On December 31, 2016, Ban Ki Moon will end his term as UN Secretary General. As the UN General Assembly begins vetting candidates to replace him in the coming months, it has a historic opportunity to elect the first female Secretary General.

Position Description and Application Process

The UN General Secretary is the UN’s main decision-maker and top authority. Since 1945, elected officials from around the globe have served 5-year terms as Secretary General. He or she is responsible for setting decision-making agendas, acting as the official UN spokesperson, overseeing annual reports, and advising the UN Security Council.

The UN General Assembly and Security Council are responsible for selecting the Secretary General. Candidates submit letters and vision statements to both bodies announcing their desire for candidacy. Both bodies invite the candidates to closed-door discussions about their qualifications and agendas. The Security Council then sends a short-list of recommendation to the General Assembly, which must then elect a candidate by a two-thirds majority.

A Female Secretary General?

The current election could be historic in two ways. First, the overwhelming majority of the 11 current candidates are from Eastern Europe, the only region of the world that has not produced a Secretary General. Second, both UN bodies released declarations encouraging women to seek candidacy. Five of the 11 candidates are women.

There are several highly qualified candidates. Bulgaria’s Irina Bokovo, Moldova’s Natalia Gherman, and Slovenia’s Danilo Turk are just a few of the several well-respected and experienced officials seeking the office.

The future Secretary General faces many challenges such as UN peacekeeper sexual assault scandals, Paris climate agreements implementation efforts, and the worldwide refugee crises. The General Assembly has the ultimate responsibility to elect the candidate who can best tackle these issues in the next five years.

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About the Author
Lacey Bruske is a graduate from the George Washington University’s MA program in International Affairs. She hails from Portland, Oregon. Prior to attending GWU, she worked at the Department of Justice as an advocate for women who were victims of sex trafficking crimes and a legal assistant on drug trafficking crimes. She graduated from Utrecht University’s University College Roosevelt in Middelburg, The Netherlands with a B.A. in International Law and Foreign Relations. Her travels have taken her throughout Europe, but she hopes to broaden her scope to South America soon. Her academic interests include organized crime and trafficking of weapons, drugs and people.