You are here: UN Secretary-General selection process underway

12 January 2021

Article originally published by UNA-UK's 1 for 7 Billion campaign here.

On 11 January, the President of the General Assembly (PGA), H.E. Volkan Bozkir, wrote to UN Member States with an update on developments regarding the Secretary-General selection process.

Noting that the Assembly had agreed important steps towards an inclusive and transparent process through resolution 69/321, he informed states that he had written on 8 January to Secretary-General António Guterres to express his intention to start the selection process. Mr Guterres took office in January 2017 and has now entered the final year of his five-year term of appointment (once renewable).

The PGA further stated that he had received a response from Mr Guterres, who had conveyed his availability to serve a second term as well as his willingness to present a vision statement and to participate in an informal dialogue with Member States.

In terms of next steps, the PGA said that he had commenced discussions with the President of the Security Council (PUNSC) - currently Tunisia - on the process of soliciting candidates, as required by resolution 69/321. He stated that they would shortly issue a joint letter containing a description of the process.

Click here to read the President’s letter, as well as his exchange with the Secretary-General

Earlier on 11 January, the Secretary-General publicly announced his intentions via his spokesperson, having communicated them to the PGA and to the PUNSC.

This burst of activity follows interventions made in December by the ACT group of states, to both the Presidents of the General Assembly [add link to letter] and Security Council [link to letter], calling for their “timely action” to ensure this upcoming selection process “lives up to the positive standards set in 2015/16”.  ACT - a coalition of 25 small and medium-sized states calling for greater accountability, coherence and transparency of the Security Council - were instrumental in the reforms achieved during the previous selection process. The letter noted that last time, a joint letter kicking off the process had been issued by the PGA and PUNSC by the middle of December to ensure there was sufficient time for the process to unfold. In the current cycle we are already several weeks past this point; timely action on next steps is crucial. 

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign welcomes the steps taken by the PGA so far. We were particularly pleased by his commitment to making the selection process as open and inclusive as possible, and by his reference, when writing to the Secretary-General, to the “historic” involvement of “civil society and the wider global public” in 2015-16. We have consistently argued in favour of consolidating - and building on - the gains made during the process that led to Mr Guterres’ appointment and look forward to learning the details of the process as soon possible to allow sufficient time for the comprehensive, open process envisioned by resolution 69/321.

We also welcome Mr Guterres’ response to the PGA’s letter, confirming his willingness to present a vision statement and engage in an informal dialogue with Member States. We recall that last time, the informal dialogues were broadcast on WebTV and included questions for candidates submitted by civil society and the general public, including young people. We further note that candidates, including Mr Guterres, made themselves available for events with civil society, as well as a townhall debate held in the General Assembly Hall.

1 for 7 Billion stands ready to support the PGA, Member States and civil society in organising similar meetings this year. And we will continue to push for transparency, fairness and inclusivity during this appointment process guided by the principles outlined in our policy platform. We firmly believe that this will give the Secretary-General greater legitimacy and the best possible start in rising to the challenge of leading the UN at this time of great challenge and uncertainty.

  • Click here to read the PGA’s letter and exchanges with Mr Guterres
  • Click here read more detail on what a comprehensive process could look like
  • Click here to read Ben Donaldson’s Passblue article on the 2021 process
  • Click here to read a transcript of the UN spokesperson press conference
  • Click here to watch the press conferences

Photo: Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-fifth session. c. UN Photo/Mark Garten