Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Secretary-General
of the United Nations
Emblem of the United Nations.svg
Flag of the United Nations.svg
Antonio Guterres - 2019 (48132270313) (cropped).jpg
Incumbent
António Guterres

since 1 January 2017 (2017-01-01)
United Nations Secretariat
Style His Excellency
Member of Secretariat
General Assembly
Residence Sutton Place, Manhattan
Seat United Nations Headquarters, New York City, United States
Nominator Security Council
Appointer General Assembly
Term length five years, renewable (traditionally limited to two terms)
Constituting instrument United Nations Charter
Inaugural holder Gladwyn Jebb
as acting Secretary-General (24 October 1945)
Trygve Lie
as first Secretary-General (2 February 1946)
Formation24 October 1945
Deputy Deputy Secretary-General
Website un.org/sg

The secretary-general of the United Nations (UNSG or SG) is the chief administrative officer of the United Nations and head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the six principal organs of the United Nations.

Contents

The role of the secretary-general and of the Secretariat is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the United Nations Charter. However, the office's qualifications, selection process, and tenure are open to interpretation and have been established by custom. [1]

As of 2020, the secretary-general is former prime minister of Portugal António Guterres, who was appointed by the General Assembly on 13 October 2016 and began his five-year term on 1 January 2017. [2]

Selection and term of office

The Secretariat Building is a 154-metre-tall (505 ft) skyscraper and the centerpiece of the Headquarters of the United Nations. Newyork unitednations.JPG
The Secretariat Building is a 154-metre-tall (505 ft) skyscraper and the centerpiece of the Headquarters of the United Nations.

The secretary-general is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. As the recommendation must come from the Security Council, any of the five permanent members of the Council can veto a nomination. Most secretaries-general are compromise candidates from middle powers and have little prior fame.

Unofficial qualifications for the job have been set by precedent in previous selections. The appointee may not be a citizen of any of the Security Council's five permanent members. [3] The General Assembly resolution 51/241 in 1997 stated that, in the appointment of "the best candidate", due regard should be given to regional (continental) rotation of the appointee's national origin and to gender equality, [4] :5 although no woman has yet served as secretary-general. All appointees to date have been career diplomats. [5]

The length of the term is discretionary, but all secretaries-general since 1971 have been appointed to five-year terms. Every secretary-general since 1961 has been re-selected for a second term, with the exception of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was vetoed by the United States in the 1996 selection. There is a term limit of two full terms, established when China cast a record 16 vetoes against Kurt Waldheim's third term in the 1981 selection. No secretary-general since 1981 has attempted to secure a third term.

The selection process is opaque and is often compared to a papal conclave. [6] [7] Since 1981, the Security Council has voted in secret in a series of straw polls; it then submits the winning candidate to the General Assembly for ratification. No candidate has ever been rejected by the General Assembly, and only once, in 1950, has a candidate been voted upon despite a UNSC veto. [8]

In 2016, the General Assembly and the Security Council sought nominations and conducted public debates for the first time. However, the Security Council voted in private and followed the same process as previous selections, leading the president of the General Assembly to complain that it "does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency". [9]

Powers and duties

The role of secretary-general is described as combining the functions and responsibilities of an advocate, diplomat, civil servant, and CEO. [10] The UN Charter designates the secretary-general as the "chief administrative officer" of the UN and allows him to perform "such other functions as are entrusted" by other United Nations organs. The Charter also empowers the secretary-general to inform the Security Council of "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security". These provision has been interpreted as providing broad leeway for officeholders to serve a variety of roles as suited to their preferences, skill set, or the circumstances. [11]

The secretary-general's routine duties include overseeing the activities and duties of the Secretariat; attending sessions with United Nations bodies; consulting with world leaders, government officials, and other stakeholders; and traveling the world to engage with global constituents and bring attention to certain international issues. [10] The secretary-general publishes an annual report on the work of the UN, which includes an assessment of its activities and an outline future priorities. He or she is also Chairman of the United Nations System Chief Executives Board for Coordination (CEB), a body composed of the heads of all UN funds, programmes and specialized agencies, which meets twice a year to discuss substantive and management issues facing the United Nations System. [10]

