UN official hints shortlists for next UN chief would be good
UNITED NATIONS — The UN General Assembly president hinted Tuesday that he would like to see groups and individual countries in the world body come up with shortlists of candidates to become the next UN chief now that the 11 current contenders have made their case to the 193 member nations.
According to the UN Charter, the secretary-general is chosen by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the 15-member Security Council. In practice, this has meant that the council’s five permanent members — the US, Russia, China, Britain and France — have veto power over the candidates.
But assembly president Mogens Lykketoft told reporters the more that members express their preferences, “the more they raise the probability that out of the Security Council will come a name which is generally accepted also in the membership.”
Asked whether he will recommend that assembly members come up with shortlists, Lykketoft replied, “I will not recommend. I will certainly look at it with great sympathy if it happens.”
He added, to some laughter, that he was being very diplomatic.
Lykketoft spoke after the last two candidates — Argentina’s Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra and Slovakia’s Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak — answered questions from assembly members for two hours in separate sessions.
Lykketoft urged other candidates to come forward quickly, but said the assembly will offer the same question-and-answer opportunity “however late they arrive.”
He told reporters he plans to send a letter to the Security Council with his impressions of the first-ever opportunity for member states to question candidates to lead the UN.
Lykketoft said his first point will be “this is a procedure that has come to stay for future selections of secretary-generals.”
Another impression, he said, is that “there is a strong wish from the membership of a strong personality at the helm of the United Nations, an independent one, a courageous secretary-general who will use all powers provided by the (UN) Charter in order to advance peace and security, development and human rights.”
Lykketoft said he believes ambassadors and diplomats from all countries have “gotten a clearer picture of the personalities and priorities of the candidates” — and the questions have also pinpointed priorities that members see for the future of the United Nations in peace and security, human rights, and “in the way the whole United Nations works.”
Malcorra, a former chief of staff to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, said in her session that if she is selected “my job will be being faithful to the Charter which means being faithful to member states.” She said the secretary-general must also be “an early warner to the organization” and a forceful advocate for human rights.
“My vision calls for a United Nations that is centered on people, the planet and prosperity; driven by issues and focused on delivering a positive impact,” she said.
Lajcak, a former high representative in Bosnia, said “for me, the United Nations is about peace — and that should be a priority” because there can be no development or human rights without peace. He called for greater emphasis on preventing conflict and mediation, saying he has spent many years as a mediator.
“The secretary-general is the communicator,” Lajcak said, stressing the importance of the UN chief talking to nations, peoples, and improving interaction between agencies in this globalized, interconnected world.