United Nations Secretary-General selection, 2016

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António Guterres meeting with Iranian Interior Minister 01.jpg
Irina Bokova UNESCO.jpg
Nominee António Guterres Irina Bokova Vuk Jeremić
Country  Portugal  Bulgaria  Serbia
Votes to encourage
13 / 15
7 / 15
7 / 15
P5 votes to discourage
0 / 5
2 / 5
3 / 5
Miroslav Lajcak 2014 (11981540724).jpg
Helen Clark official photo (cropped).jpg
Nominee Miroslav Lajčák Helen Clark
Country  Slovakia  New Zealand
Votes to encourage
7 / 15
6 / 15
P5 votes to discourage
2 / 5
3 / 5

Secretary General before election

Ban Ki-Moon

Elected Secretary General

António Guterres

A United Nations Secretary-General selection was held in October 2016 to choose the ninth secretary-general of the United Nations to succeed Ban Ki-moon from 1 January 2017. Six straw polls were held in the Security Council from 21 July 2016 to 5 October 2016. António Guterres of Portugal led the polling in every round, finishing the last round with 13 'encourage' votes, 0 'discourage' votes, and 2 abstentions.[1] On 6 October 2016, the Security Council unanimously recommended Guterres to the General Assembly,[2] which formally selected him by acclamation on 13 October 2016.[3]

The 2016 selection was much more open than previous selections, with public nominations being sought and candidates participating in televised debates. Women and Eastern Europeans were favoured, as no woman had ever served as secretary-general, and the Eastern European Group was the only one of the UN Regional Groups never to have held the office.[4] However, the two campaigns offset each other, and the selection was won by the only candidate who was neither female nor from Eastern Europe.


See also: United Nations Secretary-General selection

Article 97 of the United Nations Charter, states "The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council". As a result, the selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.[5] The Charter's minimal language has since been supplemented by other procedural rules and accepted practices.[6]

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon would be completing his second term on 31 December 2016, after which he would step down due to the informal two-term limit. Under the principle of regional rotation, candidates from Asia were ineligible to succeed Ban. The Eastern European Group was favored in the 2016 selection, as it was the only one of the United Nations Regional Groups never to have held the office of secretary-general, however tensions between Russia and the three Western European permanent members over the conflict in Ukraine raised the possibility of deadlock over an Eastern European nominee.[7] As a result, the 2016 selection was the most diverse since 1981. Candidates from three regional groups were considered for the position: the Eastern European Group, the Western European and Others Group, and the Latin American and Caribbean Group.

No woman has ever been selected as secretary-general, and thus in December 2015, General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and Security Council President Samantha Power wrote a joint letter to all member states, encouraging them to nominate female candidates as well as men.[6][8] Equality Now launched a campaign to elect a female Secretary-General with the title "Time for a Woman: United Nations—it’s been over 70 years, elect a female Secretary-General".[9] Seven female candidates were nominated in 2016, more than in any previous selection.[10]


Historically, the process of selecting a secretary-general has been so secretive that it has been compared to a papal conclave.[11][7] Diplomats advanced their own candidacies by lobbying members of the Security Council. Straw polls were taken by secret ballot in the Security Council consultation room, and the voting results were not revealed publicly. All reported information came in the form of leaks.[4]

There has been criticism of the opacity of the process. Writing in Singapore's Straits Times, Simon Chesterman has argued that, for an organisation as important as the United Nations, "having its leader chosen by the lowest common denominator of what the P5 finds acceptable is not good enough".[12] NGOs such as the 1 for 7 Billion campaign and The Elders also favored a more transparent process.

The Security Council and General Assembly took steps to make the selection process more transparent and open in 2016. General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft and Security Council President Samantha Power sent out a joint letter soliciting candidates from member countries.[13][14] Candidates also participated in televised debates, where they answered questions about their goals.[15]

When the Security Council met to conduct its first straw poll, it voted in private, as it had done in all selections since 1981. The President of the General Assembly was officially informed that a straw poll had been taken, but the results of the poll were not disclosed. Lykketoft realized that "the outcome of this and future informal straw polls will not be communicated" and complained that it "does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency".[16] All further straw polls were also taken in private.


