The Next UN Secretary-General: Time for an Eastern European?

As we enter the final months of the U.S. presidential campaign, most Americans are squarely focused on the race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for the White House. At the United Nations, another important election with long term geopolitical implications for our world is currently ongoing. That is the selection of the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

During my time in the U.S. Congress, I always supported the work of the United Nations, as it's a comprehensive force for good in helping to promote universal human rights and peace around the globe. During her time as U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton used the tools of the UN to help advance U.S. foreign policy interests in the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe.

As the UN Security Council deliberates on who will be the next UN Secretary-General, it's essential that Eastern Europe be given an opportunity to lead the United Nations. Since the end of World War II, diplomats from Western Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America have all been given an opportunity to hold the world's most important diplomatic leadership post. But no one from Eastern Europe has yet been entrusted with this top diplomatic post.

Over a quarter of a century ago, Eastern Europe broke away from communist rule and the region embraced western style social, economic and political reforms. A successful transformation has brought stability, prosperity and security to the region. The international community should now focus more on Eastern Europe as it has put forward some very impressive UN Secretary-General candidates.

Danilo Türk, the former President of Slovenia, is a well-qualified candidate with an established track record at the UN. Following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the breakup of Yugoslavia, Türk served as Slovenia's Ambassador to the United Nations. In the early 2000's, Türk served as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, where he helped champion human rights. As a UN insider, professor and human rights advocate, Türk is one Eastern European candidate to consider, but he did resign abruptly from the UN after not being promoted.

The Foreign Minister of Slovakia, Miroslav Lajčák is one of the strongest candidates from Eastern Europe to put his name forward. The Foreign Minister has demonstrated exemplary leadership in managing EU post-Brexit foreign policy advocating a pragmatic, responsible and constructive approach based on the specific experiences of Slovakia's peaceful split from the former Czechoslovakia. As part of Slovakia's EU Presidency, the Foreign Minister has been actively engaged in a number of sensitive regional issues, including Turkey, Ukraine and Western Balkans.

From a U.S. policy standpoint, Foreign Minister Lajčák has been a voice for reason domestically and internationally in relation to the Minsk agreements, that relate to the sanctions regime on Russia. Furthermore, with the influx of Syrian refugees into Europe and the migration crisis overwhelming many EU member states, Foreign Minister Lajčák has laid out specific proposals to address these challenges. As a champion for universal human rights, I'm pleased to see that Foreign Minister Lajčák is proposing common sense solutions, that align with President Obama's vision on how all nations must come together to address the refugee crisis. Foreign Minister Lajčák continues to demonstrate impressive management skills that will help bridge divisions all around the globe. For example, his leadership role in the preparation of Montenegro's independence referendum (2006), as well as his experience as High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina (2007-2009) established his strong credentials as a successful mediator and negotiator.

While the international media continues to shine a spotlight on UN Secretary-General candidates from Western Europe and Latin America, we need to also consider some of the extremely well qualified candidates from Eastern Europe. The Slovakian candidate recently came in second in the UN Security Council informal straw polls. It appears that Miroslav Lajčák, who shares our commitment to democratic values, is the most qualified Eastern European candidate to lead the United Nations.

As the next UN Security Council straw poll approaches this Friday, my message is simple: Now is the time for Eastern Europe to lead the United Nations.