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Ziua Națională a României sărbătorită de oficialii ONU

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Misiunea Permanentă a României pe lângă Organizația Națiunilor Unite a organizat la New York o recepție cu ocazia Zilei Naționale a României. Alături de Ambasadorul României la ONU, Ion Jinga, la eveniment au fost prezenți și Secretarul general al ONU, Ban Ki-moon, precum și Președintele Adunării Generale a ONU, Peter Thomson.

“Ar trebui să fiți foarte mândri că mulți români lucrează la ONU în multe domenii diferite”, a spus Secretarul general al ONU. Totodată, referindu-se la activitatea E.S. Dr. Ion Jinga, Reprezentantul Permanent al României la ONU – New York, Ban Ki-moon a precizat că acesta este “unul dintre cei mai activi și vizibili ambasadori ai comunității diplomatice de la ONU.”

Peter Thompson, Președintele Adunării Generale a ONU s-a referit în alocuțiunea sa nivelul remarcabil al profesionalismului diplomaților români de-a lungul celor 61 de ani de activitate a României în cadrul organizației, precizând ca înaltul calibru al reprezentantului permanent actual al României a determinat numirea sa în funcția de co-președinte al negocierilor interguvernamentale pentru reforma Consiliului de Securitate al ONU.

La recepție a fost difuzat și documentarul video “Tărâmul dintre ape”.

Video AGERPRESS:

 

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Addressing Large Movements Of Refugees And Migrants

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Thoughts by Dr Ion Jinga Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 16.09.2016. 

On 19 September, the United Nations will host a high-level summit to address large movements of refugees and migrants, with the aim to better coordinate the international response to this challenge that has reached a global dimension.

“Since earliest times, humanity has been on the move.” These are the opening words of “The New York Declaration for Refugees and Migrants” to be adopted next week. Indeed, migration was present all throughout the history of humankind. Humans always moved from the places where they started living, or they settled for shorter or longer periods of time, driven by hunger, by the cold or the floods, by invasions of other more powerful groups, or by fear of persecution.

In recent decades, people also migrate to experience different types of school and university education, for cultural exchanges or a better professional accomplishment. Migrations were blamed for having brought destruction of illustrious civilizations and Empires – like the Persian, the Roman or the Maya – but in other circumstances they were the engine of development of strong and rich countries, and what better example than the history of the American continent.
This phenomenon has reached now unprecedented levels: 244 million international migrants in 2015, with 65 million people forcibly displaced from their homes – more than at any time since the end of the Second World War (more than 40 million displaced people within countries, over 21 million refugees and 3 million asylum seekers). Last year almost one million refugees crossed the Mediterranean Sea to Europe, while 3,500 died at sea. Only last week, thirteen thousand migrants and refugees dropped on the Italian shores. There are 400 refugee camps in the world. Without proper means to resolve its causes, it is to be expected that every migration wave will outrank the previous one.

The basic root-causes of such large movements can be found in conflicts, terrorism, human rights violations, poverty, growing inequalities, poor governance, climate change, environmental disasters. Many people move for a combination of these factors. Currently, 1.5 billion persons live in countries affected by violent conflict. The stabilization of conflict zones is therefore a prerequisite to bringing to an end the flow of refugees and to creating the premises for a safe return of individuals to their countries of origin. At the same time, a World Bank report released in 2016 found that water scarcity exacerbated by climate change can generate waves of migration, violence and conflicts within countries.

Romania contributes to alleviate the refugee situation by hosting, already since 2008, the Emergency Transit Center for Refugees in the city of Timisoara which, at the time of its establishment, was the first such facility in the world. Based on the principles of solidarity and shared responsibility, we are also part of the European Union efforts to relocate individuals who arrived in Europe in need of international protection. Additionally, Romania increased its financial contribution to UNHCR and the World Food Program. Many other countries do the same. But no State can manage such movements on its own. The large scale refugee crisis calls for a global approach and requires global solutions. We need a renewed multilateralism, and the best place for it is the United Nations.

