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Intervention by H.E. Marina Kaljurand, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Estonia at the high-level event on “Selecting the next Secretary-General: Opening up the Process”, September 26, 2015


Your Excellency President Solis,

Distinguished representatives of The Elders,

Ministers, Ambassadors,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is truly a pleasure being here today – at the 70th anniversary of this world organization – to discuss the selection process of the next Secretary-General. Estonia together with Costa Rica, Finland and almost 30 other states is a member of the Accountability, Coherence, Transparency group or in short ACT. Since the beginning of this year the group has been actively engaged in calling for increased transparency, inclusiveness and a more rigorous process in selecting the next Secretary-General.

And most certainly ACT is not alone in this call. UN membership as a whole, the wider international community including The Elders and civil society, as well as the media have been calling for opening up the process and establishing concrete criteria for selection. The presence of many UN member states, The Elders, civil society and the media here today is another strong signal.

Before going into a more detailed overview of the current state of play, let me say a few words about the cross-regional ACT group comprising of small and mid-sized countries working to improve the Accountability, Coherence and Transparency of the UN Security Council. Launched in May 2013 and with Switzerland as coordinator, ACT addresses both Council’s internal functioning as well as its relations to the broader UN membership. ACT is offering concrete and pragmatic proposals to help improve the working methods of the Security Council, in dialogue with Council members as well as through building political momentum outside of the Council.

Let me turn now to the achievements so far in making the selection process of the next Secretary-General more transparent. It has been asked whether the change in the process of selecting the next Secretary-General will actually make a difference in the outcome. We believe that just like every society or process benefits from transparency and openness, so does the international system and multilateral organizations. Transparent and inclusive decision making and actions have much bigger potential for the best possible outcome than a concealed process with exclusive participation.

We acknowledge and fully respect the relevant Charter provisions. The principle, according to which the candidatures for the post of Secretary-General of the UN are first discussed within the Security Council and then recommended to General Assembly, should in ACT´s view remain unchanged. 

However, in recent months the negotiations on the revitalization of the General Assembly – with the most prominent part of the resolution dealing with the selection of the next Secretary-General – have already brought a positive change to the process.

The negotiations concluded successfully on 11 September with the consensual adoption of the resolution. I would like to acknowledge the leadership of the co-chairs – Permanent Representatives of Croatia and Namibia to the United Nations in this regard.

In the resolution, for the first time in 70 years, the General Assembly has decided to carry out the selection process of the Secretary-General in a structured manner, beginning with a joint letter from the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council asking for candidates to be submitted. A second step will be the circulation to all Member States of the names of candidates. A provision in the resolution to enable informal dialogues to be conducted with candidates should contribute greatly to improving the selection process.

To ensure the appointment of the best possible candidate, in combination with the mentioned procedural improvements, there are clear and precise qualifications and criteria in the resolution; a provision widely discussed in the past years but for the first time such an extensive and concrete list of qualifications is agreed upon.

ACT had strongly encouraged member states to nominate qualified female candidates and as it is also the view of a large number of other countries outside ACT, by now there is a provision in the resolution which invites member states to consider presenting women as candidates for the position of SG. In our view in making the final decision preference should be given to equally qualified female candidates. Estonia is also member of the group of friends led by Colombia in favour of a woman candidate for Secretary-General.

ACT group is ready to continue discussing all the issues relating to the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General in the coming months. More concretely, we are very much hoping for thorough discussion on the duration of term and the option of a single non-renewable term of 7 years, drawing also from the need to implement provisions from previous resolutions.

In order to implement the resolution adopted on 11 September close cooperation is needed between the General Assembly and the Security Council. Ideally the letter to start the selection process and inviting candidates to be submitted should go out before the end of this year. In that regard we are looking at our good friends from Spain and UK who have the presidencies of the Security Council in October and November respectively. This scenario would leave ample time for the lists of candidates to go out and to organise hearings with them – at the General Assembly as well as in the Security Council. October 2016 could be the possible time for the end-game as it was in the case of the current SG.

Also many practicalities and technicalities need to be worked out – relating to start of the process, list of candidates and the informal meetings with them. But all in all we are definitely on the right path and we are looking forward to a very successful process in finding the best possible candidate to be appointed the next leader of the UN. After all we owe it to the 7 Billion people of this world.

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


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