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The Search For A New UN Chief Begins Informally

Maybe a reality TV show will help find a replacement for US Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
by William M. Reilly
UPI U.N. Correspondent
United Nations (UPI) Apr 20, 2006
The United Nations this week takes its first informal look at the process to find a replacement for Secretary-General Kofi Annan, whose second five-year term expires at the end of the year.

On Wednesday "the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the General Assembly will meet to hear delegation views on the role of the assembly in the selection of the secretary-general," Pragati Pascale, spokeswoman for President Jan Eliasson of the assembly, said Tuesday. She emphasized that it will be an informal session that may not have much impact on the selection of Annan's replacement.

The meeting will prove a sounding board for members who object to the present system as meagerly spelled out in the 1945 U.N. Charter.

"The secretary-general shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council," is all the document says on the selection process. "He shall be the chief administrative officer of the organization."

However, it was further flushed out in a 1946 assembly resolution and enhanced by the rules of procedure of the now 191-member General Assembly and the 15-member Security Council and practices of those bodies.

Many delegates, members of the Secretariat and non-governmental organizations at present take the male pronoun to mean "he or she," and some groups, such as Equality Now, already are campaigning for a woman to fill the post for the first time.

"Tradition has it that the post of secretary-general should rotate so that each geographical region gets its 'turn,'" the group said in a statement given reporters Tuesday at U.N. World Headquarters in New York. "Women have never had a 'turn,' and there are many qualified women from all regions of the world who could serve as secretary-general." It listed 18 it thought to be worthy of the post.

The Equality Now list ranged from U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour of Canada to Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga.

The statement pointed out that there have been three secretaries-generals from Europe, two from Africa and one each from Latin America and Asia, and no women. By the traditional geographical rotation system it would be Asia's turn.

But U.S. Ambassador John Bolton insists the job is open only to the best qualified.

Three Asian candidates have been announced: Ban Ki-moon, foreign minister of South Korea; Jayantha Dhanapala, former U.N. undersecretary-general for disarmament, and Surakiart Sathirathai, deputy prime minister and former foreign minister of Thailand.

In the past the council, dominated by the veto-wielding permanent five members -- Britain, France, Russia, the United States, and China -- recommended one candidate to the assembly which then voted on the candidate.

If a majority of assembly members approved, the candidate would be appointed.

While voting is by secret ballot, the council procedure is subject to a veto.

So what has become practice is for the P5 to hold secret consultations before recommendations are brought to the whole of the council to reduce the possibility of a veto.

This has already begun informally in the council, with the P5 agreeing candidates should be first formally considered in June or July and then narrowed down for voting by September or October.

Any recommendation to the General Assembly would be discussed and decided at a Security Council private meeting. The practice has been for release of a statement at the end of any such meetings, listing the candidates, who proposed them and results of the balloting.

Although the assembly's rules call for private deliberations, practice has shown the body votes on the council's recommendation at a public meeting, even accepting the council's recommendation and approving it by acclamation.

Canada has circulated a "non-paper" on the procedure, pointing out there are no qualifications posted for the job, no formal screening or informal consultations.

"The candidate's vision for the United Nations' future and program of action for the U.N. Secretariat remain unexamined and there is no established way for the member states to develop a sense of the candidate's skills in key areas like communication and political leadership," said the non-paper at a time the world organization is undergoing major reforms coupled with increasing calls for greater transparency.

The Canadian paper suggested lessons could be learned from "similarly evolving processes within the Organization for Cooperation and Development and the World Trade Organization, where the position is advertised, a series of consultation with member states is held, the results are made public and are then used to narrow the field."

But the non-paper admitted that given the "political sensitivities" existing in the United Nations, such changes would need to be phased-in, perhaps in advance of the next selection in five or 10 years' time.

Source: United Press International

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