For three days, UN ambassadors subjected candidates for the Secretary-General position to an uncommon publicized question and answer session.
The choice which will take place on January 1 2017 by the 5 permanent member states will see only one of the candidates emerge the successor of the current Secretary-General, Ban Ki-Moon.
For some three days, the aspirants have taken turns selling their brands, speaking on what they want UN to be and why they should be voted.
A lot of the contenders tip-toed around delicate/sensitive topics such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, they talked about other global concerns such as the sexual abuse of nationals by UN peacekeepers, climate change, refugees. They all seemed passionate about holding abusive UN peacekeepers accountable for the atrocities committed, most who spoke on climate change promised to implement effective measures to tackle climate change.
The contenders are;
Irina Bokova (63, Bulgaria), first female Director-General of UNESCO.
Helen Clark (66, New Zealand), former Prime Minister of New Zealand.
Natalia Gherman (47, Moldova), Foreign Minister of Moldova.
António Guterres (66, Portugal) U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees from 2005 to 2015.
Danilo Türk ( 64, Slovenia) Slovenian President 2007-2012.
Srgjan Kerim (67, Macedonia), former Foreign Minister of Macedonia.
Igor Luksic (39, Montenegro), Prime Minister of Montenegro 2010-2012 and current Foreign Minister.
Vesna Pusic (63, Croatia) Foreign Minister of Croatia from 2011 to January.
This is the first time such a public hearing has taken place. Probably propelled by the social media age, the candidates spoke by turns in the Trusteeship council and the event was streamed live.
Usually the race for the position of Secretary-General is done behind closed doors until the big five made their choice.
Feeling elated over the new development, president of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft said to reporters, “It has already made a difference…we have established a new standard of transparency and inclusivity for the selection of the secretary-general.”
The sessions were quite long as some candidates spoke for more than hour. For three days, they answered about 800 questions, with three important themes emerging from the discussion; gender parity, a more effective United Nations, and the need for a “strong” Secretary-General.
The candidates, especially the men promised gender parity and promotion of Planet 50-50. The need for a “strong” Secretary-General connoted the idea of one who is truly independent of the 5 permanent members and able to stand his/her ground. Critics however warn that the permanent members of the security council are unlikely to pick one who is a threat to their political ambitions.
On the contrary, Mr Lykketoft believes the publicizing of the hearing will put a pressure on the permanent member states to pick one the public is in favor of.