Many of the secretary-general's powers are informal and left open to individual interpretation; some appointees have opted for more activist roles, while others have been more technocratic or administrative. [11] The SG is often reliant upon the use of his or her "good offices", described as "steps taken publicly and in private, drawing upon his independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading". [10] Consequently, observers have variably described the office as the "world's most visible bully pulpit" or as the "world's moderator". [12] [11] Examples include Dag Hammarskjöld's promotion of an armistice between the warring parties of Arab-Israel conflict, Javier Perez de Cuellar's negotiation of a ceasefire in the Iran-Iraq War, and U Thant's role in de-esalating the Cuban Missile Crisis. [11]

Residence

The official residence of the secretary-general is a townhouse at 3 Sutton Place, Manhattan, in New York City, United States. The townhouse was built for Anne Morgan in 1921, and donated to the United Nations in 1972. [13]

List of secretaries-general

PortraitSecretary-General
(born–died)
Dates in officeCountry of origin UN regional group Reason of withdrawalRef.
Sr. Gladwyn Jebb.jpg Gladwyn Jebb
(1900–1996)
Acting
24 October 1945 –
2 February 1946
Flag of the United Kingdom.svg   Britain Western European & othersServed as Acting Secretary-General until Lie's election. [14]
After World War II, he served as Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in August 1945, being appointed Acting United Nations secretary-general from October 1945 to February 1946 until the appointment of the first secretary-general, Trygve Lie.
1
UtenriksministerTrygveLie.jpg Trygve Lie
(1896–1968)
Trygve Lie Signature.svg
2 February 1946 –
10 November 1952
Flag of Norway.svg  Norway Western European & othersResigned. [15]
Lie, a foreign minister and former labour leader, was recommended by the Soviet Union to fill the post. After the UN involvement in the Korean War, the Soviet Union vetoed Lie's reappointment in 1951. The United States circumvented the Soviet Union's veto and recommended reappointment directly to the General Assembly. Lie was reappointed by a vote of 46 to 5, with eight abstentions. The Soviet Union remained hostile to Lie, and he resigned in 1952. [16]
2
Dag Hammarskjold.jpg Dag Hammarskjöld
(1905–1961)
Sign Dag Hammarskjold.png
10 April 1953 –
18 September 1961
Flag of Sweden.svg  Sweden Western European & others Died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), while on a peacekeeping mission to the Congo. [17]
After a series of candidates were vetoed, Hammarskjöld emerged as an option that was acceptable to the Security Council. He was re-elected unanimously to a second term in 1957. The Soviet Union was angered by Hammarskjöld's leadership of the UN during the Congo Crisis, and suggested that the position of Secretary-General be replaced by a troika, or three-man executive. Facing great opposition from the Western nations, the Soviet Union gave up on its suggestion. Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1961. [16] U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century". [18] Hammarskjöld was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for Peace posthumously.
U Thant at UN press conference.PNG U Thant
(1909–1974)
U Thant Signature.svg
Acting
3 November 1961 –
30 November 1962
Flag of Burma (1948-1974).svg   Myanmar Asia & PacificServed as Acting Secretary-General after Hammarskjöld's death until Thant's election as Secretary-General. [19]
3
30 November 1962 
31 December 1971
Declined to stand for a third election.
In the process of replacing Hammarskjöld, the developing world insisted on a non-European and non-American secretary-general. U Thant was nominated. However, due to opposition from the French (Thant had chaired a committee on Algerian independence) and the Arabs (Myanmar supported Israel), Thant was only appointed for the remainder of Hammarskjöld's term. He was the first Asian secretary-general. The following year, on 30 November, Thant was unanimously re-elected to a full term ending on 3 November 1966. At the General Assembly session on 2 December 1966, Thant was reappointed as Secretary-General by a unanimous vote of the Security Council. His 5-year term ended on 31 December 1971. Thant did not seek a third election. [16]
4
Kurt Waldheim 1971b.jpg Kurt Waldheim
(1918–2007)
Kurt Waldheim Signature.svg
1 January 1972 –
31 December 1981
Flag of Austria.svg  Austria Western European & othersChina vetoed his third term. [20]
