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History made as Sec-Gen candidates take part in major public hustings

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History made as Sec-Gen candidates take part in major public hustings

For the first time in the UN's 70-year history, candidates for the position of UN Secretary-General have taken part in a major public hustings debate.

The event took place on 3 June in front of a packed audience at London's Barbican Centre with three of the 11 confirmed candidates:

  • António Guterres – Former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister, Portugal
  • Vuk Jeremić – Former President of the UN General Assembly and former Foreign Minister, Serbia
  • Igor Lukšić – Former Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Montenegro

UNA-UK's Executive Director, Natalie Samarasinghe, introduced the event and reminded the audience that:

"The UN is overstretched and underfunded.  For many people it is a distant organisation, opaque, outdated and paralysed by power politics.  What we need is a highly qualified, effective and visionary leader.  Someone who can work with the big powers but also someone who will represent the voice, the needs, the hopes of the world's seven billion people"

The Guardian's Mark Rice-Oxley moderated the debate between candidates, feeding in questions from the audience as well as the most popular asks from UNA-UK's online poll - an initiative ran in partnership with Global Citizen and Avaaz which saw participation from 35,000 individuals in 161 countries.

A broad range of topics were covered during the discussion, from climate change to impunity for UN peacekeepers, to whether the candidates considered themselves feminists. Perhaps the best question came at the end of the night, when 15-year-old Jessica from Leamington asked "As a young person, I would like to ask, is there any hope for future generations?".

Watch the video to see how the candidates responded

Listen to BBC Scotland interview Ben Donaldson, UNA-UK's Communications Manager, on the selection process

This event was the second in a unprecedented series of candidates’ debates organised by the United Nations Association – UK (UNA-UK) in partnership with the Guardian, Future UN Development System Project (CUNY Graduate Centre) and the Embassy of Denmark. 

What next?

On 7 June, the latest candidates to enter the race, Miroslav Lajčák and Susana Malcorra, will appear in front of the General Assembly.  Tune in to for live commentary from 11am EDT.

In July, UNA-UK hopes to be able to hold a third debate in order to accommodate those confirmed candidates who have not yet taken part in the series.  Further details to be announced shortly.

By the end of July, the Security Council is expected to begin deliberations on the appointment, before making a recommendation to the General Assembly.  The General Assembly is then expected to make the appointment around September/October, with the appointee taking up the position of UN Secretary-General on 1 January 2017.

For more details on the 11 confirmed candidates, including links to their websites, social media platforms, General Assembly hearings and much more, please visit:

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign was co-founded by UNA-UK in 2014 and calls for a fair, open and transparent recruitment process for the UN Secretary-General.  We now have more than 750 supporting NGOs with a combined reach of almost 200 million individuals.  Visit to find out more.

Photo: Barbican UN Secretary-General Candidates Hustings Debate. Copyright UNA-UK