The UN undertook a series of initiatives in 2016: the conference on the Syria humanitarian crisis in London (February), the Resettlement Plus conference in Geneva (March), the World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul (May), and the High-Level Summit on managing large movements of migrants and refugees in New York, which will be the biggest issue at the gathering of world leaders at the United Nations next week.

This Summit is expected to be a historical landmark for creating a more responsible and predictable system to address the root causes of large movements of refugees, the positive contributions of migrants and the international cooperation on this issue, as well as to shape a comprehensive refugee response framework and a global compact for safe, regular and orderly migration. It will also tackle the vulnerabilities of refugees and migrants on their journeys from the countries of origin to the countries of arrival.

There are separate legal definitions for “refugees” and “migrants”. Refugees are persons who are outside their country of origin for reasons of persecution, violence or conflict, and they require international protection. International migrants are persons who change their country of residence, irrespective of the reason for migration or legal status. However, refugees and migrants have the same universal human rights and, as stated in the UN documents prepared for the Summit, “they face many common challenges and have similar vulnerabilities,” which may suggest that the boundaries between these groups are blurred.

65 years ago, the UN adopted the Convention related to the Status of Refugees, to protect refugees after the Second World War. Today again, the international community has to take up its responsibility to protect people on the move and find long-term solutions both for refugees and migrants, as well as for their societies. The New York Declaration mentions that “our challenge is above all moral and humanitarian”, therefore such solutions have to be inspired by the essence of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development: “to leave no one behind”. In doing so, we must keep in mind that the immigration has to be tackled first at source, that we need to develop a worldwide culture of peace and non-violence, and that this is not a task only for governments, but also for civil society organizations, the business community, refugees and migrants alike. At the same time, there is a need for more empathy with refugees and migrants. The UN is a reflection of the world as it is, and as we want it to be. We must step up with responsibility sharing, not with responsibility shifting.

Ensuring That No One Is Left Behind: A View on an Inclusive World in 2030

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Dr Ion Jinga HeadshotThoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, posted in Huffington Post on 25/07/2016.

Motto: “We can redream this world and make the dream come real. Human beings are gods hidden from themselves”. Ben Okri, The Famished Road (winning novel of The Man Booker Prize in 1991)

Between 11 and 20 July 2016, the UN Headquarters in New York hosted the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF), under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). HLPF is the most inclusive and participatory forum at the United Nations, bringing all UN States Members and of specialized agencies together.

Its theme was generous and challenging: “Ensuring that no one is left behind”. Being the first HLPF meeting after the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, the expectations for political guidance were high and generated vivid discussions among Member States – a proof that the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are taken very seriously. The Forum included voluntary reviews of 22 countries, 20 sessions, several general debates and thematic reviews of progress on the SDGs, cross-cutting issues and reviews by the ECOSOC functional commissions and other inter-governmental bodies, as well as a Ministerial Declaration.

The concept of inclusion is at the core of the 2030 Agenda. Inclusive societies are those that do not discriminate irrespective of age, sex, disability, race, ethnicity, origin, religion, and economic or other status. Several SDGs are directly related to “inclusiveness”: Goal 4 (quality education), Goal 8 (sustainable economic growth), Goal 9 (sustainable industrialization), Goal 11 (sustainable cities and human settlements), and Goal 16 (peaceful and inclusive societies). I would add to this list Goal 10 (reduce inequalities within and among countries), because inclusion cannot be defined outside of the national social context, and social inequality cannot be separated from economic inequality.

Having the privilege to be a panelist in the session devoted to envisioning an inclusive world in 2030, and to present Romania’s priority actions in the HLPF ministerial segment, I had a first-hand confirmation of the complexity and interdependency of this topic. Progress has been made in the last decades in eradicating extreme poverty and hunger, but this has been accompanied by widening inequalities within and among countries, undermining the principle of ensuring that no one is left behind. To correct this, effective policies should ensure that growth is inclusive, sustained and equitable, and that the economies are at the service of all people, and not focused exclusively on promoting economic growth.

Time and time again, we have heard that the 2030 Agenda can realize the principle of leaving no one behind. Yet, its implementation depends heavily on ensuring that inclusive institutions exist at the local, national, regional and global levels. A strong national ownership and leadership of the 2030 Agenda is of a critical importance.

In Romania, this is conducted on five key priority actions: First, a mapping exercise of existing national policy frameworks is undergoing, in order to identify gaps and challenges towards localizing the SDGs at national level. Second, as sustainable development requires a government and cross-sectoral approach, an inter-ministerial committee responsible with the SDGs implementation was created.

Third, the Government commitment is vital but insufficient on its own, and therefore we need broad coalitions and partnerships around the SDGs. Civil society, business community, academia and media have to be convinced to join their efforts in raising awareness, planning, implementing and monitoring progress. National parliaments can also be powerful agents of change, bringing the SDGs to the attention of the public – the Romanian Parliament adopted in April a comprehensive declaration on the SDGs, the first of its kind, and co-hosted, together with International Parliamentary Union, a regional seminar on the 2030 Agenda.

Fourth, promoting peaceful and democratic societies based on the rule of law and respect of human rights is an essential pillar of the new development agenda. And fifth, the access to financial resources. Money exists, we only have to reorient our economies towards sustainable development and to recalibrate the interaction between the social pillar with the economic and environmental dimensions.

The Ministerial Declaration adopted by the HLPF begins with: “We, the Ministers and high representatives, having met at United Nations Headquarters in New York, pledge that no one will be left behind in implementing the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development”.
In the fight against poverty and for achieving prosperity for all there may be alternative ways forward – some already tested, some to be discovered. As the Nigerian writer Ben Okri wrote in his poem A New Dream for Politics: “There’s always a new way, a better way that’s not been tried before.”

Solutions may be alternative, but their outcome must be unique: achieving sustainable development and inclusive societies for all by 2030. This outcome lies now in our hands.

 

There Is Life After Brexit

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Dr Ion Jinga HeadshotThoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 05/07/2016.

The result of the UK referendum on the European Union membership came as a shock to Europe and the World. As someone who lived for twelve years in Brussels and for eight years in the United Kingdom, I am familiar with the perceptions from both sides of the English Channel.

During my stay in Britain, I discussed the EU-UK relationship with many people who were having different professions and political preferences, and the conclusion was that after referendum the UK will remain in the EU. I started to doubt about this outcome two months ago, when I noticed that the pro-European campaign was marked by fear messages which emphasized the negative consequences of Brexit, rather than by positive messages about the mutual advantages of continuing as a part of the European Union.

Fear messages sometimes generate the opposite reaction than the expected one. Canadian friends in New York told me that a similar phenomenon was visible during the 1995 referendum for the independence of the province of Quebec: the more the adverse consequences for Quebec in the case of leaving Canada were emphasized, the more the support for the pro-independence party was increasing, and this factor contributed to the very close result (50.58% of votes were in favor of remaining in Canada).

The European Union was created in 1993 by the Treaty of Maastricht, but the legal procedure to withdraw from the Union was formally introduced only in 2009, by the Treaty of Lisbon (article 50 of the EU Treaty). Being mentioned in the Treaty, such an option is accepted as possible for Member States.

Brexit has no precedent in the EU history, still there were two withdrawals from its precursor, the European Economic Community (EEC), which was created in 1957. The first case refers to Algeria, which in 1957 was, legally speaking, part of the French Republic and therefore the Treaty of Rome applied to it (see article 227 paragraph 2 of the Treaty). Algeria lost this statute once it declared its independence in 1962. The second example is Greenland, which acceded to the EEC in 1973, as part of the Danish Realm. In 1979, Greenland was granted independence from Denmark and in 1982 they held a referendum regarding continuing membership in the EEC. The result was negative and, after two years of negotiations, Greenland left the EEC in 1985.

The differences between these examples and Brexit are huge, because the scale of integration of the EU Member States is in 2016 much more complex and profound than it was in 1962 or 1985, and the United Kingdom is an economic and financial superpower.

