posted on Wed 25 May 2016 3:59 PM
Discussion on the Secretary-General Selection Process under “Any Other Business”

This afternoon, Council members will discuss the next steps for the Security Council in the Secretary-General selection process under “any other business” at the request of Egypt. This is the first meeting in consultations regarding the appointment of the next Secretary-General since late last year when members met on the joint letter on the process from the president of the Council and the president of the General Assembly. Council members are expected to take up a number of issues, including whether to meet with candidates nominated for the position, and the timing of the start of the straw polls.

In mid-April, the General Assembly held three days of hearings with the nine candidates who had then been formally nominated, and a second round with later nominees is tentatively scheduled on 7 June. The activity in the General Assembly, and formal requests from two of the candidates to meet with the Council, have prompted Council members to begin informal discussions on the next steps for the Council in the process. There have been a number of meetings among the ten elected members, as well as meetings among smaller groups of Council members who have taken a particular interest in this issue, or who have upcoming presidencies. In addition, it seems that there may have been at least one meeting among the P5.

At the start of the month, permanent representatives exchanged views on this issue during their monthly breakfast to discuss the programme of work, and tasked the political coordinators with coming up with a document on the way forward for the Council. Egypt and Spain produced a paper on informal guidelines for the Secretary-General selection process in the Council, which was discussed at political coordinator level on 18 May. The paper focused on a number of key issues including when the Council might meet with candidates, and when the initial round of straw polls should take place, as well as communication with the wider UN membership and with candidates as the process proceeds. It seems that there had been discussion among a smaller group of members on several other issues, including whether a shortlist of candidates should be created and the modalities for meetings with candidates. However, given differences over these issues, it was decided that it might be best to focus on immediate next steps where there might be some agreement.

At today’s meeting, Council members are expected to take up the main conclusions from the political coordinators 18 May meeting on: communication from the Council to the UN membership on the commencement of the process in the Council; meeting with candidates; and timing of straw polls. Council members are aware that it may be difficult to reach agreement on all three areas, but are hoping that there may be some agreement on announcing the start of the process and how this should be conveyed to the larger UN membership. Members may discuss the idea of using for this the monthly meeting of the president of the Security Council with the president of the General Assembly, a summary of which is circulated to the wider membership as a public document. This was the approach taken in 2006, when following a meeting of the two presidents in April 2006, the General Assembly president briefed the co-chairs of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on the Revitalization of the Work of the General Assembly and subsequently circulated informally a note of his conversation with the president of the Security Council to member states. Another possibility that some members are expected to raise is that of a letter to the president of the General Assembly informing him that the Council has begun the process. Council members will need to come to an agreement on the contents of such a letter, and at this stage it appears that it may be difficult to convey anything substantive.

It seems that there are differing views among Council members regarding meetings with candidates. Keeping in mind the 15 December 2015 joint letter on the selection process which said that the two presidents would make available opportunities for informal dialogues or meetings with the members of their respective bodies, and formal requests from Vesna Pusić (Croatia) and Natalia Gherman (Moldova), some members feel that the Council should meet with candidates who request a meeting, or with all candidates. However, there are others who see such meetings as an unnecessary duplication of the General Assembly hearings, and do not see any need for the Council to meet with the candidates.

On the timing of the straw polls, it seems some members, particularly China and Russia, feel strongly that there is no need to start them any earlier than the end of July, as they argued in discussions regarding the 15 December 2015 joint letter. Other members have pointed out that the joint letter’s statement that the Council will begin its selection process by the end of July 2016 allows for activity before the end of that month.