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On Picking Next SG, ICP Asks of Top Refugees Post, Sept 26 Meeting

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, September 22 -- How should the next UN Secretary General be selected, to improve the Organization?

 On September 22, after the Permanent Representatives of Estonia and Costa Rica announced a high level meeting on the topic on September 26; Estonia's Sven Jürgenson said his priority is the best candidate, not necessarily from the Eastern European group.

   Inner City Press asked if this same push for transparency applies to the current murky process of selecting the new High Commissioner for Refugees, of which it is said Ban Ki-moon alone choose (Danish UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft told Inner City Press he “favors” the Danish ex-Prime Minister but plays no role.)

  Costa Rica's Juan Carlos Mendoza Garcia told Inner City Press that reforms in Secretary General selection could help reform other selections in the UN system. Inner City Press - and the Free UN Coalition for Access -- ask, isn't the refugee top post something of a test case?

  Tellingly, the old UN Correspondents Association demanded to ask - and largely waste - the first question, the time of meritless hierarchy that is precisely what's wrong with the UN. We'll have more on this, and on the September 26 high level meeting.

  Back on July 22 the subject was discussed behind closed doors by the UN Security Council. Afterward UK Ambassador Matthew Rycroft emerged and described the meeting as a first step, adding that the UK intends to convene a so-called Arria formula meeting of the Council once candidates come forward.

  Inner City Press asked Rycroft if the issue of regional rotation - that is, the the Next SG post belongs to the Eastern European Group -- came up. He said that it did, adding among other things that the UK does not think that is the most important factor. Periscope video here, for now.

  It was argued to Inner City Press that while the UN Charter in English assumes that the Secretary General is male, that is not the case in the Chinese (or Russian) versions - for what it's worth.

Update: as to Russian, an astute reader notes that

Within Chapter XV of the Charter (“The Secretariat”), in the third sentence of Article 97, where the English version of the Charter says of the Secretary-General, “He shall . . .”, the Russian version instead uses the name “TheSecretary-General shall . . .”, thus avoiding specifying the SG’s gender.  But in Article 99, where the English says, “The Secretary-General may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten . . .”, the Russian also uses, “. . . in his opinion”.

h/t/ SC Procedure

Статья 97

Секретариат состоит из Генерального Секретаря и такого персонала, который может потребоваться для Организации. Генеральный Секретарь назначается Генеральной Ассамблеей по рекомендации Совета Безопасности. Генеральный Секретарь является главным административным должностным лицом Организации.

Статья 98

Генеральный Секретарь действует в этом качестве на всех заседаниях Генеральной Ассамблеи, Совета Безопасности, Экономического и Социального Совета и Совета по Опеке и выполняет такие другие функции, какие возлагаются на него этими органами. Генеральный Секретарь представляет Генеральной Ассамблее ежегодный отчет о работе Организации.

Статья 99

Генеральный Секретарь имеет право доводить до сведения Совета Безопасности о любых вопросах, которые, по его мнению, могут угрожать поддержанию международного мира и безопасности.

  The Security Council's President for July, Gerard von Bohemen of New Zealand, spoke at the UNTV stakeout after the consultations. Inner City Press asked him as well about the regional rotation issue. Periscope video for now here. He said he had come up; he said that New Zealand's position is consistent with that of the ACT - Accountability, Coherence and Transparency - group, see background below. Here's from July 22 transcriptio by the NZ UN Mission:

"On the Secretary General appointment, this was the first time the Council had discussed the issue, there was a reference made to the ACT letter and the processes suggested in that, but it was a more general conversation than that. I was very encouraged by both the spirit of the discussion, also by the relative convergence of views, although there was no specific agreement on any outcome, there was a recognition that transparency is an important consideration, and clarity and recognition that the General Assembly membership is very interested in this issue and that the Council should be responding to it. So we agreed that this was the first of a number of conversations we would have as to any specific action that might be taken, that’s for the future."
Inner City Press: How would you characterize the issue of regional rotation in the Eastern European Group, just to give some sense of what people said or what the view is?
A: Well, a number of speakers referred to it, no one disagreed with it, but it wasn’t seen as being inconsistent with the processes, some of the processes that were being recommended.

Background: on June 30, UN Conference Room 11 was full to discuss the Next SG question, in an event organized by the 27 member states (so far) making up ACT (Accountability, Coherence, Transparency).

  Surprising to some, on the panel was UK Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft, who said among other things that the Next SG should not necessarily be from the Eastern European Group.

  The room was full -- Inner City Press stood by the door, broadcasting by Periscope and live-tweeting with laptop in hand -- but with a notable contingent of Eastern European representatives. One question identified herself as such: a woman, and Eastern European. Just saying.

   William Pace of WFM reminisced how Boutros Boutros Ghali's second term was vetoed in a deal between the (Bill) Clinton adminstration and then-Senator Jesse Helms, to release dues payments to the UN.

 The proposal now is for a single seven year term. Mary Robinson says she knows of another P5 country, beyond the UK, which is open to a single seven year term.

  When it was open for questions, Inner City Press (also on behalf of the new Free UN Coalition for Access, which unlike the older correspondents grouping actually fights for more transparency by the UN) asked why not have a debate among prospective candidates?