At the time of the final straw poll on 5 October 2016, there were ten candidates for the post. Portugal's former Prime Minister and former United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres led in all six straw polls. Deputy Speaker of the Croatian Parliament Vesna Pusić withdrew on 4 August after the first straw poll, in which she came in last position with 11 "discourage" votes, followed by the withdrawal of Montenegro's Foreign Affairs Minister Igor Lukšić on 24 August and the withdrawal of Christiana Figueres on 12 September. Kristalina Georgieva entered the race on 28 September; although the Prime Minister of Bulgaria nominated Kristalina Georgieva as its new sole candidate for the secretary-general's position, the decision to withdraw from the race can only be done by the candidates; therefore, Irina Bokova decided to continue in the race, leaving Bulgaria with two candidates.[17][18]

Official candidates

Official candidates[19]
Image Name Prior experience Nominator Nominated Regional group Endorsements
Irina Bokova UNESCO.jpg
Irina Bokova Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria (1996–1997)
Director-General of UNESCO (2009–present)

(Support withdrawn[17])

11 February 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)
Helen Clark official photo (cropped).jpg
Helen Clark Prime Minister of New Zealand (1999–2008)
Administrator of the United Nations Development Programme (2009–present)
 New Zealand 5 April 2016 Western European and Others Group (WEOG)
Kristalina Georgieva (cropped).jpg
Kristalina Georgieva European Commissioner for International Cooperation, Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Response (2010–2014)
European Commissioner for the Budget and Human Resources (2014–present)
 Bulgaria 28 September 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)
Natalia Gherman Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of Moldova (2013–2016)
Acting Prime Minister of Moldova (2015)
 Moldova 19 February 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)
António Guterres - 2019 (48132270313) (cropped).jpg
António Guterres Prime Minister of Portugal (1995–2002)
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2005–2015)
 Portugal 29 February 2016 Western European and Others Group (WEOG)  Cape Verde[20][21]
 East Timor[24]
Vuk Jeremić Minister of Foreign Affairs of Serbia (2007–2012)
President of the United Nations General Assembly (2012–2013)
 Serbia 12 April 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)
Srgjan Kerim.jpg
Srgjan Kerim Minister of Foreign Affairs of Macedonia (2000–2001)
President of the United Nations General Assembly (2007–2008)
 FYR Macedonia 30 December 2015 Eastern European Group (EEG)
Miroslav Lajcak 2014 (11981540724).jpg
Miroslav Lajčák High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina (2007–2009)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia (2009–2010; 2012–present)
 Slovakia 25 May 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)
Susana Malcorra (cropped).jpg
Susana Malcorra Undersecretary General of the United Nations for Field Support (2008–2012)
Chef de Cabinet of the United Nations Secretariat (2012–2015)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Argentina (2015–2017)
 Argentina 23 May 2016 Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)
Danilo Türk 2011.jpg
Danilo Türk Slovenian Ambassador to the United Nations (1991–2000)
Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations for Political Affairs (2000–2005)
President of Slovenia (2007–2012)
 Slovenia 9 February 2016 Eastern European Group (EEG)

Withdrawn candidates

Withdrawn candidates
Image Name Prior experience Nominator Nominated Withdrawn Regional group
V pusic.jpg
Vesna Pusić Minister of Foreign and European Affairs of Croatia (2011–2016)  Croatia 14 January 2016 4 August 2016[25][26] Eastern European Group (EEG)
Luksic portrait.jpg
Igor Lukšić Prime Minister of Montenegro (2010–2012)
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Montenegro (2012–present)
 Montenegro 15 January 2016 23 August 2016[27][28] Eastern European Group (EEG)
Christiana Figueres Bonn Climate Change Conference May 2012 crop.jpg
Christiana Figueres Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010–2016)  Costa Rica 7 July 2016 12 September 2016[29][30] Latin American and Caribbean Group (GRULAC)

Candidates who failed to be nominated

In July 2016, it was revealed that former Labor Prime Minister of Australia Kevin Rudd asked the Government of Australia (then a government of the Liberal/National Coalition) to nominate him for secretary-general in April 2016.[31][32][33] At its meeting on 28 July, the Cabinet was divided on his suitability for the role and, on that basis, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull decided to decline the request the next day; since nomination by the Australian government was considered a necessary prerequisite for candidacy, Turnbull's decision essentially ended Rudd's campaign;[34] Rudd later confirmed as much.[35][36][37]

Security Council straw polls

Results of all straw polls per candidate
Results of all straw polls per candidate

