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Appointment of UN Secretary-General

Appointment of UN Secretary-General


  • The United Nations Security Council formally approved Secretary-General António Guterres for a second term.

Key Details:

  • Thus, former Prime Minister of Portugal retains the top job for five more years starting January 1, 2022.

  • The recommendation will now go to the 193-member General Assembly, which is expected to make the appointment on June 18.

  • Guterres started his first term in 2017, becoming the ninth UN chief since the international body’s founding in 1945.

How is the UN Secretary-General chosen?

  • Recommendation by any UN member: For any candidate to have a real chance at being considered for the top post, a recommendation by any UN member state is essential.

    • In the current race, Guterres was endorsed by Portugal for a second term, and none of his seven other challengers received backing from a member state, making Guterres all but certain of retaining his job.

  • Recommendation by: United Nations Security Council

  • Appointed by: The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.

  • Subject to Veto: The Secretary-General’s selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

  • Essentially, the Secretary-General is chosen during closed-door sessions of the Security Council, and approval by the General Assembly is seen more as a formality.

  • The US used this power to deny Egypt’s Boutros-Ghali a second term in 1997 and China did the same in 1981 for denying Austria’s Waldheim a third term.

  • Non-permanent members: The 10 elected non-permanent members of the Security Council do not have veto powers, but their backing is still crucial as a candidate requires at least nine out of 15 votes to be recommended for the top job.

  • Term limits: While there are no term limits applicable to this post, no Secretary-General has so far served more than two terms.

UNGA 2015 Resolution:

  • A resolution adopted by the General Assembly in 2015 made the selection process more open and transparent.

  • It allowed member states for the first time to see basic information about all candidates, including their resumes, and to question them at open sessions, as per the Associated Press.

  • Guterres was appointed in 2016 under the 2015 rules, and the same process was followed this year.

Role and Function of UN Secretary-General:

  • The UN Charter refers to the Secretary-General as the body’s “chief administrative officer”.

  • He/She shall act in “such other functions as are entrusted” to them by the Security Council, General Assembly, Economic and Social Council and other United Nations organs.

  • The UN website defines the role as “equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO,” and “a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesperson for the interests of the world’s peoples, in particular the poor and vulnerable among them”.

  • The Secretary-General’s day-to-day work includes attendance at sessions of United Nations bodies; consultations with world leaders, government officials, and others; and worldwide travel intended to keep the Secretary-General in touch with the peoples of the UN member states, as per the body’s website.

Source: Indian Express