The British referendum generated a new situation both for the EU and the UK, whose consequences could not to be fully determined at this moment. Through its history, culture, traditions and shared values, the United Kingdom belongs to Europe, and it needs Europe as much as Europe needs the UK. There are thousands of common interests which link continental Europe to Great Britain. Therefore, this challenge needs to be approached « sine ira et studio » (without anger or bias).

This was also the message sent by the US Secretary of State John Kerry, during his recent visit to London and Brussels: “It is critical as we go forward in these next days to understand the importance of a strong EU. The United States cares about a strong EU”. At the same time, he affirmed unequivocally that the United States will maintain its strong relationship with Great Britain: “Great Britain is a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Great Britain has a long and a special relationship with the United States”. And he added: “It is now incumbent on leaders to implement the will of the people, and do so in a way that is responsible, sensitive, thoughtful, and, I hope, strategic. Ever since World War Two we have been working all together on the development of a structure to make our countries stronger and to be able to deliver a good life and benefits to our people”.

The UK will probably no longer be part of the EU club (at least for a while). But there is life after Brexit. Changes are expected to take place in the functioning of the EU, and its Member States will probably redefine their strategies. The UK will always be the country of Magna Carta, but its relations with the EU will be reshaped to the new reality.

In 1624, the English poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island. / Entire of itself, / Every man is a piece of the continent, / A part of the main. / If a clod be washed away by the sea, / Europe is the less”. (Devotions upon Emergent Occasions). Paraphrasing these verses, in the era of globalization no island is anymore an island, and the UK has to find a common space with the EU, on the continent and worldwide.

For instance, there is no doubt that they will continue to work closely together within the United Nations framework, on global issues such as conflict prevention, peace keeping, peace building, fight against terrorism, human rights, climate change, mass migrations, refugees, humanitarian assistance, or the Agenda 2030 for sustainable development.

The history of the last sixty years has proved that, after each crisis, the European project became stronger. As Jean Monnet wrote in his memoirs: “Europe will be forged in crisis, and will be the sum of the solutions adopted for those crises”.

The European enterprise was conceived as a “unity in diversity”. The peoples of the EU are proud to be Europeans, and they are equally proud of their national identity. Therefore, the foundations of “an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe” imagined by Jean Monnet need to be consolidated with the peoples of Europe. We have to rediscover the European spirit and make people understand that unity is the key to generating prosperity and security.

An excellent example of unity and solidarity among EU Member States came during the recent elections for non-permanent members of the UN Security Council, on 28 June, in New York. Italy and the Netherlands went shoulder to shoulder in the race, and after five ballots they received an equal number of votes. Then, they symbolically decided to split the two years term mandate, so each of the two countries can serve for one year in the Security Council. It was a proof that if there is a will, there is a way, and ingenious solutions can be found to overcome difficult moments.

 

Protection of Civilians in Conflict: A Test for the International Community

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Dr Ion Jinga HeadshotThoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, published in Huffington Post on 13/06/2016.

On 10 June 2016, the French Presidency of the Security Council organized a high level open debate on “Protection of Civilians in the Context of Peacekeeping Operations”. It followed to other recent open debates in the Security Council on related matters: the protection of civilians in armed conflicts in January, the peacebuilding architecture in February, countering terrorism in April, and the cooperation between the UN and the African Union on peace and security in May, thus confirming the acute actuality of the topic. Civilians remain the target of unacceptable violence in situations of armed conflicts, with statistics showing that they represent 93% of victims. It is a figure deeply disturbing, placing the protection of civilian population at the core of the international efforts for peace and security, and as a moral responsibility for the UN.

The Report of the UN Secretary-General on the protection of civilians in armed conflicts, published in June 2015, revealed that prevailing disrespect for the international humanitarian law by some States and non-State actors, and the impunity of perpetrators, became a critical challenge for the international community. Deliberate targeting of civilians, of schools and hospitals are on the rise in many armed conflicts, bringing the number of refugees and internally displaced persons to alarming levels.

The primary responsibility to protect the civilian population during wars and conflicts belongs to States, but when national authorities are unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibility, then the international community must intervene. In cases where atrocity crimes are committed, accountability is crucial. This is why Romania endorsed the French-Mexican initiative that permanent members of the UN Security Council should voluntarily agree to refrain from using their veto in situations involving mass atrocities crimes, and we joined the Code of Conduct proposed by Liechtenstein on the Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes.

