UN Debates Further Reform of the Secretary-General Selection Process


Last week, all member states were invited to speak at a UN debate on the appointment of the next Secretary-General.  As the debate revealed, member states are still committed to establishing the strongest possible selection process—and would adopt further reforms to make it happen.  

There was widespread interest in appointing the Secretary-General for a single, non-renewable term of office, with more than two thirds of member states calling for a serious discussion of the proposal. Guatemala stated that a single term would give the Secretary-General the political space needed to implement her or his vision, and Liechtenstein argued that it would promote accountability to all member states, rather than just the powerful few.  

To learn more about why we believe a single term would encourage an independent and effective Secretary-General, see our policy paper.

Download the paper in English, Arabic, Spanish, and French. 

There was also substantial support for the recommendation of more than one candidate by the Security Council to the General Assembly. While the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States emphasised that this would make the process more democratic and inclusive, Sweden noted that recommending both female and male candidates to the General Assembly would help to ensure that women candidates are seriously considered. 

Critically, there was growing concern about the practice of “backroom deals” made by candidates in exchange for the support of the permanent five members of the Security Council, which are often related to key high-level posts in the UN Secretariat. Not only do these deals compromise the integrity of the Secretary-General, but they undermine the credibility of the entire UN system. In a letter sent last month, 1 for 7 Billion called on all official candidates to disavow this practice.

Brazil emphasised that no state has a monopoly on any particular post in the Secretariat, and the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group of states encouraged the Secretary-General to exercise independence when appointing high-level officials. Several speakers also linked this issue to the single term proposal, noting that a single term would help to remove undue pressure on the Secretary-General when she or he appoints high-level officials. 

Despite growing momentum, further reform will be an uphill battle. Already, several of the permanent five members of the Security Council have “advised” against any further changes to the process. To find out where your country stands on key reforms, download the charts below.

Click here for the ‘single term’ chart

Click here for the ‘multiple candidates’ chart  


Photo: Member States Discuss Selection and Appointment of Secretary-General. Copyright UN Photo/Manuel Elias