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Intervention by H.E. Väino Reinart, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia at the high-level event on “New Secretary-General: Transformed Process, Transforming the UN?”

21.09.2016

Wednesday, 21 September 2016, 1:15 pm – 2:30 pm
Conference Room 3, UNHQ


Your Excellency President Solis,
Foreign Minister Soini,
Distinguished representatives of The Elders,
Ministers, Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a pleasure being here today, a year after the previous successful event on the same topic. We are glad that since then a lot has changed in transparency and inclusiveness of the Secretary-General selection process. Estonia, together with Costa Rica and Finland is a member of the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency group or in short ACT. The cross-regional group, comprised of 25 members, has been for more than two years actively engaged in calling for a more rigorous process in selecting the next Secretary-General.

In our view, which is definitely shared by many others, the General Assembly process so far has been truly encouraging. Specifically, I would like to point out the successful hearings, which for the first time allow all members of the organization as well as a global audience to assess candidates. It is a proof of Member States’ dedication to the vision laid out by the UN Preparatory Commission in 1945: that “the Secretary-General, more than anyone else, will stand for the UN as a whole”.

By now we have entered the most decisive phase of the selection process and Estonia would like to see it successfully concluded. Throughout the implementation of the General Assembly resolution 69/321 we have seen closely the importance of effective and substantiated communication between the Security Council and the wider membership. In this regard, we regret to see that the overall change of the process has not brought with it a further updated approach by the Security Council and the General Assembly has not been kept informed of the results of the straw polls. We once again call upon the Security Council to live up to the expectations of the general membership concerning the new standard of openness.

Furthermore, Estonia is convinced that the General Assembly should continue playing its rightful role foreseen for it under the Charter, including its prerogative to draft the final resolution for the appointment of the Secretary-General. This resolution could include, for example, relevant Charter provisions and General Assembly´s expectations of the next Secretary-General.

The ACT group has been advocating for the Secretary-General to exercise independence in the selection of senior officials, as well as adhering to the highest standards and efficiency in these appointments. This provision could as well be added in the appointment resolution in line with the Charter and the oath taken by the Secretary-General.

We would also like to see the General Assembly taking an informed decision in the appointment resolution to determine the length and renewability of the term in office of the Secretary-General. There are definitely many valid arguments pro and contra appointing the Secretary-General for a single non-renewable term. Estonia – after having weighed both sides of the arguments thoroughly – believes that the Secretary-General should serve for a single non-renewable term in order to enhance the independence of the office holder.

Additional elements in the appointment resolution could deal with questions related to gender and regional representation. The General Assembly could, for example, express its expectation of having gender balance between the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary General so that they both would not be female or male. The General Assembly could also add a provision in the resolution on equitable regional representation of having the incoming and incumbent Secretary-Generals from different regional groups.   
 
Overall, Estonia continues to advocate for the best qualified person, emerging out of a fair and transparent selection process, to be appointed by the General Assembly as the next Secretary-General. The historic appointment process will definitely have an impact also on the whole institution of the Secretary-General.

We were told by some early on in envisioning change in the selection process that we are pursuing the impossible. Now we know that thanks to the joint action and commitment of the UN membership as a whole, the wider international community including The Elders and civil society, as well as the media, achievements have been ground-breaking after 70 years. Now let us choose the best leader for our organisation.

Thank you very much and looking forward to an interesting discussion.
 

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