'It's high time' for a female secretary-general – UN chief

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (Toufik Doudou, AP)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. (Toufik Doudou, AP)

United Nations – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says he would personally like to see a woman lead the United Nations for the first time since it was established more than 70 years ago.

As he nears the end of his second five-year term on December 31, Ban said that "it's high time now" for a female secretary-general after eight men at the helm of the world organisation.

There are currently 11 candidates vying to succeed Ban – six men and five women. But he stressed that the decision isn't up to him – it's up to the 15-member Security Council which must recommend a candidate to the 193-member General Assembly for its approval.

The UN chief was asked about the possibility of a female secretary-general during a trip to California last week.

Sitting onstage in Los Angeles last Wednesday with US Representative Ed Royce, a California Republican who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ban stressed that women comprise half the world's population and should be empowered and "given equal opportunities".

"We have many distinguished and eminent women leaders in national governments or other organisations or even business communities, political communities, and cultural and every aspect of our life," he said a day later in an Associated Press interview. "There's no reason why not in the United Nations."

'Motivated women leaders'

Without giving any names, he said, there are "many distinguished, motivated women leaders who can really change this world, who can actively engage with the other leaders of the world".

"So that's my humble suggestion, but that's up to member states," Ban said in the AP interview last Thursday during a visit to the home of 99-year-old Libba Patterson in Novato where he spent his first days in the United States as an 18-year-old student from South Korea.

He praised the General Assembly for holding the first-ever public hearings for all the candidates seeking to succeed him.

By tradition, the job of secretary-general has rotated among regions of the world. Officials from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Western Europe have all held the world's top diplomatic post. East European nations, including Russia, argue that they have never had a secretary-general and it is their turn.

A group of 56 nations are campaigning for the first female UN chief.

The Security Council has held two informal polls in which 12 candidates participated, and in each the highest-ranked woman was in third place, a disappointment to many. Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres, a former UN refugee chief, topped both polls.

In the first "straw" poll Irina Bokova of Bulgaria, who heads the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, came in third, but in the second she dropped to fifth.

Leading candidates

In the second poll Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who was Ban's former chief of staff, moved up to third. Former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic, who placed last in the first poll, dropped out of the race.

The three other women candidates are New Zealand's former prime minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Program; Christiana Figueres of Costa Rica, the UN official who played a key role in shaping last December's historic agreement to fight climate change; and former Moldovan Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman.

The Security Council has scheduled another "straw" poll on August 29 and at least one, and possibly two, are expected to be held in September.

There is no deadline for nominations and two women mentioned as longshot late entries are German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Kristalina Georgieva, another Bulgarian who is the European Commission's budget chief and a former top World Bank official.

Ban spoke of the qualities he thinks are important for "any secretary-general, he or she".

The prospective secretary-general should have "a clear vision for the world of the future" and "strong integrity and commitment" to make progress toward peace and promote development and human rights, he said, and the ability to tackle seemingly intractable issues through inclusive dialogue and with flexibility.

His successor should also have "strong compassionate and visionary leadership" and be able to articulate the importance of human dignity for vulnerable groups including women and girls, the disabled and "people in homosexual orientations and minority groups," Ban said.

"If not the United Nations, who will take care of those people?," he asked.

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
DAYS
HRS
MINS
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
Yes, immediately!
38% - 3270 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
26% - 2249 votes
No, I don't think they need it
36% - 3155 votes
Vote
ZAR/USD
14.95
(-0.26)
ZAR/GBP
20.85
(-0.13)
ZAR/EUR
18.07
(-0.17)
ZAR/AUD
11.69
(-0.10)
ZAR/JPY
0.14
(-0.10)
Gold
1731.09
(-0.28)
Silver
26.55
(-0.48)
Platinum
1200.00
(+0.32)
Brent Crude
62.54
(-1.55)
Palladium
2361.48
(-0.01)
All Share
68510.75
(+1.44)
Top 40
63104.70
(+1.61)
Financial 15
12568.48
(+0.90)
Industrial 25
89150.72
(+1.21)
Resource 10
70539.82
(+2.28)
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo