UN: Three women jostle for UN Secretary-Secretary position

New York, US (PANA) - As the race for the new UN Secretary-General hots up, three women are jostling to occupy the position after current Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s term ends in December 2016, PANA reports.

PANA at the UN headquarters in New York on Thursday, reports that although no woman has been elected UN Secretary-General in the organisation's 70 years of existence, that trend could change later this year when Ban completes his term.

So far, seven candidates, comprising four men and three women, all from Eastern Europe have officially submitted their letters of interest to the President of the UN General Assembly and the President of the UN Security Council.

The seven candidates, who have submitted their official letters of interest, include Dr. Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia, on 30 December, 2015; Ms. Vesna Pusic of Croatia (14 January, 2016); Dr. Igor Luksic of Montenegro (15 January 2016); and Dr. Danilo Turk of Slovenia  (9 February 2016).

Others are Ms. Irina Bokova from Bulgaria, the current Director-General of UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), who submitted her letter on 11 February, 2016, Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, who presented her letter of interest on 19 February and Mr. Antonio Guterres of Portugal (29 February, 2016), who served as the UN High Commissioner for Refugees from June 2005 to December 2015.

PANA reports that pressure from advocacy groups such as "1 for 7 billion" and "SheUnited", as well as women and men gender activists and other organisations have been pushing for a female UN Secretary-General.

It will be recalled that in February 2015, a group of women in New York launched a campaign to elect a woman as UN Secretary-General after Ban.

The group, which represents women from the academia and civil society with a long record of engagement with the UN, and under the name: "Campaign to Elect a Woman UN Secretary-General", in a paper circulated at the UN headquarters, stated: "There have been eight male Secretaries-General but never a female even though women represent half the world’s population."

They said: "Through series of discussions, we decided that the time had come for a woman to lead the organization and we formed a core planning group to enact a plan of action, and we welcome others to join the campaign, both men and women, individuals and organizations alike. It’s time!."

Also, women activists attending the ongoing UN Commission of the Status of Women (CSW) in New York, told PANA that a new portrait is due to appear on the UN walls soon, saying: "We are having the feelings that the new portrait to adorn the walls of the UN offices, will bear the visage of a woman."

The activists and advocacy groups also applauded the interest shown by leading women diplomats and leaders to vie for the position, noting that, while it was not the first time a woman had gunned for the job, it is the first time that three have indicated interest and there is a viable chance of getting it.

PANA learnt that it is the belief of many UN watchers and activists that it is high time for a woman to take the reins of the UN, and the notion had gained momentum over the past year, both within the organisation and in popular opinion, with many civil society groups advocating and campaigning for it.

A New York-based activist, Ms. Nancy Breckman, said: "A female UN secretary-general would not necessarily compensate for or correct the gender imbalances that prevail at the higher levels of the UN Secretariat, but will show the relevance and importance of women in all spheres of life."

"The UN is 70 years old, that is a lifetime. Please let us make sure that in the next lifetime of the UN, its leadership includes women of merit and nerve, significantly gifted to make the UN work," she noted.

A closer look at the three female candidates revealed that Ms. Bokova (Bulgaria), UNESCO director-general and former foreign minister of Bulgaria, is a favourite of many for her experience leading one of the largest UN agencies, and she has long championed human rights, cultural dialogue and gender equality.

While on her part, Ms. Pusic (Croatia), deputy speaker of the Croatian Parliament, former first deputy prime minister and minister for foreign and European Affairs, has been very successful in national politics and is an accomplished sociologist.

Ms. Gherman (Moldova), former minister of foreign affairs and European Integration, is a career diplomat admired for her negotiation and conflict resolution skills, and in 2014, The Guardian US., named her one of the "seven women to watch in global politics who are leading positive change all over the world."

Meanwhile, Ms. Christiana Figueres and Ms. Rebeca Grynspan, all from Costa Rica, are also among names of other high-ranking women currently being mentioned as potential candidates to succeed Ban, although they have not submitted the letters of interest.

Ms. Figueres was appointed Executive-Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in 2010, and she has been a member of the Costa Rican negotiating team since 1995, when she participated in the Kyoto Protocol.

She also contributed to the design of key climate change models and has been a prime promoter of Latin America’s active participation in the climate convention.

Ms. Grynspan is a former Vice President of Costa Rica whose international career included the Secretary-General of Ibero-American (SEGIB), a former UN Under-Secretary-General, and the Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

PANA however reports that there are no clear favourites yet to succeed Ban and the list of candidates is sure to increase, but what is clear so far is that the next secretary-general will come from Eastern Europe.

Eight men, including Ban Ki-moon, the current secretary-general, have presided over the organisation since it was founded in 1945.

Recently, the President of the UN General Assembly, Mr. Mogens Lykketoft, held a retreat in New York on the process of selecting and appointing the next UN secretary-general.

Mr. Lykketoft had also announced his commitment to run his presidency in the most open and transparent manner possible and also on the process of selecting and appointing the next UN chief.

He said the first informal dialogues with the candidates will be held 12-14 April at the UN headquarters.

The position of the UN secretary-general is one of great importance that requires the highest standards of efficiency, competence and integrity, and a firm commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter.

The UN secretary-general is appointed by the UN General Assembly, on the recommendation of the UN Security Council.

The UN secretary-general's selection is therefore subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

Ban of South Korea, the eighth UN secretary-general, took office on 1 January 2007 and his term will end this year.

The former UN secretary-generals were: Kofi Annan (Ghana), who held office from January 1997 to December 2006, late Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt), who held office from January 1992 to December 1996, JavierPerez de Cuellar (Peru), who served from January 1982 to December 1991, and Kurt Waldheim (Austria), who held office from January 1972 to December 1981.

Others are U Thant (Burma, now Myanmar), who served from November 1961, when he was appointed acting UN secretary-general and was formally appointed UN secretary-general in November 1962 to December 1971, Dag Hammarskjold (Sweden), who served from April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in Africa in September 1961, and Trygve Lie (Norway), who held office from February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.

Although there is technically no limit to the number of five-year terms a UN secretary-general may serve, none so far has held office for more than two terms.
-0- PANA AA/VAO 24March2016

24 march 2016 15:40:56

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