The UK has spoken out in favour of a fairer, more inclusive process to select the UN Secretary-General.
Delivered at a UN General Assembly debate on 27 April, the statement formed part of Matthew Rycroft's debut speech as the UK's new Permanent Representative to the United Nations. Ambassador Rycroft had previously expressed his support for the principles of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign at a meeting of the UN All-Party Parliamentary Group, convened by UNA-UK.
Recognising that the "role of Secretary-General is one of the most important jobs in the world", Ambassador Rycroft proposed three guiding principles for the future appointment of UN leaders. These included gender equality; a "predictable timetable" with clear deadlines to ensure sufficient time for the engagement of all member states; and greater "transparency and scrutiny of the candidates". All three of these principles feature on the 1 for 7 Billion campaign's list of core principles.
UNA-UK applauds the UK for exercising leadership among the five veto-holding members of the UN Security Council. We anticipate that UK will continue to drive forward proposals to improve the current selection process, which is outdated, subject to backroom deals and dominated by the permanent members of the Security Council.
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Statement by Ambassador Rycroft at the Ad Hoc Working Group of the Revitalisation of the Work of the General Assembly
Thank you very much Co-Chairs.
Today is my first day as British Ambassador to the United Nations and I look forward to working with all of you. I align myself with the statement delivered by the European Union on behalf of its Member States.
Over the past eight years, the Secretary-General has guided this organisation through the most challenging problems facing us today; climate change, the plight of refugees, and the rise of extremism, to name but three. In doing so, he has shown great resolve and patience, and a steadfast determination to help the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
The role of Secretary-General is one of the most important jobs in the world. We Member States place great demands on him. We look to him for counsel and leadership. We expect him to deliver even when we are divided. And we entrust him to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that threatens international peace and security.
In paying tribute to Ban Ki-moon, let us realise the scale of the task we face next year to find a fitting successor. The selection of the next Secretary-General will be a pivotal moment for all of us, and it is vital that the process fits the occasion. Let us maximise through that process the prospects of securing the best possible pool of credible candidates.
The United Kingdom supports the appointment of a strong and effective Secretary-General, one ready to fulfil the significant responsibilities entrusted by the Charter. We have listened to those who say that 70 years on from the United Nation’s birth, it is time for change. A role as important as Secretary-General needs an updated selection process fit for the 21st century and fit for a world of seven billion people.
We see three key principles that should guide us.
First, a job that represents the interests of all the world’s people cannot exclude half of its population. So our first principle is gender equality. In this 20th anniversary year of the Beijing Declaration, we want to encourage strongly applications from women candidates. All other attributes and qualifications being equal, it is high time for a woman to lead the United Nations. For that to happen we need as many credible women candidates as possible.
Second, we must bring structure to the recruitment process; a clear deadline for candidates to declare themselves and a clear date for the selection to take place. A predictable timetable will allow space for consideration of the different candidates, and allow the successful candidate sufficient time to prepare for office. We could, for instance, aim for the declaration of candidates no less than 8-12 months before the start of the Secretary-General’s tenure, and an appointment no less than 3 months before. Those dates are suggestions. The key is that there should be a clear timetable that will help build the transparency of the process.
Third, we must give candidates the chance to present their priorities to the whole of the UN, and to the world at large. Greater transparency and scrutiny of the candidates will help the Security Council give its recommendation to the General Assembly. We propose a Security Council process open to all UN Member States, as well as observers and civil society. We want to give all candidates the opportunity to be tested on their priorities and credentials.
Successive Secretaries-General have served the United Nations and the world well over the last 70 years. As we look ahead to our shared future, it is incumbent on us to recruit a Secretary-General that carries on that proud tradition. With your support, we believe that these three proposals will help us do that.