Protection of civilians is also a task for peacekeeping operations. It is even decisive for the success and legitimacy of the UN presence in the field. In many cases in the recent past, peacekeepers did not use force to protect population coming under attack, which resulted in the deaths of thousands of civilians. Therefore, UN missions need to be equipped with appropriate tools in order to address both the causes of crises and their consequences, including the protection of civilians, with a special attention to women, children and vulnerable persons.

Quite often, the complex reality on the ground makes difficult for peacekeepers to fully understand the action they have to perform for protecting the civilian population. In this respect, pre-deployment training is essential, as well as a zero tolerance policy to any kind of abuse. Training must be anchored in the respect for human rights and in the standards of integrity required by the United Nations. It has to include how to interact with local people and civil society organizations, especially those focused on the protection of women’s and children’s rights, because nothing is more damaging to the reputation and credibility of peacekeeping missions, and to the efforts to regain the trust of local populations, than Blue Helmets abusing those they have mandate to protect. Here, it is the Security Council’s responsibility to ensure that the protection mandate is clearly defined, achievable and backed with adequate resources. Out of the 16 UN peacekeeping operations in place today, ten have a mandate for protection of civilians. Romania is present in six of them.

Romanian experience proves the benefits of mixed teams, where female members of peacekeeping operations interact with women and vulnerable individuals from local communities. Complementary between training courses provided both at national and international level, in a way that they can offer to peacekeepers the skills to identify early warning indicators of potential risk for atrocity crimes, is also important.

For instance, prior to their deployment in peacekeeping operations, Romanian troops attend a three months period of strict training which includes protection of civilians and respect for human rights. As a result, in 25 years of continuous presence in UN peacekeeping missions and with a total of more than ten thousands Blue Helmets all over the world, Romanians have never been involved in incidents of disrespect of the civilian population. Currently, we are present with military, police and close protection officers in ten peacekeeping operations and in two special political missions.

At the same time, we must not neglect the serious danger peacekeepers continue to face to fulfill their mandates in some of the most dangerous parts of the world. They risk so much to advance peace in profoundly hostile environments, and we pay tribute to the men and women who so admirably dedicate their lives to protect the lives of others. Unknown by the public opinion, criticized sometimes for not doing more, many of them made their ultimate sacrifice. In 2015 only, 129 Blue Helmets died in mission and, unfortunately, others followed this year.

To limit the number of victims both among civilians and peacekeepers, a renewed focus has to be on conflict prevention and mediation. From this perspective, negotiated political solutions, early warning mechanisms to anticipate risks of atrocities, accepting the norms of Responsibility to Protect, and respect of the Kigali Principles on the protection of civilians in conflicts, are part of the solution. At present, 29 countries, including Romania, have endorsed the Kigali Principles, accounting for more than 40,000 troops serving under the UN flag.

Last but not the least, effective protection of civilians in armed conflicts needs an enhanced cooperation with regional and sub-regional organizations, because of their knowledge of the cultural, social and historical regional realities. The African Union and the European Union are two good examples, both organizations being strategic partners of the UN in the peacekeeping efforts.

Finally, proper implementation of the Agenda 2030 will further contribute to tackling the root causes of conflicts, because many conflicts and crises they generate have roots in poverty, in the lack of basic resources such as water and food, denied access to education, inequality, migration due to climate change, and the absence of any hope for a better future. Therefore, the Agenda 2030 marks a paradigm shift in approaching emerging challenges and requires us to commit to eradicating extreme poverty, fighting inequality, empowering women and girls, protecting the vulnerable ones, improving governance, encouraging sustainable and inclusive economic growth, and leaving no one behind.

Ambasadorul României la ONU le-a vorbit studenților de la Harvard: ”Politica externă contemporană se confruntă cu provocări fără precedent”

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Sursa: Calea Europeana (16.05.2016)

Ambasadorul României la ONU, Ion Jinga, a declarat că “politica externă contemporană se confruntă cu provocări fără precedent, deoarece acțiuni și evenimente ce se desfășoară în zone îndepărtate pot genera un impact mondial imediat”.

