Who Will Succeed Ban Ki-moon at the United Nations? by YoungDiplomats

 As Ban Ki-moon’s current tenure comes to a close in 2016, January sees the start of the marathon campaign for the selection of a new UN Secretary-General. After months of anticipation, the UN General Assembly has now circulated a joint letter to all member states inviting nominations for the position detailing the qualities and requirements needed to lead the UN.

The UN convention of regional rotation means that, international politics permitting, the next Secretary-General should come from Eastern Europe. Pressure from advocacy groups such as ‘1 for 7 billion’ and ‘SheUnited’ as well as the Colombian-led initiative pushing for a woman Secretary General appear to have found fertile ground in the General Assembly and Security Council.

All potential candidates will undergo thorough and vigorous vetting from member states, and must somehow transcend regional and international political hurdles. They will also likely face hearings in the UN General Assembly. The next UNSG faces challenges both new and old, and each candidate will take the opportunity to articulate their vision for the organization and the global challenges that urgently need to be addressed under their leadership.

Emerging threats such as increased international terrorism and deepening religious intolerance are now recognized as destabilizing issues alongside more established issues of climate change, poverty and inequality, and the long overdue institutional reform of the UN itself.

The Leading Eastern European Candidates

Several leading candidates are already in the rumor mill, but what has been lacking until now is a comprehensive analysis of each individual’s attributes and suitability for the role.  Having never held the position of UNSG, which like all senior UN posts is supposed to be rotated among the regions, Eastern Europe is now long overdue the opportunity to get this prestigious role. We examined the leading nominated and potential candidates from the region, and assessed their suitability for the position.

The likely leading candidates from within the region will include, in alphabetical order, Irina Bokova, Bulgaria’s former Foreign Minister and current UNESCO Director-General; European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Kristalina Georgieva; former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić; the former Macedonian Minister of Foreign Affairs SrgjanKerim; Special Representative and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan JánKubiš from Slovakia; Miroslav Lajčák, his successor as Slovakia’s Foreign Minister; Igor Lukšić, the former Prime Minister and current Foreign Minister of Montenegro; Croatia’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Vesna Pusić; and Danilo Türk, the former President of Slovenia.

Criteria & Methodology


The following criteria were examined, which we reclassified in three sets, the first pertaining in a sense to professional skills, the second to political acceptance, and the third to public acceptance at a time when the UN wants to modernize its image:

  • UN and diplomatic-related experience
    • proven leadership;
    • managerial ability;
    • extensive international relations experience;
    • diplomatic and communications skills;
    • experience in the United Nations;
    • diplomatic record;
    • linguistic ability
  • Acceptability within UN system
    • acceptability to the five Permanent Members of the Security Council
    • likely to gain support from the Eastern European region as a whole
    • likely to gain domestic support
  • Acceptability to global public opinion at a time of key UN transformation
    • understanding and sensitivity to multicultural issues
    • gender

We examined the criteria and compared the candidates, assigning a mark between 1 for a poor score and 5 for an excellent score for each candidate in each criterion. Based on their experience and capabilities, an average score from each equally weighted criterion is assigned to every candidate with the exception of gender. In light of recent momentum for a woman SG, gender will have a significant impact on the scoring. In this matter however, giving only a full mark of 1 for men or 5 for women would have led to disproportionate effects even if it was only one of twelve parameters; thus we keep it as a sort of “dummy variable”: 2 vs. 4. Proven leadership and managerial abilities are seen as fundamental requirements, as are extensive international and diplomatic experience. An ability to converse easily in many of the official UN languages is a significant positive for any candidate, and any previous UN institutional experience will strengthen a candidate’s case. The final candidate must also be politically acceptable to the permanent members of the Security Council whilst bridging divisions in Eastern Europe’s regional politics.

The current head of UNESCO, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova appears by far the strongest candidate from Eastern Europe.

A second group of candidates is led by Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, and includes the Croatian Vesna Pusić, Miroslav Lajčák, and Ján Kubiš equally of Slovakia, Macedonia’s Srgjan Kerim, and the Montenegrin Igor Lukšić. They and all enjoy strong reputations and solid profiles.

Our analysis reveals that the two weakest candidates by far are the Bulgarian European Commissioner for Budget and Human Resources Kristalina Georgieva and Serbia’s former Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremić,  Neither of them has a serious chance of succeeding Ban Ki-moon.

Irina Bokova , Bulgaria’s former Foreign Minister and current UNESCO Director-General and Danilo Turk, the former President of Slovenia, seems to be the only two viable options for replacing Ban Ki Moon in a near future.

David Allouches writes for www.young-diplomats.com