The Foreign Service Journal, September 2006

tenure as secretary-general. So as Annan prepares to step down on Dec. 31, 2006, selecting his successor is perhaps the central question facing the member-states this year. That process should reflect not only the desire to find the most qualified man or woman for the job but to ensure that the new secretary-general has the mandate and capability to pursue institutional reform. This article draws upon a project recently carried out by the United Nations Association of the United States of America that aimed to: (a) clarify the appropriate roles of the secretary-general and identify the qualities we should look for in the next secretary-general; (b) shed light on how to best improve the selection process; and (c) think through what should be the priority agenda for the next secretary-general. Toward this end, over a period of sev- eral months during the first half of 2006, UNA-USA organized a series of meetings and consultations on choosing the next person to fill the U.N.’s top post. Participants included member-state representatives to the body from every region of the world, former and cur- rent U.N. officials, representatives from nongovernmen- tal organizations and the private sector, scholars and other experts. The following outlines some of the major issues that emerged during the discussions, highlighting the areas of agreement and disagreement, and concludes with a series of recommendations. (You can read the project’s full report at . The Current Process Since the United Nations was founded in 1945, the office of the secretary-general has evolved to encompass both administrative and diplomatic portfolios, at once managing a large bureaucracy and forging consensus among often-polarized member states. Yet despite the reach and importance of the position, the process for choosing the secretary-general is murky at best. The U.N. Charter provides minimal guidance, stating simply that “the Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council.” The charter also states that the secre- tary-general should serve as the chief administrative offi- cer of the organization, but no specific qualifications are identified; nor is there any mention of the term length or criteria for selection. The General Assembly is on record as opting out of the process by requesting that the Security Council rec- ommend no more than one candidate. Resolution 11(1), which was passed in 1946, states that “it would be desir- able for the Security Council to proffer only one candi- date for the consideration of the General Assembly.” Resolution 51/241, passed in 1997, sought to establish a set of principles that might be applied to the selection of the secretary-general, calling upon the assembly to make “full use of the power of appointment enshrined in the charter” and identifying a role for the assembly president in facilitating interaction with the Security Council. In practice, this has given the five permanent mem- bers of the Security Council — China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States — veto power over the selection process within the council since the U.N.’s founding. The assembly has had the theoreti- cal power to override the council’s selection by declining to give the recommended candidate the necessary major- ity vote, but has never done so. In the absence of official guidelines, some precedents have emerged over the years. Each secretary-general’s tenure lasts one or two terms of five years. The selection has followed a geographical rotation of sorts, and it is gen- erally accepted that the secretary-general should not originate from one of the council’s P-5. Previous U.N. secretaries-general were: Trygvie Lie of Norway (1946-1952); Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden (1953-1961); U Thant of Burma/Myanmar (1961-1971); Kurt Waldheim of Austria (1972-1981); Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru (1982-1991); and Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt (1992-1996). The Selection Process Given the array of tasks for which the secretary-gen- eral is responsible, it is difficult to codify the specific qualifications needed to do the job well. Obviously, the list would include outstanding diplomatic skills and strong leadership capabilities. But it is notable that some participants in USA-UNA’s project felt leadership should reflect an ability to ensure that the organization is man- aged well, but not necessarily to serve as the organiza- tion’s “manager.” Instead, proponents of this view assert- ed, candidates should exhibit a willingness to delegate responsibilities to a deputy on a daily basis while main- taining overall accountability for the health of the organization. Others disagreed, emphasizing that at this moment in the organization’s history — with the mis- management of the Oil for Food program and wide- F O C U S S E P T E M B E R 2 0 0 6 / F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L 41