U.N. Secretary-General

By Sherry Zhang

The United Nations, an international peace-keeping organization, established after World War II, is governed by the Secretary-General, who is described as the “chief administrative officer” in the U.N. Charter. The responsibilities of the Secretary-General include being the public face of the organization and giving directions to the different agencies of the U.N.. The term length of the Secretary-General position is five years; furthermore, there is no limit to the number of times an individual can be elected into office. However, none have held office for more than two terms. 

In order to become the Secretary-General of the United Nations, one must be elected by the General Assembly, on the recommendation of the Security Council. The president of the U.N. General Assembly and the members of the Security Council expect Secretary-General candidates to “be presented with proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations, and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills.” Essentially, the United Nations expects candidates to have experience with foreign politics. However, individuals may still announce their candidacy even without experience. They would just face difficulty gaining the approval of the Security Council. 

Interestingly enough, for the next term, a young 34-year-old woman of Indian origin and Canadian nationality, Arora Akanksha announced her candidacy for the Secretary-General spot, despite having no diplomatic experience and no country formally endorsing her candidacy. Additionally, even if Akanksha were to be nominated by the Security Council, she would need to face off the incumbent: António Guterres. A veteran in diplomacy, Guterres, the current U.N. Secretary-General serving from January 2017 to December 2021, is the former prime minister of Portugal and former U.N. Commissioner for refugees. Regarding the position of Secretary-General, Guterres seeks a second term. 

While many people support the first millennial-born candidate, those involved with the U.N. describe Akanksha as naive and believe that she has no chance for the Secretary-General position. Edward Mortimer, a former U.N. official and the chief writer for former Secretary-General Koffi-Annan, shares, “I’m sure she has no chance, and equally sure that she knows that. It’s a brave way of demonstrating unhappiness which I’ve no doubt is quite widely shared by her colleagues.” Nonetheless, despite many older U.N. members doubting her abilities, Akanksha, who has received a myriad of support from her co-workers and around 2,600 votes on her campaign website, plans to make her case to the U.N. ambassadors in the next few months.