By S. V. Kirubaharan –
The United Nations consist of 195 states, including two observer states. There are independent states which are not members of the UN due to various political reasons. Only member states have the right to vote. So, the Vatican (Holy See) and Palestine, who have observer status, cannot vote.
Since the UN was established in 24 October 1945, it has practiced regional rotation for high profile jobs, including the post of the UN Secretary General – SG.
UN member countries are categorized into five Regional groups – African Group, Asia-Pacific Group, Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC), Western European and Others Group (WEOG) and Eastern European Group. Except WEOG, all other regional groups consist of countries within their region. But in the WEOG – USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel and Turkey are included. Whereas Kiribati, located in the Pacific Ocean geographically near to Australia and New Zealand, is part of the Asia-Pacific Group. It is very strange that Israel is part of the WEOG. It is neither in Asia nor in Africa. This shows the political duplicity of the United Nations.
When the UN was established, Gladwyn Jebb of Britain was the first to hold the post of Acting UN Secretary General. In fact, he was appointed for nearly four months from October 1945, until Trygvie Lie of Norway from the Western Europe was elected in February 1946. As the former USSR didn’t endorsed Trygve for the second term, he served until November 1952. He was succeeded by Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld of Sweden in April 1953. Dag Hjalmar was killed in a plane crash in 1961.
Then U Thant of Burma (now Myanmar) from the Asian group took over and served until December 1971. U Thant’s successor was Kurt Waldheim of Austria from the Western Europe group. He served until December 1981.
There are many mysterious stories about Waldheim. He was accused of being a member of Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party and an officer in the Wehrmacht (German armed forces) during World War II. In other words, he must have known about the transfer of Jewish people to concentration camps and massacres. But Waldheim denied his participation in crimes carried out by the Nazis. These accusations were brought to public only after he left the UN, while trying to contest for the second time in the Presidential elections in Austria.
At the end of Waldheim’s term, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru from GRULAC took over and served until December 1991. His successor was Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt from the African group. Due to many political reasons Boutros-Ghali could not serve his second term and he was succeeded by Kofi Annan of Ghana in January 1997. Kofi Annan served his two terms successfully until 2006. Then it was the turn of the Asia-Pacific group and Ban Ki-Moon of South Korea, has been serving since January 2007.
When the entire list of UN SGs is considered, there are two obvious facts – not one of them is a woman and no-one has served from the new regional group of Eastern Europe. This concern had been raised by some Eastern European countries and many have raised the gender equality issue on numerous occasions.
As these two serious concerns are being raised globally, will this persuade a woman from Eastern Europe to become the next Secretary General? Will the men who are already in the forefront allow a woman to be the next SG?
The general understanding among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – France, UK, USA, Russia and China is that they will not nominate a candidate from their countries.
As the present Secretary General Ban Ki-moon started his second term on 1 January 2012, procedures for the selection of the next SG will start next year.
When we talk about the post of SG, it’s notable that Kofi Annan once said that ‘SG’ stands for ‘Scapegoat’. The Secretary General has to take on many responsibilities, burdens, criticisms and accusations.
Possible candidates for the next SG
So far there are four female candidates from Eastern Europe who have shown their interest in this high profile job. They are, former Foreign Minister of Bulgaria and Director General of UNESCO Irina Bokova; President of Lithuania Dalia Grybauskaite; Deputy President of Croatia Vesna Pusic and Bulgarian Economist and European Commissioner for the Budget, Kristalina Ivanova Georgieva.
At the same time, there are six male candidates from the same region who also have shown their interest. They are, Danilo Turo former President of Slovenia. Danilo Turo has held many high positions in the UN. He was the Assistant Secretary General from 2000 to 2005, the President of the UN Security Council from 1998 to 1993 and a member of UN Human Rights Committee; Vuk Jeremić former Foreign Minister of Serbia and the President of the UN General Assembly until September 2013; János Áder, President of Hungary; Dan Mircea Geoana former Foreign Minister of Romania; Miroslav Lajcak, the deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Slovakia and Jan Kubi, who is a former Foreign Minister of Slovakia.
Other than these possible candidates from Eastern Europe, there are some from WEOG who have shown interest. UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal, Mr. Antonia Guteres; Prime Minister of Denmark Mrs. Helle Thorning-Schmidt and former Prime Ministers of Australia Kevin Rudd and New Zealand Mrs Helen Clark have their eye on this prestigious job. In the regional grouping, Australia and New Zealand come under WEOG.
If we consider the regional groups and their turn to have the UN Secretary General post, each region gets their chance only once in 40 or 50 years. But the Western European group had at least three elected SGs.
In the selection of the SG, the former USSR and USA used their veto power on two occasions. In 1950, USSR used it on the re-appointment of the first Secretary General of the UN, Trygve Lie of Norway. He resigned his post in November 1952. USA in November 1996, under President Clinton’s administration, vetoed the re-appointment of Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt. So it is a difficult task to find someone acceptable to all five permanent members.
Let us wait and see whether the world’s most popular inter-governmental body will respect gender equality and regional rotation, in the next selection of the UN Secretary General.