Research Report

Posted 30 June 2016
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Appointing the UN Secretary-General: The Challenge for the Security Council

This is Security Council Report’s research report, Appointing the UN Secretary-General: The Challenge for the Security Council. To view the full report, please download the PDF.


On 16 October 2015, Security Council Report published a report on “Appointing the UN Secretary-General”. It provided background on the history of the process and procedure, and on proposals for change. It also described developments since the selection of Secretary-General Ban Kimoon in 2006 and relevant Security Council discussion up to early October.

In this report, we examine the major developments that have occurred since October 2015 in both the General Assembly and the Security Council. A formal nomination process has been instituted; the details and vision statements of the 11 candidates nominated by the time of writing have been made publicly available; and they have all participated in webcast interactive dialogue sessions with the full UN membership. The Council has agreed to meet candidates at their request, has had informal meetings with two candidates and expects to meet others in the near future.

The Council has discussed the timing and procedure for straw polls—its informal procedure for testing the viability of candidatures—and has decided to hold its first straw poll on 21 July. This report traces the evolution of straw polls and provides answers to some commonly-asked questions about straw polls and formal ballots informed by past practice.

The report goes on to highlight some of the key issues for the Council in the appointment of the Secretary-General and provides analysis of current Council dynamics regarding the process.

We have used UN documents; other published material, including autobiographies of former Secretaries-General and participants; and research interviews with individuals involved in the process in the past. We try to provide an accurate picture of the procedure and details of the past selections, but the highly secretive nature of this process has made it difficult to verify some historical information.

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