If you haven’t seen it yet, the Elders Proposal for Strengthening the UN is a must read. Chaired by Kofi Annan, The Elders is an independent group of global leaders who work together for peace and human rights.
Released earlier this month at a conference in Munich, the four proposals are generating a lot of attention include:
1) A new category of Security Council membership is needed: non-permanent members but who are immediately eligible for re-election, thus making them de facto permanent members if they secure the confidence of fellow member states.
2) A pledge for non-use of the veto: P5 states must also be more responsible in using their veto, especially during a crisis where people are threatened with genocide or other atrocities.
3) Consultation with civil society: the Security Council should take care to regularly consult those people who are affected by its decisions, especially in conflict zones.
4) A new, more transparent and accountable system for choosing the next Secretary-General.
The last proposal, a new process for choosing the Secretary General, is where the Elders really break new ground. They propose:
At the United Nations, it is the Secretary-General who has to uphold the interests and aspirations of all the world’s peoples. This role requires leadership of the highest calibre. Yet for 70 years the holder of this post has effectively been chosen by the five permanent members of the Security Council, who negotiate among themselves in almost total secrecy. The rest of the world is told little about the process by which candidates are identified, let alone the criteria by which they are judged. This barely follows the letter, and certainly not the spirit, of the UN Charter, which says the Secretary-General should be appointed by the General Assembly, and only on the recommendation of the Security Council.
To remedy this, we call on the General Assembly to insist that the Security Council recommend more than one candidate for appointment as the Secretary-General of the United Nations, after a timely, equitable and transparent search for the best qualified candidates, irrespective of gender or regional origin.
We suggest that the next Secretary-General be appointed for a single, non-renewable term of seven years, in order to strengthen his or her independence and avoid the perception that he or she is guided by electoral concerns. She or he must not be under pressure, either before or after being appointed, to give posts in the Secretariat to people of any particular nationality in return for political support, since this is clearly contrary to the spirit of the Charter. This new process should be adopted without delay, so that the United Nations can make full use of it to choose the best person to assume the post in January 2017.
By tradition, the post rotates amongst different geographical areas of the world, and the next Secretary General would, under this system, come from Eastern Europe. Because of tensions at the UN between Russia and Western States, however, many predict it will be impossible to find a candidate acceptable to all. The proposal for implementing a merit based search with multiple candidates, and for a non renewable 7 year term therefore comes at an excellent time. Member states should take up the call and consider updating the SG selection procedure. What will be required to implement it is a new GA resolution. Ban Ki Moon’s term will be up at the end of 2016: the time to act is now.
A helpful overview of the UN Charter requirements for the post (Article 97), relevant GA resolutions on the selection process, and recent proposals for reform of the office of the SG can be found here.