1 for 7 Billion campaign launch: action demanded from world leaders

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UNA-UK, along with NGO partners, has launched a global campaign to improve the opaque and outdated process to select the UN Secretary-General.  

The 1 for 7 Billion campaign is a growing coalition of NGOs and individuals from across the world calling for an open, fair and inclusive process to select the best possible candidate for Secretary-General of the UN. 

Campaign partners include Avaaz, Amnesty International, CIVICUS, Equality Now, FEMNET, Forum Asia, Third World Network, Women’s Environment and Development Organization and the World Federation of UN Associations.

The first strand of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign is a letter, endorsed by our NGO partners, sent to all UN Member States calling for an end to the secret deals and horse-trading that see five countries hold sway over an appointment that affects all the world’s people.

The letter points out that the appointment process has barely changed during the past 70 years. At present:

  • There is no timetable, no set of formal criteria and no proper scrutiny of candidates
  • The Security Council decides on the candidate in secret and produces just one name for the rest of the UN’s membership to rubberstamp
  • Each of the five permanent members (P5) can veto any candidate.
  • The current state of P5 relationships could result in a race to the bottom for the lowest-common denominator candidate
  • Backroom deals are not uncommon. States seek promises from candidates on other senior UN appointments
  • To date, no woman has ever held the post or been seriously considered for it

The process falls far short of the UN’s own standards and ideals, current practice at other international organisations and basic recruitment standards. Without reform, it risks undermining the credibility of the UN at a time when it is needed more than ever.

At the 1 for 7 Billion campaign, we are calling for:

  • A process that aims to produce the best possible candidate
  • Formal selection criteria that reflect best practice in equality and diversity
  • Greater transparency, including a clear timetable and official shortlist
  • Open sessions that enable all states, and other stakeholders, to interact with nominees and have input in the process
  • Candidates to submit vision statements and to undertake not to make promises on specific appointments prior to their confirmation
  • More than one candidate to be put forward by the Security Council
  • A single term of office to help the Secretary-General pursue longer-term aims without the disruption of re-election campaigning

Change at the UN does not happen overnight. Last time, reform efforts began far too late in the process. That is why 1 for 7 Billion has been launched now, in time to influence the next appointment, due in 2016.

UNA-UK is a founding member of the 1 for 7 Billion campaign and is on the campaign's steering committee.

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