Invitat al Centrului Weatherhead pentru Relații Internaționale din cadrul Universității Harvard, Reprezentantul Permanent al României la Organizația Națiunilor Unite, ambasadorul Ion Jinga, a susținut vineri o prelegere la Universitatea Harvard.

jinga cdsocProgramul vizitei a mai inclus un dejun de lucru cu Dr. Manuel Muñiz, directorul Programului pentru Relații Transatlantice al Centrului „Weatherhead” pentru Relații Internaționale și Dr. Loukas Tsoukalis, Profesor la Harvard Kennedy School și președinte al Centrului Elenic de Relații Internaționale, precum și vizitarea Universităților Harvard și Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Prelegerea Reprezentantului Permanent al României, pe tema „Organizația Națiunilor Unite în 2016 – Provocări și Așteptări”, a avut loc în fața unei asistențe formate din studenți ai Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology și Massachusetts University, precum și din membri ai corpului academic din cadrul Centrului Weatherhead și John F. Kennedy School of Government. Evenimentul a fost moderat de către Dr. Birthe Anders, cercetător în cadrul Programului de Relații Transatlantice al Universității Harvard si profesor la King’s College din Londra.

Pornind de la remarca lui Henry Kissinger, unul dintre întemeietorii Centrului Weatherhead, care, în 1958, arata că “politica externă contemporană se confruntă cu provocări fără precedent, deoarece acțiuni și evenimente ce se desfășoară în zone îndepărtate pot genera un impact mondial imediat”, ambasadorul Ion Jinga a evidențiat importanța abordării multilaterale a marilor dosare cu impact global, ca element fundamental în identificarea soluțiilor la problemele actuale ale societății internaționale caracterizate de o complexitate fără precedent, precum și rolul ONU, ale cărei legitimitate și capacitate de a mobiliza largi coaliții nu pot fi substituite.

Trecând în revistă o serie de amenințări contemporane majore la adresa umanității, precum terorismul, migrația în masă, proliferarea conflictelor și a războaielor civile, schimbările climatice și reducerea accesului la resurse vitale – apă, hrană, energie – a evidențiat importanța implementării angajamentelor asumate prin Agenda 2030 pentru dezvoltare durabilă și Acordul de la Paris privind schimbările climatice, accentuând rolul statelor în transpunerea în practică a acestor documente internaționale încheiate sub egida ONU, având în vedere că organizația mondială este pregătită să asigure coordonarea acestor procese, dar nu se poate substitui autorităților naționale.

The Race for the Next UN Secretary General – First Round

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Dr Ion Jinga HeadshotThoughts by Dr. Ion Jinga, Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Romania to the United Nations, New York, in Huffington Post on 21.04.2016

Last week, for the first time in 70 years of UN history, candidates for the post of Secretary General presented their visions and programs during hearings in the UN General Assembly. From 12 to 14 April, mornings and afternoons, Permanent Representatives of 193 Member States have listened and questioned nine candidates, who received a total of 800 questions from ambassadors and civil society. We had the opportunity to (informally) assess the competence of those running for the top and the most difficult diplomatic job in the world.

Organizing these hearings is part of the commitment made last year by the President of the General Assembly, Mogens Lykketoft, to perform his Presidency in the most open and transparent manner possible, including for the process of selecting and appointing the next Secretary General. Public opinion’s interest for this process is huge – the UN website for candidates’ hearings was already accessed by 227,000 people from 209 countries and territories.

The bar is placed high by the actual challenging international context, as well as by the legacy of the current Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose tenure comes to a close on 31st December 2016. Patient but persistent, determined to accomplish what he set out to do, Mr. Ban described his credo as Secretary General in an interview to Newsweek in 2007: “I believe in the power of relationships. I believe in engagement, dialogue before confrontation. Sometimes this diplomacy will be public; other times it will take place behind the scenes, since that is where the potential for success is often greatest. If there is a unifying theme to my work, a vision if you will, it is this human dimension. We may read, each morning, about human tragedies in our newspapers. But how often do we truly hear such people’s voices, or try with full force and determination to help? This I pledge to do.”

