Costa Rica nominates Christiana Figueres for next UN chief

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Posted: Jul 07, 2016 5:07 PM
Costa Rica nominates Christiana Figueres for next UN chief

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Costa Rica nominated the U.N. official who played a key role in shaping last December's historic agreement to fight climate change on Thursday as its candidate to be the next secretary-general of the United Nations.

Christiana Figueres is the 12th contender in the race to succeed Ban Ki-moon after his second five-year term as U.N. chief ends on Dec. 31.

Costa Rica's President Luis Guillermo Solis said the U.N. and the world need Figueres because she is a proven "bridge builder" who can listen, consult, help resolve disputes, build agreements and anticipate problems.

"At a time when the U.N. faces great challenges both within and outside the organization, she is the candidate who can help the world's most relevant multilateral body reclaim its standing among the people of the world," Solis said.

Figueres helped shape the Paris Agreement to combat global warming as executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, and her performance has raised her international profile.

The Costa Rican diplomat described herself as a leader with organizational skills and "a strong moral compass" who can inspire the world. She said her "learning curve" will be issues of peace and security.

In a telephone press conference, Figueres said in response to a question that she would not be a "secretary" or a "general" if elected.

"I'm not going to be a secretary because I will not take instructions and I will not be a general because I will not give orders," she said. "I'm going to be the secretary-general of the United Nations," which means devoting time to increasing prospects for peace, preventing conflicts, and promoting dialogue.

"I will exercise that office with impartiality, with independence and with integrity," Figueres stressed.

The 11 other candidates — six men and five women — have already made their case to be the next secretary-general to the 193-member General Assembly. Figueres will have her two-hour question-and-answer session on July 14, assembly spokesman Daniel Thomas said Thursday.

According to the U.N. 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 U.S., Russia, China, Britain and France — have veto power over the candidates.

The Security Council is expected to hold its first "straw poll" on July 21 where the 15 members will cast ballots saying "encourage," "discourage" or "no opinion" for each candidate.

There is no deadline for candidates to apply and additional contenders could enter the race at any time before a final vote. No date has been set, but it's likely to take place in September or October.

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions and Asia, Africa, Latin America and Europe have all held the top U.N. post. 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 six of the 12 candidates are women.

Figueres said there is a "sentiment" that it is Eastern Europe's turn "that I profoundly respect." But she said she believes any institution "is better off if it has more options, more possibilities to make better decisions" and that's why she is a candidate.