Dialogues with UN Secretary-General Candidates Send Clear Message to UN Security Council

Even the harshest of UN critics would admit that new measures, including the SG hearings with all 11 candidates, have brought some much needed transparency and inclusivity to the process of selecting the next Secretary-General. At the same time, some say that that's about all they will achieve.
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Yesterday, the UN General Assembly held dialogues with two more candidates seeking to become the next UN Secretary-General. These dialogues, known as the SG Hearings, are part of a broader set of measures agreed to by all 193 UN members last year aimed at securing the best possible candidate for one of the most impossible and important jobs in the world.

Even the harshest of UN critics would admit that these new measures, including the SG hearings with all 11 candidates, have brought some much needed transparency and inclusivity to the process. At the same time, some say that that's about all they will achieve. They feel that the UN Security-Council will now undo the good work of the Assembly either by choosing a weak candidate who is unlikely to challenge the five permanent members of the Council or by recommending a compromise candidate who has not even been through the public process.

Having presided over all 25 hours of the SG Hearings, I could not disagree more. It is of course true that the Security Council is still responsible for making a recommendation on the next Secretary-General to the General Assembly. But, what the SG hearings have done is fundamentally change the calculations upon which the Security Council will base that recommendation.

For a start, there is now significant global public interest in the process. The world's media has been reporting extensively on the SG hearings and millions of people have been following on Twitter, watching online, or participating in various related events inspired by the overall process. More than ever before, the world is watching.

Second, there's the fact that anyone who was watching the dialogues could see which candidates are best suited for the job and which are not. That in itself changes the equation. How would the world react if the Security Council recommends a candidate who most would deem to have been among the poorest performers in the SG Hearings?

Third, and perhaps most importantly, while the SG Hearings have not set out who the UN General Assembly believes is the best candidate, they have helped to identify what most member states are looking for in that candidate.

They want a strong and independent Secretary-General, someone who will both work well with the Security Council and use the full extent of his or her UN Charter powers to demand that the Security Council fulfills its mandate.

A great number of UN member states want a female Secretary-General. After 70 years of male rule, they feel it is high time that the UN both promote and embody gender equality right across the Organization.

Finally, many members states want a Secretary-General with the skills and temperament to bring the UN organization into the 21 century -- making it more relevant and improving its efficiency, its culture and its operations.

They want a leader who will develop the tools that can tackle today's threats to global peace and security. They want a communicator who will mobilize the trillions needed to drive implementation of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Climate Agreement. And they want a moral voice who will demand both greater respect for human rights and greater protection for the world's most vulnerable people.

The question now is whether the Security Council will meet the General Assembly's expectations or not.

I sincerely hope it does because so far in this process, the cooperation between these two critical UN organs has been extremely positive. At the same time, many member states are skeptical that the Security Council will deliver for the whole membership on this process. Some are calling for the Council to recommend two candidates and to leave the final decision to the full UN General Assembly. Others are pushing for the term of the UN Secretary-General to be made into a single non-renewable term of seven years in order to strengthen his or her independence.

As we enter the more decisive part of the process, therefore, the stakes are clearly very high.

If the Security Council's members give due regard to the demands of the wider UN membership and recommend the best possible candidate for the job, then they will significantly strengthen the United Nations and the collective ability of all nations to respond to today's complex global challenges.

If they fail, however, then they will have miscalculated and should not expect the traditional rubber stamping of their recommendation by the UN General Assembly.

This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post regarding the selection and appointment of the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. A new Secretary-General will take office on January 1, 2017, and each of the declared candidates for the position was invited to participate in this blog series. The declared candidates for the position are listed by the UN here. To see all the posts in the series, visit here.

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