UN chief hopefuls face tough questions in historic 'open selection process'

United Nations: As the usually-secret process to select the next Secretary-General opened up for the first time in UN's 70-year history, the nine candidates subjected themselves to tough questioning, including from India, over their credentials to lead the world body.

The candidates answered a total of 800 questions from the member-states and the public on how, if selected, they would lead the powerful world body.

It was the first time candidates seeking to become the UN Secretary General were questioned by member-states on their vision and plan of action - "a game changing process" aimed at increasing transparency in the selection of the UN chief.

United Nations. File photo. Reuters

United Nations. File photo. Reuters

"We have established a new standard of transparency and inclusivity for the appointment process, but it has the potential also to influence the final outcome of the selection of the Secretary-General," UNGA President Mogens Lykketoft said at the conclusion of the unprecedented public dialogue.

Starting last Tuesday, each candidate was given a two-hour televised and webcast time-slot. Prior to opening up the floor for questions, candidates gave short oral presentations – their "vision statements" – addressing challenges and opportunities facing the UN and the next Secretary-General.

Almost every country out of the 193 UN member-states took part in asking questions during the dialogue, Lykketoft said.

"We never had that frank and substantial discussion about the future of the UN as the one we got during these informal dialogues," he said.

"We've talked about the virtues, we've talked about the flaws of the UN, and the candidates have presented a lot of interesting views on how to do things ever better," he said.

He added that these past three days were just a part of the "process of transparency" and he hopes they will help generate discussions about the selection of the UN chief.

India's Permanent Representative to UN Ambassador Syed Akbaruddin, speaking on behalf of the G-4 nations of Brazil, Japan, Germany and India, questioned former prime minister of Portugal Antonio Guterres and ex-Macedonian Foreign Minister Srgjan Kerim during the open briefings last week on how they intend to speed up the Security Council reform process.

Speaking in his personal capacity, he questioned them on terrorism saying the UN's "counter-terrorism" architecture is "dispersed" and member-states "don't have even one contact point to turn to if we have to address issues of counter terrorism".

India has been pressing for early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT), a long-pending legal framework which would make it binding for all countries to deny space to terror groups.

Akbaruddin asked the candidates how they will ensure CCIT will be made the "rule-making" exercise to counter the global scourge.

Guterres, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said that the General Assembly had in 2005 supported the early reform of the Council but added that the member states will have to work together to ensure reforms are achieved without further delay.

On terrorism, he said the UN was able to approve a strategy on terrorism but has so far not been able to approve an "international convention on terrorism. That is why we lack some key instruments" in tackling terrorism.

He said he will work closely with the General Assembly and Security Council to see "how we can find mechanisms to be more effective in addressing not only the needs to fight terrorism but the ways to avoid some of the mechanisms terrorists utilises in today's global society".

Kerim said that it must be ensured that the more than one billion people who follow the Islamic faith are not offended by insisting that there is Islamic terrorism.

He said progress on UNSC reforms can be made only if there is "readiness" for change among the members states to implement the reforms. He stressed that there has to be "consensus" on amending the charter for the UNSC reforms.

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Updated Date: Apr 18, 2016 17:03:41 IST

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