Hiring! UN seeks women candidates for top job

In its first open elections, the United Nations calls for nominations of women for the office of secretary-general while promising equal opportunity to all

United Nations: The election process for the next UN secretary-general that could see a woman ascend to the leadership of the world body has been launched with the promise of openness and universal involvement. Assembly president Mogens Lykettoft and Council president Samantha Power on Tuesday called for nominations of women for the office with the assurance of an unprecedented open, democratic process that could erode the the P-5’s secretive, firm control of the election.

The United Nations General Assembly. Pic/Getty Images
The United Nations General Assembly. Pic/Getty Images

For the first time in the UN’s history, members will be directly involved in the election of its head. "Convinced of the need to guarantee equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, member-states are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates for the position of secretary-general," Lykettoft and Power wrote in a joint letter to all the UN members. "We note the regional diversity in the selection of previous secretaries-general."

Pressing for female boss
Several organisations and leaders have been lobbying for a woman head. They said they "will offer candidates opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members" of the Council and Assembly. This sets up a campaign system reflective of the elections in democracies. Lykettoft noted that there were strong sentiments for having a woman as the secretary-general and also for someone from East Europe, but said the decision was up to the members.

Man’s world
All the eight secretaries-general in the UN’s 70-year history have been men selected in backroom deals by the permanent members of the Council and rubber-stamped by the Assembly to fulfill the Charter’s requirement. Current security-general Ban Ki-moon’s second term concludes at the end of 2016 and the election will be held in the second half of the year.

India supported reform

India has advocated the open process that has been introduced following an Assembly resolution this year. “The secretary-general is often unfortunately perceived to be a secretary vis-a-vis the Security Council and a General vis-a-vis the General Assembly” because the official is beholden to the Council, India’s representative Asoke Kumar Mukerji said. “This perception has to be reversed.”

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