The Security Council held a series of six straw polls in the consultation room. Security Council members were asked to indicate whether they "encouraged", "discouraged" or had "no opinion" regarding the candidates.[38][39] The initial five straw polls took place on 21 July, 5 August, 29 August, 9 September, and 26 September.[40][41]

During the sixth straw poll, the five permanent members voted on red-coloured ballots to reveal whether any of them intended to veto a candidate, while the rotating members voted on white ballots. Since António Guterres was the only candidate who received the necessary nine encouraged votes and had no discouraged votes from permanent members, Guterres was declared by the Security Council as the "clear favourite".[42]

United Nations Secretary-General selection straw poll results
Candidate 21 July[43][44] 5 August[45][46] 29 August[47][48] 9 September[49][50] 26 September[50][51] 5 October[1][52] Final Vote[53][54]
Bulgaria Irina Bokova 9 4 2 7 7 1 7 5 3 7 5 3 6 7 2 7 (3P) 7 (2P) 1 Withdrawn
New Zealand Helen Clark 8 5 2 6 8 1 6 8 1 6 7 2 6 9 0 6 (1P) 8 (3P) 1 (1P) Withdrawn
Costa Rica Christiana Figueres 5 5 5 5 8 2 2 12 1 5 10 0 Withdrawn[55]
Bulgaria Kristalina Georgieva Not yet nominated 5 (2P) 8 (2P) 2 (1P) Withdrawn
Moldova Natalia Gherman 4 4 7 3 10 2 2 12 1 3 11 1 3 11 1 3 (1P) 11 (3P) 1 (1P) Withdrawn
Portugal António Guterres 12 0 3 11 2 2 11 3 1 12 2 1 12 2 1 13 (4P) 0 2 (1P) Acclaimed
Serbia Vuk Jeremić 9 5 1 8 4 3 7 5 3 9 4 2 8 6 1 7 (2P) 6 (3P) 2 Withdrawn
North Macedonia Srgjan Kerim 9 5 1 6 7 2 6 7 2 8 7 0 6 9 0 5 (2P) 9 (3P) 1 Withdrawn
Slovakia Miroslav Lajčák 7 3 5 2 6 7 9 5 1 10 4 1 8 7 0 7 (2P) 6 (2P) 2 (1P) Withdrawn
Montenegro Igor Lukšić 3 7 5 2 9 4 Withdrawn[56]
Argentina Susana Malcorra 7 4 4 8 6 1 7 7 1 7 7 1 7 7 1 5 (2P) 7 (1P) 3 (2P) Withdrawn
Croatia Vesna Pusić 2 11 2 Withdrawn[57]
Slovenia Danilo Türk 11 2 2 7 5 3 5 6 4 7 6 2 7 7 1 5 (1P) 8 (4P) 2 Withdrawn
Candidate received at least one "encouraged" from a veto-wielding P5 member
Candidate received at least one "discouraged" from a veto-wielding P5 member

Official nomination and appointment

On 6 October 2016, the Security Council voted by acclamation to recommend António Guterres in Security Council Resolution 2311.[2][53] On 13 October 2016, the seventy-first session of the United Nations General Assembly ratified the Security Council's choice by acclamation, formally appointing Guterres as the next Secretary-General for a five-year term beginning on 1 January 2017.[3]