Waldheim launched a discreet but effective campaign to become the secretary-general. Despite initial vetoes from China and the United Kingdom, in the third round, Waldheim was selected to become the new secretary-general. In 1976, China initially blocked Waldheim's re-election, but it relented on the second ballot. In 1981, Waldheim's re-election for a third term was blocked by China, which vetoed his selection through 15 rounds; although the official reasons by the Chinese government for the veto of Waldheim remain unclear, some estimates from the time believe it to be in part due to China's belief that a Third World country should give a nomination, particularly from the Americas; [21] however, there also remained the question of his possible involvement in Nazi war crimes. [22] From 1986 to 1992, Waldheim served as President of Austria, making him the first former secretary-general to rise to the position of head of state.[ citation needed ] In 1985, it was revealed that a post-World War II UN War Crimes Commission had labeled Waldheim as a suspected war criminal—based on his involvement with the army of Nazi Germany. The files had been stored in the UN archive. [16]
5
Javier Perez de Cuellar (1982).jpg Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
(1920–2020)
Javier Perez de Cuellar (firma).jpg
1 January 1982 –
31 December 1991
Flag of Peru.svg  Peru Latin American
& Caribbean
Did not stand for a third term. [23]
Pérez de Cuéllar was selected after a five-week deadlock between the re-election of Waldheim and China's candidate, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania. Pérez de Cuéllar, a Peruvian diplomat who a decade earlier had served as President of the UN Security Council during his time as Peruvian Ambassador to the UN, was a compromise candidate, and became the first and thus far only secretary-general from the Americas. He was re-elected unanimously in 1986. [16]
6
Boutros Boutros-Ghali (1980).jpg Boutros Boutros-Ghali
(1922–2016)
Signature of Boutros Boutros-Ghali.svg
1 January 1992 –
31 December 1996
Flag of Egypt.svg  Egypt AfricanThe United States vetoed his second term. [24]
The 102-member Non-Aligned Movement insisted that the next secretary-general come from Africa. With a majority in the General Assembly and the support of China, the Non-Aligned Movement had the votes necessary to block any unfavourable candidate. The Security Council conducted five anonymous straw polls—a first for the council—and Boutros-Ghali emerged with 11 votes on the fifth round. In 1996, the United States vetoed the re-appointment of Boutros-Ghali, claiming he had failed in implementing necessary reforms to the UN. [16]
7
Kofi Annan 2012 (cropped).jpg Kofi Annan
(1938–2018)
Kofi Annan signature.svg
1 January 1997 –
31 December 2006
Flag of Ghana.svg  Ghana AfricanRetired after two full terms. [25]
On 13 December 1996, the Security Council recommended Annan. [26] [27] He was confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly. [28] He started his second term as Secretary-General on 1 January 2002. Kofi Annan and the United Nations were the recipients of the 2001 Nobel Prize for Peace.
8
Ban Ki-moon April 2015.jpg Ban Ki-moon
(born 1944)
Ban Ki Moon Signature.svg
1 January 2007 –
31 December 2016
Flag of Korea (1899).svg   Korea Asia & PacificRetired after two full terms. [29]
Ban became the first East Asian to be selected as the secretary-general and the second Asian overall after U Thant. He was unanimously elected to a second term by the General Assembly on 21 June 2011. His second term began on 1 January 2012. [30] Prior to his selection, he was the Foreign Minister of South Korea from January 2004 to November 2006.
9
Antonio Guterres - 2019 (48132270313) (cropped).jpg António Guterres
(born 1949)
Assinatura Antonio Guterres.svg
1 January 2017 –
present
Flag of Portugal.svg  Portugal Western European & others
Guterres is the first former head of government to become Secretary-General, and the first secretary-general born after the establishment of the United Nations. He was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. He has also been President of Socialist International (1999–2005) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2005–2015).
A map showing which nations have had a national serving as Secretary-General of the United Nations UNSG map.png
A map showing which nations have had a national serving as Secretary-General of the United Nations
World location map (equirectangular 180).svg
Red pog.svg
Lie
Red pog.svg
Ban
Birthplaces of Secretaries-General of the United Nations

