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Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Secretary-General of the
United Nations

Ban_Ki-moon.jpg (9977 bytes)
Incumbent
Ban Ki-moon

since 1 January 2007
Residence Sutton Place, Manhattan, New York City, USA
Term length Five years, renewable indefinitely
Inaugural holder Gladwyn Jebb
24 October 1945
(Acting)
Trygve Lie
1 February 1946
Formation United Nations Charter,
26 June 1945
Website UN Secretary-General webpage

The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat of the United Nations, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General also acts as the de facto spokesperson and leader of the United Nations.

The current Secretary-General is Ban Ki-moon of South Korea, who took office on 1 January 2007. His first term expired on 31 December 2011. He was re-elected, unopposed, to a second term on 21 June 2011.[1]

The Secretary-General was envisioned by US President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "world moderator," but the office was defined in the UN Charter as the organization's "chief administrative officer" (Article 97). Nevertheless, this more restricted description has not prevented the office holders from speaking out and playing important roles on global issues, to various degrees.

The official residence of the Secretary-General is a five-story townhouse in the Sutton Place, Manhattan, in New York City, United States. The townhouse was built for Anne Morgan in 1921, and donated to the United Nations in 1972.[2]

Term and selection

Dag_Hammarskjold.jpg (12617 bytes)
Dag Hammarskjöld was a particularly active UN Secretary-General from 1953 until his death in 1961. Hammarskjöld acted as a mediator during the Suez Crisis and the 1960 capture of a US reconnaissance plane by the USSR. He also established the first UN peacekeeping force that had been proposed by Canadian Minister of External Affairs, Lester B. Pearson.

Secretaries-General serve for five-year terms that can be renewed indefinitely, although none so far has held office for more than two terms.[3] The United Nations Charter provides for the Secretary-General to be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. As a result, the selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

The UN Charter's terse language has since been supplemented by other procedural rules and also accepted practices. In practice, the Secretary-General cannot be a national of any of the Permanent Members of the Security Council. An accepted practice of regional (continental) rotation has also been adopted in the selection of successive candidates. The ability of candidates to converse in both English and French is also considered an unofficial qualification for the office.

Most Secretaries-General are compromise-candidates from middle powers and with little prior fame. High-profile candidates are often touted for the job, but are almost always rejected as unpalatable to some. For instance, figures like Charles de Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower, and Sir Anthony Eden were considered for the first Secretary-General position, but were rejected in favour of the uncontroversial Norwegian Trygve Lie. Dag Hammarskjöld remains the only Secretary-General to have died in office.

In the early 1960s, Soviet premier Nikita Khrushchev led an effort to abolish the Secretary-General position. The numerical superiority of the Western powers combined with the one state, one vote system meant that the Secretary-General would come from one of them, and would typically be sympathetic towards the West. Khrushchev advanced a proposal to replace the Secretary-General with a three-person leading council (a "troika"): one member from the West, one from the Communist states, and one from the Non-Aligned powers. This idea failed because the neutral powers failed to back the Soviet proposal.[4][5]

Secretaries-General

Note: Alger Hiss was Secretary-General of the United Nations Conference on International Organization, held in April to June 1945.

# Portrait Secretary-General Dates in office Country of origin UN Regional Group Reason of withdrawal Ref.
Gladwyn Jebb 24 October 1945 –
1 February 1946
 United Kingdom Western European & Others Served as Acting Secretary-General until Lie's election
After World War II, he served as Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in August 1945, being appointed Acting United Nations Secretary-General from October 1945 to February 1946 until the appointment of the first Secretary-General Trygve Lie.[6]
1 Trygve Lie 1 February 1946 –
10 November 1952
 Norway Western European & Others Resigned [7]
Lie, a foreign minister and former labour leader, was recommended by the Soviet Union to fill the post. After the UN involvement in the Korean War, the Soviet Union vetoed Lie's reappointment in 1951. The US circumvented the Soviet Union's veto and recommended reappointment directly to the General Assembly. Lie was reappointed by a vote of forty-six to five, with eight abstentions. The Soviet Union remained hostile to Lie, and he resigned in 1952.[8]
2 Dag Hammarskjöld 10 April 1953 –
18 September 1961
 Sweden Western European & Others Died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), while on a peacekeeping mission to the Congo [9]
After a series of candidates were vetoed, Hammarskjöld emerged as an option that was acceptable to the Security Council. Hammarskjöld was re-elected unanimously to a second term in 1957. The Soviet Union was angered by Hammarskjöld's leadership of the UN during the Congo Crisis, and suggested that the position of Secretary-General be replaced by a troika, or three-man executive. Facing great opposition from the Western nations, the Soviet Union gave up on its suggestion. Hammarskjöld was killed in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1961.[8] US President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century."[10]
3 U Thant
30 November 1961 –
31 December 1971
 Burma Asian Declined to be considered for a third term. [11]
In the process of replacing Hammarskjöld, the developing world insisted on a non-European and non-American. U Thant was nominated. However, due to opposition from the French (Thant had chaired a committee on Algerian independence) and the Arabs (Burma was supporting Israel), Thant was only appointed for the remainder of Hammarskjöld's term. Thant was the first Asian Secretary-General. The following year, Thant was unanimously re-elected to a full five-year term. He was similarly re-elected in 1966. Thant did not seek a third term.[8]
4 Kurt Waldheim 1 January 1972 –
31 December 1981
 Austria Western European & Others China vetoed his third term. [12]
Waldheim launched a discreet but effective campaign to become the Secretary-General. Despite initial vetoes from China and the United Kingdom, in the third round Waldheim was selected to become the new Secretary-General. In 1976, China initially blocked Waldheim's re-election, but it relented on the second ballot. In 1981, Waldheim's re-election for a third term was blocked by China, which vetoed his selection through 15 rounds. In the mid 1980s, it was revealed that a post-World War II UN War Crimes Commission had labeled Waldheim as a suspected war criminal – based on his involvement with the Nazi German army. The files had been stored in the UN archive.[8]
5 Javier Pérez de Cuéllar 1 January 1982 –
31 December 1991
 Peru Latin American & Caribbean Refused to be considered for a third term. [13]
Pérez de Cuéllar was selected after a five-week deadlock between the re-election of Waldheim and China's candidate, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania. Pérez de Cuéllar, a Peruvian diplomat, was a compromise candidate, and the first Secretary-General from the Americas. He was re-elected unanimously in 1986.[8]
6 Boutros Boutros-Ghali 1 January 1992 –
31 December 1996
 Egypt African The United States vetoed his second term. [14]
The 102 member Non-Aligned Movement insisted that the next Secretary-General come from Africa. With a majority in the General Assembly and the support of China, the Non-Aligned Movement had the votes necessary to block any unfavourable candidate. The Security Council conducted five anonymous straw polls – a first for the council. Boutros-Ghali emerged with 11 votes on the fifth round. In 1996 the US vetoed the re-appointment of Boutros-Ghali, claiming he had failed in implementing necessary reforms to the UN.[8]
7 Kofi Annan 1 January 1997 –
31 December 2006
 Ghana African Retired after two full terms [15]
On 13 December 1996, the United Nations Security Council recommended Annan.[16][17] Confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly,[18] he started his first term as Secretary-General on 1 January 1997.
8 Ban Ki-moon 1 January 2007–
present
 South Korea Asia-Pacific Incumbent [19]
Ban became the second Asian to be selected as the Secretary-General. He was unanimously elected to a second term by the General Assembly on 21 June 2011. His second term began on 1 January 2012.[20] Prior to his selection, he was the Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea from January 2004 to November 2006.