Will The Next UN Secretary-General be a Woman?

Shown here is former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General in 2006, together with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Vaira Vike-Freiberga was appointed the Secretary-General’s Envoy on UN Reform and nominated by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for the post of UN Secretary-General. UN Photo/ Mark Garten.
Shown here is former Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, a candidate for the post of UN Secretary-General in 2006, together with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Vaira Vike-Freiberga was appointed the Secretary-General’s Envoy on UN Reform and nominated by Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania for the post of UN Secretary-General. UN Photo/ Mark Garten.

Will The Next UN Secretary-General be a Woman? Vaira Vike-Freiberga, the former president of the Republic of Latvia, was an official candidate for Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 2006.

During the July 26, 2016 daily noon briefing with the Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General “Baltic Review” asked a question regarding Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, who was a candidate for the post of UN Secretary-Genera on behalf of the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

“Can you confirm that Dr. Freiberga, who had been appointed a Special Envoy on UN Reform by Kofi Annan, was the first woman candidate for the post of Secretary-General, or were there other women candidates before her?”

Although the Deputy Spokesman said that “ultimately, since I’m not a historian of UN elections, and I don’t have the list of all the candidates, he was aware of her candidacy.” According to a “Research Report on Appointing the UN Secretary-General: The Challenge for the Security Council” dated June 2016, “in 15 elections held over the last 70 years for the post of UN Secretary General, only three women have been seriously considered as candidates: Vijaya Lakshmi Pandit (India) in 1953, Gro Harlem Brundtland (Norway), in 1991, and Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia) in 2006.” Dr. Freiberga was nominated by the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Shown here is Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Director-General of UNESCO, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, and candidate for the next UN Secretary-General. UN Photo/Manuel Elias.
Shown here is Irina Bokova (Bulgaria), Director-General of UNESCO, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria, and candidate for the next UN Secretary-General. UN Photo/Manuel Elias.

As of August, 2016, there are several woman candidates interested in this top UN position. They include Irina Bukova (Bulgaria), Director- General of UNESCO, and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bulgaria, Natalia Gherman (Moldova), former First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, and Helen Clark (New Zealand), Administrator of UNDP, and former Prime Minister of New Zealand.

Among the other women candidates interested in becoming the next UN Secretary-General are: Susana Malcorra. Foreign Minister of Argentina, and former Chef de Cabinet for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and Christiana Figueres (Costa Rica). who had led the UN Convention on Climate Change.

Vesna Pusic. former First Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia, it was later reported had withdrawn as a candidate for UN Secretary-General.

Among the male candidates nominated for the next UN Secretary-General, are: Antonio Guterres (Portugal) former UN High Commissioner for Refugees and former Prime Minister of Portugal, who received the highest number of votes in the two straw polls. Other candidates running for UN Secretary-General included Danilo Turk (Slovenia) who served as the President of Slovenia, and former UN Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs, Srgjan Kerim, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Former Minister of Forign Affairs and former President of the UN General Assembly.

In addition, Igor Luksic, Deputy Prime Minister of Montenegro. and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro, Miroslav Lajcak (Slovakia), Minister of Foreign Affair and European Foreign Affairs, and former High Representative in Bosnia Herzogovina, and Serbian Vuc Jeremic, former Foreign Minister of Serbia and President of the UN General Assembly were also nominated for the next UN Secretary-General of the United Nations.

The current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, is the eighth occupant of the UN’s 70-year history, according to the UN. He took office in January 2007 and will be ending his l0-year tenure on 3l December 2016. Under the UN Charter, the organization’s top official is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the five permanent members of the Security Council, namely, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China and the Russian Federation.

It was reported at the time that although the former Latvian President Vaira Vike- Freiberga scored high on the so called “straw poll “, she was blocked by two permanent members of the UN Security Council with veto power, namely, the Russian Federation and China from going further. Latvia, together with Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, joined the United Nations on September l7, 1991, following 50 years of Soviet occupation.

It is interesting to note, too, that the same Security Council Research Report dated June 2016, also stated that “Eastern Europe maintains that according to the practice of regional rotation, it is next in line for the position of Secretary-General, the Chair of the Group of Eastern European States wrote in UN Member States in November 2014 formally expressing this and recalling that Eastern Europe is the only regional group that has not had a Secretary-General.”

While eight of the 12 candidates are from Eastern Europe, candidates from New Zealand and Portugal are both Western European and others, in addition, Argentina and Costa Rica are from the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States.”

Pictured is Ambassador Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, and President of the UN Security Council for the month of July. UN Photo/Esknder Debebe.
Pictured is Ambassador Koro Bessho, Permanent Representative of Japan to the United Nations, and President of the UN Security Council for the month of July. UN Photo/Esknder Debebe.

On July 21, 2016, speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters, Ambassador Koro Bessho of Japan, who held the Security Council’s presidency for July, confirmed that the first round of the so called “straw polls” had taken place, and each candidate would be informed of the results through his or her country’s permanent representative to the UN. He also noted that he had been informed by the President of the UN General Assembly that the second vote had taken place.”

 

Ann Charles
Ann Charles is UN Bureau Chief of “Baltic Review” based in New York City. She covers diplomatic activities at United Nations Headquarters in New York and the world body’s work in human rights, education, culture, the environment, and tourism, among other global concerns.

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