of the United Nations
|United Nations Secretariat|
|Member of|| Secretariat |
|Residence||Sutton Place, Manhattan|
|Seat||United Nations Headquarters, New York City, United States|
|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)
as first Secretary-General (2 February 1946)
|Formation||24 October 1945|
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.
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.
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.
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. 5 although no woman has yet served as secretary-general. All appointees to date have been career diplomats.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, :
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.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.
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".
The role of secretary-general is described as combining the functions and responsibilities of an advocate, diplomat, civil servant, and CEO.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.
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.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.
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.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". Consequently, observers have variably described the office as the "world's most visible bully pulpit" or as the "world's moderator". 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.
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.
|Dates in office||Country of origin||UN regional group||Reason of withdrawal||Ref.|
| Gladwyn Jebb |
24 October 1945 –
2 February 1946
|Western European & others||Served as Acting Secretary-General until Lie's election.|
|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.|
| Trygve Lie |
|2 February 1946 –|
10 November 1952
|Western European & others||Resigned.|
|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.|
| Dag Hammarskjöld |
|10 April 1953 –|
18 September 1961
|Western European & others||Died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), while on a peacekeeping mission to the Congo.|
|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. U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century". Hammarskjöld was awarded the 1961 Nobel Prize for Peace posthumously.|
| U Thant |
3 November 1961 –
30 November 1962
|Asia & Pacific||Served as Acting Secretary-General after Hammarskjöld's death until Thant's election as Secretary-General.|
|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.|
| Kurt Waldheim |
|1 January 1972 –|
31 December 1981
|Western European & others||China vetoed his third term.|
|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; however, there also remained the question of his possible involvement in Nazi war crimes. 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.|
| Javier Pérez de Cuéllar |
|1 January 1982 –|
31 December 1991
|Did not stand for a third term.|
|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.|
| Boutros Boutros-Ghali |
|1 January 1992 –|
31 December 1996
|African||The United States vetoed his second term.|
|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.|
| Kofi Annan |
|1 January 1997 –|
31 December 2006
|African||Retired after two full terms.|
|On 13 December 1996, the Security Council recommended Annan. He was confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly. 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.|
| Ban Ki-moon |
|1 January 2007 –|
31 December 2016
|Asia & Pacific||Retired after two full terms.|
|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. Prior to his selection, he was the Foreign Minister of South Korea from January 2004 to November 2006.|
| António Guterres |
|1 January 2017 –|
|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).|
|#||Secretary-General||Date of birth||Age at ascension|
|Time in office|
|Age at retirement|
|Date of death||Longevity|
|acting||25 April 1900||45 years, 182 days||101 days||45 years, 283 days||24 October 1996||96 years, 182 days|
|1||16 July 1896||49 years, 201 days||6 years, 282 days||56 years, 117 days||30 December 1968||72 years, 167 days|
|2||29 July 1905||47 years, 255 days||8 years, 161 days||56 years, 51 days||18 September 1961||56 years, 51 days|
|3||22 January 1909||52 years, 312 days||10 years, 31 days||62 years, 343 days||25 November 1974||65 years, 307 days|
|4||21 December 1918||53 years, 11 days||10 years||63 years, 10 days||14 June 2007||88 years, 175 days|
|5||19 January 1920||61 years, 347 days||10 years||71 years, 346 days||4 March 2020||100 years, 45 days|
|6||14 November 1922||69 years, 48 days||5 years||74 years, 47 days||16 February 2016||93 years, 94 days|
|7||8 April 1938||58 years, 268 days||10 years||68 years, 267 days||18 August 2018||80 years, 132 days|
|8||13 June 1944||62 years, 202 days||10 years||72 years, 201 days||Living||76 years, 107 days (Living)|
|9||30 April 1949||67 years, 246 days||3 years, 271 days (Ongoing)||Incumbent||Living||71 years, 151 days (Living)|
|UN Regional Group||Secretaries-General||Terms|
|Eastern European Group||0||0|
This is a graphical lifespan timeline of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. They are listed in order of office.
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.
Kofi Atta Annan was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.
