeals to us". He would make sure he appointed a chief of communications who could deal with this problem. "We are very bad at telling stories, and we need storytellers who are brought in from the outside". Good to hear that this is a candidate who wants to reach out to the world's seven people people, not just the UN member states. 

11:02: Türk says that he promotes two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

11:07: On the 'ideal civil servant': "Those of us who know the United Nations will never forget our colleagues who lost their lives in the line of duty" - Türk gives a human face to the UN by naming specific UN civil servants who lost their lives in Baghdad in 2003. Türk's closing remarks: "these are the main heroes of the Organization".

Media stakeout

11:15: Türk asks himself the first question! Why am I a good candidate? His answer: experience, commitment, vision

11:21: Inner City Press asks about freedom of the press at the UN - should journalists be able to express themselves as they see fit? Turk says yes, but we must not "overlegalise" things, we must respect process, fairness and other principles too.

11.23: Journalist asks about transparency of UN Secretariat documents and processes. Should there be an independent body to investigate allegations of wrongdoing at the UN? 

11:25: Türk replies: freedom of information is important and he will look into ways of improving transparency. Regarding an independent investigative body: Türk "can see a need" for greater effectiveness of internal processes, and this should be prioritised over any external bodies.