University of Oxford expert on Slovak FM Lajcak’s candidacy for the next UN SecGen

An email interwiew with Sam DawsDirector, Project on UN Governance and Reform, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford.

1. It is the Easter European turn. But it is unofficial. So do you think that the UNSC will respect this rotation or not, and why, do the have any incentives to respect this?

There has never been a Secretary-General from the Eastern Europe UN grouping, and it is likely that the UNSC will support such a candidate if Russia and the US, two of the key permanent members of the Council, can agree on someone. Otherwise it is likely that the search will be widened to Latin America, which last held the Secretary-Generalship 25 years ago.

2. Many of the candidates are former govermental officials. Is it in an advantage or disadvantage that FM Lajcak is current foreign minister?

It is definitely an advantage for a post-holder to have held high office since the job of UN Secretary-General has been elevated in status in recent times. Ironically the raised status of the role was partly because of the successful tenure of Kofi Annan, who was a lifetime career civil servant at the UN, and never stood for elected office in his home country of Ghana.

3. FM Lajcak was very active on the Balkans solving conflicts. Is it something that could be his biggest advantage?

It is valuable for the UN Secretary-General to have experience of conflict resolution or of resolving disputes between States in a multilateral setting, given the responsibilities of the Secretary-General under the UN Charter.

4. Couple of candidates are working or have been working in the UN structures. In the past usually the UN SecGen was selected from people outside of the UN structures. Do you think it could the case also this time or it is maybe not so important?

The advantage of having worked inside the UN system is that the next Secretary-General will be able to “hit the ground running” – it took Ban Ki-moon a number of years to fully understand the system. The best combination is someone with direct experience of the UN system, but who has also served in high office in their own country so that they thus have experience of inter-State relations from the member state perspective as well.

5. Some countries are pushing for woman being the next UN SecGen, others want more transparency in the process of selection, everybody is talking about the reforms inside the UN and every P5 member has also an own agenda. Is it even possible to please everybody or maybe candidates also have, let’s say, to show some guts and being themeselves, pushing for own visions?

There is certainly a strong sense that after 8 men in a row, it is a time for a female Secretary-General – and there are many women who are admirably qualified for the role – such as Susana Malcorra of Argentina. Thus male candidates need to particularly stand out from the crowd this time round – either through being particularly articulate or having a vision that can capture both the hearts and minds of the members of the Security Council, and the wider international community.

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