Statistics

#Secretary-GeneralDate of birthAge at ascension
(first term)
Time in office
(total)
Age at retirement
(last term)
Date of deathLongevity
actingFlag of the United Kingdom.svg Gladwyn Jebb 25 April 190045 years, 182 days101 days45 years, 283 days24 October 1996
1Flag of Norway.svg Trygve Lie 16 July 189649 years, 201 days6 years, 282 days56 years, 117 days30 December 1968
2Flag of Sweden.svg Dag Hammarskjöld 29 July 190547 years, 255 days8 years, 161 days56 years, 51 days18 September 1961
3Flag of Burma (1948-1974).svg U Thant 22 January 190952 years, 312 days10 years, 31 days62 years, 343 days25 November 1974
4Flag of Austria.svg Kurt Waldheim 21 December 191853 years, 11 days10 years63 years, 10 days14 June 2007
5Flag of Peru.svg Javier Pérez de Cuéllar 19 January 192061 years, 347 days10 years71 years, 346 days4 March 2020
6Flag of Egypt.svg Boutros Boutros-Ghali 14 November 192269 years, 48 days5 years74 years, 47 days16 February 2016
7Flag of Ghana.svg Kofi Annan 8 April 193858 years, 268 days10 years68 years, 267 days18 August 2018
8Flag of Korea (1899).svg Ban Ki-moon 13 June 194462 years, 202 days10 years72 years, 201 daysLiving
9Flag of Portugal.svg António Guterres 30 April 1949IncumbentLiving

By regional group

UN Regional Group Secretaries-GeneralTerms
WEOG 47
Eastern European Group 00
GRULAC 12
Asia-Pacific Group 24
African Group 23

Lifespan timeline

This is a graphical lifespan timeline of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. They are listed in order of office.

António GuterresBan Ki-MoonKofi AnnanBoutros Boutros-GhaliJavier Pérez de CuéllarKurt WaldheimU ThantDag HammarskjöldTrygve LieGladwyn JebbSecretary-General of the United Nations

Living former secretary-general

As of September2020, the one former secretary-general that is alive is Ban Ki-moon. The most recent death of a former secretary-general was that of Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (1982–1991) on 4 March 2020. [31]

See also

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United Nations Secretary-General selection is the process of selecting the next Secretary-General of the United Nations. To be selected as Secretary-General, a candidate must receive the votes of at least 9 members of the United Nations Security Council, with no vetoes from permanent members. The Secretary-General is then appointed by a majority vote of the United Nations General Assembly.

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1991 United Nations Secretary-General selection

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1981 United Nations Secretary-General selection

A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 1981. Kurt Waldheim ran for an unprecedented third full term as Secretary-General, losing to Salim Ahmed Salim by one vote. However, the selection deadlocked through 16 rounds of voting as China vetoed Waldheim and the United States voted against Salim. The Security Council finally settled on a dark horse candidate who stayed home and did not campaign. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar was selected for a term beginning on 1 January 1982, becoming the first Secretary-General from Latin America.

1971 United Nations Secretary-General selection

A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 1971 to succeed U Thant, who was stepping down after two full terms. Three candidates received enough votes in the Security Council to be selected Secretary-General: Carlos Ortiz de Rozas of Argentina, Kurt Waldheim of Austria, and Max Jakobson of Finland. However, all of the frontrunners were vetoed in the first two rounds of voting. In the third round, Waldheim accidentally escaped a triple-veto when three permanent members failed to coordinate their votes and all abstained. As a result, Kurt Waldheim was selected Secretary-General of the United Nations for a term starting 1 January 1972.

1961 United Nations Secretary-General selection

A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 1961 to replace Dag Hammarskjöld after he was killed in a plane crash. After initial Soviet attempts to replace the Secretary-General with a troika, it was agreed that an Acting Secretary-General would be appointed for the remainder of Hammarskjöld's term. Within two weeks, U Thant of Burma emerged as the only candidate who was acceptable to both the Soviet Union and the United States. However, the superpowers spent another four weeks arguing over the number of Assistant Secretaries-General, before finally resolving their dispute by allowing Thant to decide for himself. Thant was then voted in unanimously for a term ending on 10 April 1963.

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