  Why not require disclosure of how much is spend on each candidates campaign, including banning or requiring the disclosure of spending of the funds of UN Programmes (UNDP) or Organizations (UNESCO) for their chiefs to campaign to replace Ban Ki-moon?

   The UK's Rycroft said that prohibitions are not the answer -- agreed -- but did not answer on requiring financial disclosures. (He said we don't want massive spending, one isn't running for president. Which raises another question: what about some form of matching funds for candidates from lower income countries?)

  While much of the focus seems to be on arranging letters from the President of the Security Council to the President of the General Assembly, as Inner City Press asked at the ACT event and asked the new PGA Mogens Lykketoft himself, twice (video), can't the PGA call a high level meeting and invite candidates to present themselves? In this way, the wider world outside the UN could get engaged, and put on some pressure. The anonymous polling of which candidates are “discouraged” by the P5 members should not, FUNCA contends, be repeated.

  Costa Rica's Permanent Representative Juan Carlos Mendoza-García wrapped up, and the event was over. It was promising, but moves for reform and opening up should begin as soon as possible. Watch this site.

  Back on June 1, after several press conference on the topic and a closed door General Assembly session on April 27, the ACT group of 27 states (Accountability, Coherence and Transparency) submitted their page and a half set of proposals to the Presidents of the Security Council and of the General Assembly.

  Here is a photo, re-tweeted from the Swiss by the Free UN Coalition for Access.

  Even before these proposals are debated, candidates are edging for an advantage; dark horses are positioning themselves for it the post slips away from the Eastern European Group. Inner City Press has mentioned Helen Clark, using the UN Development Program post to campaign (staff who cross her on Twitter are reprimanded, as Inner City Press reported here.)

 Another "dark horse" candidate, Inner City Press is told, is Swedish foreign minister and former UN official Margot Wallstrom. We'd like to hear from her what she thnks of the UN's handling of allegations of sexual abuse by French "peacekeepers" in the Central African Republic, including the role of another reputed dark horse candidate, or at least candidate to head the UN in Geneva, Susana Malcorra. And what did Ban know, and when did he know it?

  The Free UN Coalition for Access agrees, there should be formal candidacies, platforms -- and adds, why not debates?

  We'd like to hear the Swiss view on this - from today forward, from a new mission spokesperson, Simone Eymann. Her predecessor Adrian Sollberger at his farewell reception on June 1 joked how being an elections officer is like speed dating. He is remaining with the the Foreign Department of Switzerland working in the Cabinet of the Secretary of State, in Berne.

  So why NOT some debates among candidates for Secretary General, when they declare? We'll have more on this.

 How to pick the next UNSG: that was the question on the afternoon of April 27 in what was called a "closed" meeting in the Trusteeship Council Chamber. The meeting being labeled closed, and not on UN webcast, is a bad beginning, the Free UN Coalition for Access believes.

 To counter-act this Inner City Press did its reporting about the meeting, from India urging that there be more than one - a panel - of candidates proposed, to Moldova emphasizing that the next SG should come from Eastern Europe.

 Canada said regional rotation should inform but not determine the selection. The UK to its credit released a copy of the speech by new Permanent Representative Matthew Rycroft - but how to square its proposals with David Cameron nominating Andrew Lansley to replace Valerie Amos as Emergency Relief Coordinator, then insisting that the UK should have the post, now in the person of Stephen O'Brien.

Update: With only a few dozen states choosing to speak, the chair decided to try to finish them all -- five states in twelve minutes? -- to end the debate on April 27. This too may not be the right spirit.

Update II: And when the rushed session ended, the next one was announced for May 12, on the "institutional memory" of the Office of the President of the General Assembly.

  Earlier in a 10 am press conference by the campaign called "1 for 7 Billion: Find the Best UN Leader."

  At the April 27 UN noon briefing, Inner City Press asked Ban Ki-moon's deputy spokesperson for Ban's views on needed reforms. Apparently there are none: it is up to member states, he said, adding that selecting a women would be good. What about pay to play?

  Inner City Press asked the panel if, as happened last time, increase trade and aid funding by a candidates' country should at least be disclosed, if not prohibited. William Pace of WFM replied not only about countries spending hundreds of million of Euros, but also about the heads of international agencies using their posts to campaign.

  Since UNDP's Helen Clark is known to have told associates and underlings she would like to be the next SG, Inner City Press asked the panel for comment. They were diplomatic, including on the UK, said to be a reformer on the SG post, having insisted it retain the Emergency Relief Coordinator positioon, albeit in the person of Stephen O'Brien and not Cameron's first nominee (and National Health Service destroyer) Andrew Lansley.

  Natalie Samarasinghe of UNA-UK said the campaign around (well, against) Lansley was a positive step forward; she said that social media makes secret processes less possible. (But see the replacement at Yemen envoy of Jamal Benomar by a Mauritanian official who has not made public financial disclosure).

  Yvonne Terlingen, now Senior Policy Adviser at WFM,  also cited the OCHA process or campaign. WFM's Pace seemed to conflate the entire UN press corps with the UN Correspondents Association, a group that for example tried to censor Press coverage of how Under Secretary General Herve Ladsous got the job, then tried to get the Press thrown out.

  The new Free UN Coalition for Access seeks to open the UN and these processes - watch this site.


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