UN approves more open selection of next secretary-general

AP News
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Posted: Sep 11, 2015 12:26 PM

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly voted unanimously Friday to make the largely secretive selection of the U.N. secretary-general more open and transparent.

The resolution adopted by consensus will allow the world body's 193 member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates to replace Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the start of 2017, including their resumes. They will also have the chance to meet and question candidates.

Since the U.N. was founded 70 years ago, the 15-member council has essentially picked the U.N. chief in a closed meeting and handed the name to the General Assembly for its approval. The five permanent council members with veto power, including the United States, have had the strongest sway, and they will remain key players in the selection.

Nonetheless, Friday's resolution significantly enhances the role of the General Assembly, a move welcomed by its president, Sam Kutesa, who called it "an important contribution to strengthening" the world body.

The selection of Ban's successor will take place next year and the resolution stresses the need for "gender and geographical balance while meeting the highest possible requirements."

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions. East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn. There has also never been a woman secretary-general and more than 40 countries have expressed interest in selecting the first female U.N. chief.

The resolution invites all countries "to consider presenting women as candidates," but also stresses the candidate must be highly competent.

Colombia's U.N. Ambassador María Mejía Vélez, a leading campaigner for a woman secretary-general, called adoption of the resolution "a step in the right direction."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft told the assembly "that other things being equal it is high time for a woman to lead the United Nations."

Russia's Ambassador Vitaly Churkin was a little more selective, telling reporters recently: "We support an Eastern European woman for secretary-general."