Secretary-General of the United Nations

Secretary-General of the United Nations

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the "de facto" spokesperson and leader of the United Nations.

The current Secretary-General is Ban Ki-moon of South Korea who took office on January 1 2007. His first term will expire on December 31 2011 and he will be eligible for reappointment.


The Secretary-General was envisioned by Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "world moderator," but the office was defined in the UN Charter as the organization's "chief administrative officer" (Article 97). Nevertheless, this more restricted description has not prevented the office holders from speaking out and playing important roles on global issues, to various degrees.

The official residence of the Secretary-General is a five-story townhouse in the Sutton Place neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. The townhouse was built for Anne Morgan in 1921, and donated to the United Nations in 1972. [Teltsch, kathleen. [ "Town House Offered to U. N."] , "The New York Times", July 15, 1972. Accessed December 27, 2007.]

Term and selection

Secretaries-General serve for renewable five-year terms; most have served two terms. The Charter provides for the Secretary-General to be appointed by the General Assembly upon the nomination of the Security Council. Therefore, the selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

The U.N. Charter's terse language has since been supplemented by other procedural rules and also accepted practices. In practice, the Secretary-General cannot be a national of any of the Permanent Members of the Security Council. An accepted practice of regional (continental) rotation has also been adopted in the selection of successive candidates. The ability of candidates to converse in both English and French is also considered an unofficial qualification for the office.

No one from the NATO alliance has ever been chosen, nor has anyone from the Warsaw Pact, or a former Warsaw Pact country ever been chosen.

Most Secretaries-General are compromise-candidates from middle powers and with little prior fame. High-profile candidates are often touted for the job, but are almost always rejected as unpalatable to some. For instance, figures like Charles de Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, and Sir Anthony Eden were considered for the first Secretary-General position, but were rejected in favor of the uncontroversial Norwegian Trygve Lie. Due to international politics and the mechanicisms of political compromise, there are many similarities between the process and ideals for selecting the Secretary-General and those of selecting leading figures in other international organizations, such as the the election of Popes in the Roman Catholic Church, or the Premier of the former Soviet Union.

Only one Secretary-General, the second one, Dag Hammarskjöld, has died in office - killed in an airplane crash in Africa.

In the early 1960s, Soviet ruler Nikita Khrushchev led an effort to abolish the Secretary-General position. The numerical superiority of the Western powers combined with the one state, one vote system meant that the Secretary-General would come from one of them, and would typically be sympathetic towards the West. Khrushchev advanced a proposal to replace the Secretary-General with a three-person leading council (a "troika"): one member from the West, one from the Communist states, and one from the Non-Aligned powers. This idea failed because the neutral powers failed to back the Soviet proposal.


Note: Alger Hiss was Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held in April to June 1945.

ee also

* Reform of the United Nations
* UN General Assembly
* UN Security Council
* Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
* UN Economic and Social Council
* UN Trusteeship Council
* UN Secretariat
* International Court of Justice
* United Nations System
* Global democracy
* Mundialization
* Presidential election
* League of Nations
* World government
* World presidentialism


External links

* [ U.N. Secretary-General webpage]
** [ Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General]
** [ How is the Secretary-General appointed?]
* [ Global Policy Forum - UN Secretary-General]
* [ Report on the process of appointing a new Secretary-General]
* [] - a campaign for a more democratic selection process

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