Global Policy Forum

Canada Proposes Future UN Secretary Generals


By Nathaniel Gronewold

Canadian Press
May 18, 2006

Canada wants the next UN secretary general to serve only a single term of five or seven years, Canadian Ambassador Allan Rock said Thursday. And Canada will press for significant changes to the method of selecting the UN chief, he told reporters. "The post of secretary general is simply too important for the person to be chosen by the current process, a process that is opaque, ill defined, unpredictable and unsatisfactory," said Rock, Canada's ambassador to the United Nations.

The Canadian government is the only one formally pushing for changes to the selection procedure, but Rock said many governments have voiced support for Canada's initiative. In a briefing to the United Nations Correspondents Association, Rock said "the selection of the secretary general should not be something that happens randomly or without a defined process." Rock first floated Canada's list of ideas for changes in a document distributed to UN member countries in February. The General Assembly held a closed meeting in mid-April to discuss the proposals. Since then, Canada has added more items to the list.

Rock outlined five proposals:

-A single term of five or seven years for the secretary general, instead of two five-year terms at present. Canada believes the change will unburden the secretary general from having to act under the pressure of a second confirmation.

-A "job description" that defines what responsibilities the secretary general should perform.

-A committee to search the world for prospective candidates.

-Opportunities for member countries to meet potential candidates and pose questions to them.

-Ask candidates to identify ahead of time whom they will name as deputy secretary general.

Rock said a change to a single term and forums for candidates to introduce themselves to member states could be implemented during the current search for a successor to Kofi Annan, whose term expires at the end of the year. The other proposals would likely have to be introduced later.

The UN Charter states that the secretary general is confirmed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In reality, the five permanent members of the Security Council hold a virtual monopoly over the decision, since they can veto any of the candidates.

Thus far, the United States and Russia are reacting coolly to suggestions of radical changes to the status quo. U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has repeatedly told reporters the Security Council alone would discuss reform of the process.

Rock dismissed the notion that the consent of the major powers was required before moving forward. "The General Assembly is the master of its own processes, and the General Assembly can make decisions, and ultimately makes the decision whether to appoint the candidate identified by the Security Council," Rock said.

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