He is very well seconded by Deputy Secretary General Jan Eliasson and this tandem has put an undeniable mark on the organization’s work. A brilliant diplomat and politician, former Foreign Minister and President of the UN General Assembly, Jan Eliasson is the author of the famous axiom: “There is no peace without development, there is no development without peace and there is neither lasting peace nor sustainable development without respect of human rights and the rule of law.”
Article 97 of the UN Charter provides that “The Secretary General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council”, which adopts in a private meeting, with an affirmative vote of nine members, including the votes of permanent members, a resolution setting out its recommendation for the job. The five permanent members can use their veto right. The UN Charter does not prevent the Security Council from recommending more than one candidate, but a General Assembly resolution from 1946 says it is desirable to recommend one person only. Also, the practice of the Council has been to specify the term of office for the recommended candidate (customary, it is five years), and the Assembly acts similarly when adopting its resolution appointing the Secretary General.

From the nine candidates we have listened last week, seven are from the Eastern European Group and two from the Western European and Others Group. It is quite probable that other candidates will enter the race in the following weeks, which would only contribute to the quality of competition, enlarging the reservoir for the selection of the best.

Important positions within the UN, including that of the Secretary General, are allocated through an informal process of regional rotation, although this happens by custom and precedent, rather than by some written rule of the UN Charter. However, article 59 of the General Assembly Resolution 51/241 of 31 July 2007 states that: “In the course of the identification and appointment of the best candidate for the post of Secretary-General, due regard shall continue to be given to regional rotation and shall also be given to gender equality.”

Eastern Europe is the only region that did not produce any of the (until now) eight Secretary Generals and many think the next top diplomat will come from that region. There has also never been a woman Secretary General and the idea of the first female UN chief enjoys substantial support.

The resolution on “Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly”, adopted on 11 September 2015, establishes a series of recommendations and attributes that the most suitable candidate for Secretary General should possess. Criteria identified for the selection process are related to professional skills, political acceptance, and acceptability to public opinion.

“Professional skills” suggests a person with extensive international relations experience, proven leadership, managerial ability and linguistic ability. “Political acceptance” includes acceptability to the five Permanent Members of the Security Council. “Acceptability to global public opinion” refers to understanding and sensitivity to multicultural issues. Asked whether he had any advice for the candidates ahead hearings, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon reportedly said that he always recalls the advice a middle school teacher in South Korea gave him: Keep your feet firmly on the ground and your head in the clouds”.

Candidates we have heard last week articulated their vision for the organization and the global challenges to be tackled under their leadership. We may have seen different personalities, experiences and approaches, but all shown proved commitment and determination to make the UN fit for purpose in the 21st century. From the spread of terrorism, proliferation of civil wars and huge waves of refugees, to the implementation of Agenda 2030 for sustainable development, climate change, poverty and inequality, the institutional reform of the UN, less bureaucracy, conflict prevention and mediation, early warning mechanisms and better inter-agencies coordination – all these topics are on the agenda of those aspiring to become the next Secretary General. The issue of whether he or she should rather be “a Secretary” or “a General”, received various answers. I found interesting the formula “a General of the UN Secretariat and a Secretary to the UN Member States”.

Mr. Mogens Lykketoft remarked in a recent interview that public discussions with the candidates are “potentially game-changing, because if a leading candidate emerges and a critical number of countries rally around him or her, it will be very difficult for the Security Council to come up with quite a different person.”

The candidates’ vision is important, but at the end of the day the Secretary General race is not only about vision, administrative ability, language skills, or personal charm. It is a political job. The election of the ninth Secretary-General in 2016 is crucial to the future of the organization, and therefore it will be one of the most important decisions the Security Council and the General Assembly will make in the next couple of years.

The World needs a UN Secretary General able to lead the organization through an extraordinary array of global challenges, in a time when there is no substitute for the United Nations legitimacy. The race has just had its first round.