  1. ^ a b World Federation of United Nations Associations [@WFUNA] (5 October 2016). "Full results of the sixth and final #NextSG strawpoll. Formal result tomorrow. (P5 voting intentions excluded)" (Tweet). Retrieved 5 October 2016 – via Twitter.
  2. ^ a b "United Nations Official Document".
  3. ^ a b "António Guterres appointed next UN Secretary-General by acclamation". 13 October 2016.
  4. ^ a b "The most powerful diplomat of the world—Will an Eastern European Woman be the next UN Secretary General?". Association of Foreign Affairs. 12 April 2016. Archived from the original on 15 February 2017. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  5. ^ Chesterman, Simon (2007). "Introduction". In Chesterman, Simon (ed.). Secretary or General? The UN Secretary-General in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. p. 7.
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  8. ^ Tony Fleming (15 December 2015). "Joint Letter Officially Released". Global Memo via UNO. Retrieved 15 October 2016. Online version: [1]
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  10. ^ The next UN secretary-general: 7 women to consider, Devex, 5 January 2016.
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  12. ^ Chesterman, Simon (27 June 2015). "Who wants to rule the world?". Straits Times. Retrieved 7 August 2016..
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  15. ^ "United Nations begins informal briefings to select next Secretary-General". UN News Center. 12 April 2016. Retrieved 15 October 2016.
  16. ^ "Letter from Mogens Lykketoft to All Permanent Representatives and Permanent Observers to the United Nations, 21 July 2016" (PDF). 21 July 2016.
  17. ^ a b "Next Secretary General selection: nomination of new candidate of Bulgaria" (PDF).
  18. ^ Bokova, Irina [@IrinaForUN] (28 September 2016). "Grateful to you all who support me and fully committed to continue the race for #NextSG! @She4SG" (Tweet). Retrieved 30 September 2016 – via Twitter. |link = no }
  19. ^ "Procedure of Selecting and Appointing the next UN Secretary-General". UN. 4 January 2016. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
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  21. ^ "Cabo Verde apoia candidatura de António Guterres ao cargo de secretário-geral da ONU" [Cape Verde endorses António Guterres' for the position of UN Secretary-General]. A Bola. 17 June 2016. Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 29 August 2016.
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  23. ^ Martins, António; Escoto, Pedro (18 April 2016). "França anunciou que vai apoiar Guterres na corrida a secretário-geral da ONU" [France announced endorsement of Guterres in UN Secretary-General race]. RTP Notícias. RTP. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  24. ^ "Timor apoia candidatura de Guterres à ONU" [Timor endorses Guterres' candidacy for UN]. Expresso. Lusa. 21 April 2016. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  25. ^ "Vesna Pusić odustaje od kandidature za glavnu tajnicu Ujedinjenih naroda". 4 August 2016.
  26. ^ Withdrawal of candidature of Vesna Pusić, 4 August 2016
  27. ^ "El montenegrino Igor Luksic abandonó la carrera para suceder a Ban Ki-moon".
  28. ^ Withdrawal of candidature of Igor Lukšić, 23 August 2016
  29. ^ Figures, Christiana [@CFiguere] (12 September 2016). "1/2 Deeply grateful for support received in so many ways," (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  30. ^ Withdrawal of candidature of Christiana Figueres, 13 September 2016
  31. ^ Anderson, Stephanie (18 July 2016). "Julie Bishop confirms Kevin Rudd seeking nomination for UN Secretary-General election". ABC News. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
  32. ^ Hunter, Fergus (18 July 2016). "Nominate me: Kevin Rudd seeks government support to be United Nations boss". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 18 July 2016.
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  36. ^ Rudd, Kevin [@MrKRudd] (29 July 2016). "My thanks also to Australian Foreign Minister Bishop and her ministerial colleagues for their support for UNSG. Unfortunately PM disagreed" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 July 2016 – via Twitter.
  37. ^ Rudd, Kevin [@MrKRudd] (29 July 2016). "So there won't be an Australian candidate for UN Sec Gen.I wish all other candidates well. Future of the United Nations important for us all" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 July 2016 – via Twitter.
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  44. ^ Lee, Matthew Russell (21 July 2016). "On Next SG Straw Poll, Results & Questions of Dual Nationalities, Exclusive". Inner City Press. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  45. ^ Abi Saab, Nabil [@NabilAbiSaab] (5 August 2016). "1/2 Results of 2nd round of voting on next #UNSG: (Yes, No, no opinion) Guterres 11,2,2 Jeremic 8,4,3 Malcorra 8,6,1 Turk 7,5,3 Clark 6,8,1" (Tweet). Retrieved 5 August 2016 – via Twitter.
  46. ^ Abi Saab, Nabil [@NabilAbiSaab] (5 August 2016). "2/2 Figueres 5,8,2 Kerim 6, 7, 2 Luksic 2,9,4 Bokova 7,7,1 Gherman 3,10,2 Lajcak 2,6,7" (Tweet). Retrieved 5 August 2016 – via Twitter.
  47. ^ World Federation of United Nations Associations [@WFUNA] (29 August 2016). "As part of our commitment to Transparency and Accountability, here are full results of the 3rd #NextSG Straw Poll:" (Tweet). Retrieved 29 August 2016 – via Twitter.
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  52. ^ Sengupta, Somini (5 October 2016). "Security Council Backs António Guterres to Be Next U.N. Secretary General". The New York Times. Retrieved 5 October 2016.
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Further reading