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16 February 2006

U.S. Wants Strong Manager To Lead United Nations

Search beginning for secretary-general

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- In selecting the next secretary-general of the United Nations, the United States wants someone with extensive management experience, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton says.

Kofi Annan's second term as secretary-general will end December 31, and the search for his successor, as well as campaigning for the job, already has begun.

Bolton, who is president of the Security Council for February, has begun consultations with the other 14 members on how the secretary-general selection process should begin.  The ambassador has said in several press interviews that he would like to see the selection completed by September to allow the incoming secretary-general a transition period.

The U.N. Charter provides little help on how the organization's leader should be selected.  It says simply that the secretary-general "shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council."  With the selection process being initiated in the Security Council, the successful candidate needs the approval of all five permanent members of the Security Council -- China, France, Russia, United Kingdom and the United States -- which have veto power in the council.

Talking with journalists after the traditional monthly Security Council lunch with the secretary-general February 16, Bolton said that council members "believe that the selection of the next secretary-general is probably the most important decision we have to make this year as a membership."

"Obviously the secretary-general has to have political skills, but the [U.S.] view is that the management question is far and away the most important qualification," the ambassador said.

The United States feels that the next secretary-general "should be somebody who has extensive experience in management, particularly somebody who might be able to lead a major reform effort on a range of activities at the U.N. both on the management side, procurement, budgeting, personnel, and on the substantive side as well," Bolton continued. (See related article.)

The United States has made no decision on which candidates to support, he added.

While identifying the secretary-general as the chief administrative officer, the U.N. Charter also gives him the responsibility of bringing to the attention of the Security Council "any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."  But no criteria or qualifications are mentioned.

With the lack of guidelines some traditions have developed over the years, including one that sets out a principle of geographic rotation.  Some diplomats say that means the next secretary-general should be from Asia.  Another agreement is that no secretary-general should come from one of the five Security Council permanent member nations, often referred to as the "P-5."

Bolton adheres to the so called P-5 convention, describing the unwritten rule that has existed since the beginning of the United Nations:  The P-5 serve on all standing bodies of the United Nations that they want to serve on, in exchange for the P-5 never seeking chairmanship of any bodies or a citizen of those countries standing for election as secretary-general.

Bolton said that he does not accept the principle of geographic rotation, but the "P-5 convention" is "near and dear to my heart."

"It is our view that we should pick the best qualified person, whatever region of the world that person comes from," he said.

"In fact, if you look at the evidence there is no principle of geographic rotation in actual practice.  There are five regional groups at the U.N. . . . Western Europe has had three secretaries general, Latin America has had one, Africa has had two, Asia has had one, and the Eastern European group hasn't had one at all."

If there were geographic rotation, Bolton pointed out, "surely fairness dictates that before one group goes to two, another group at least gets one."

If there is geographic rotation, Bolton asked journalists, "do you believe in gender rotation?"

"There never has been a woman secretary-general," the ambassador said.  "If the best qualified person is a woman, we'll be pleased to support her."

Previous secretaries-general include:  Trygvie Lie of Norway (1946-1952); Dag Hammarskjold of Sweden (1953-1961); U Thant of Burma (1961-1971; Kurt Waldheim of Austria (1972-1981); Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru (1982-1991) and Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt (1992-1996).  Annan of Ghana began his first tem in 1997.

For additional information see United States and U.N. Reform.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

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