The United Nations Secretariat is one of the six major organs of the United Nations, with the others being (a) the General Assembly; (b) the Security Council; (c) the Economic and Social Council; (d) the defunct Trusteeship Council; and (e) the International Court of Justice. The Secretariat is the United Nations' executive arm. The Secretariat has an important role in setting the agenda for the deliberative and decision-making bodies of the UN, and the implementation of the decision of these bodies. The Secretary-General, who is appointed by the General Assembly, is the head of the secretariat.
Dag Hjalmar Agne Carl Hammarskjöld was a Swedish economist and diplomat who served as the second Secretary-General of the United Nations. Hammarskjöld still remains the youngest person to have held the post, being only 47 years old when he was appointed in 1953. His second term was cut short when he died in the crash of his DC-6 airplane in Northern Rhodesia while en route to cease-fire negotiations during the Congo Crisis. He, with Erik Axel Karlfeldt and Ralph Steinman, is one of three people to be awarded a Nobel Prize posthumously and the only one to be awarded the Peace Prize posthumously.
Javier Felipe Ricardo Pérez de Cuéllar y de la Guerra was a Peruvian diplomat and politician who served as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1, 1982 to December 31, 1991. He ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori for President of Peru in 1995 and following Fujimori's resignation over corruption charges, he was Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 2000 until July 2001. In September 2004, he stepped down from his position as Peru's Ambassador to France, where he formerly resided. He was also a member of the Club de Madrid, a group of more than 100 former Presidents and Prime Ministers of democratic countries, which works to strengthen democracy worldwide. At the age of 100 years, 45 days, at the time of his death in March 2020 Pérez de Cuéllar was both the oldest living former Peruvian prime minister and Secretary General of the United Nations.
Álvaro de Soto y Polar is a Peruvian diplomat. He ended a 25-year career with the United Nations in May 2007.
Salim Ahmed Salim is a Tanzanian politician and diplomat who has worked in the international diplomatic arena since the early 1960s.
Igor Korchilov is a top-level Russian-English conference interpreter who worked with Mikhail Gorbachev from 1987 to 1990, a period that covered the Cold War era.
Sir Marrack Goulding KCMG was a British diplomat who served more than eleven years as Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.
A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 2006 to succeed Kofi Annan, whose second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations ran until 31 December 2006. Seven candidates were officially nominated for the position.
Stephan Mögle-Stadel, born 21 December 1965, is a German educator, journalist and book writer.
The Dag Hammarskjöld Medal is a posthumous award given by the United Nations (UN) to military personnel, police, or civilians who lose their lives while serving in a United Nations peacekeeping operation. The medal is named after Dag Hammarskjöld, the second Secretary-General of the United Nations, who died in a plane crash in what is now Zambia in September 1961.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1121, adopted unanimously on 22 July 1997, after recalling that the maintenance of international peace and security was one of the main purposes of the United Nations, the Council established the Dag Hammarskjöld Medal, named after the second Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld, awarded posthumously to United Nations peacekeepers.
United Nations Security Council resolution 1090, adopted without a vote at a closed meeting on 13 December 1996, having considered the question of the recommendation for the appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Kofi Annan be appointed for a term of office from 1 January 1997, to 31 December 2001.
Virendra Dayal is a retired Indian Administrative Service officer and United Nations civil servant who served as Chef de Cabinet to Secretary General of the United Nations for more than a decade. He has served as the director of the Office of Special Political Affairs of the United Nations and as the special envoy who probed the allegations levelled against a number of India politicians including Natwar Singh, a former Minister of External affairs, in the Paul Volcker Committee report of 2005. A former Indian Administrative Service officer and a Rhodes Scholar of 1956 Dayal sat on the National Human Rights Commission of India as a member for two terms from 1998 to 2006. The Government of India awarded him the third highest civilian honour of the Padma Bhushan, in 1992, for his contributions to society.
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.
A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 1996 at the end of Boutros Boutros-Ghali's first term. Boutros-Ghali ran unopposed for a second term and received the support of 14 of the 15 members of the United Nations Security Council. However, the United States vetoed his re-selection and eventually forced him to withdraw his candidacy.
A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in 1991 to replace Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, whose second term would end on 31 December 1991. Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt was selected for a term ending on 31 December 1996, becoming the first Secretary-General from Africa.
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.
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.
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.
With a figurative puff of white smoke, the United Nations Security Council finally selected a new Secretary-General – a seasoned and soft-spoken diplomat from Peru, Javier Perez de Cuellar.