Statement by His Excellency Durga Prasad Bhattarai, Ambassador/ Permanent Representative of Nepal to the United Nations at the thematic meeting on the ‘Selection and appointment of the UN Secretary-General’ under the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Revitalization of the work of the General Assembly
New York, 10 April 2017
I wish to begin by expressing how reassuring it is to see you presiding over the efforts of the General Assembly seeking to revitalize its own work. My delegation believes we can make significant progress this year as well, especially building on what we achieved during the past two sessions.
On today’s thematic debate on the selection and appointment of the UN Secretary-General, I wish, first, to align my statement with the statement delivered by the distinguished representative of Algeria on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, and then to add the following in my national capacity.
I wish to congratulate the presidency of the General Assembly as well as the leadership of this Ad-Hoc Working Group for steering the revitalization efforts leading to the General Assembly’s decisive steps during the previous two sessions that bore fruit in breaking the traditional secretive process followed in the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General. Looking back at the new process we followed, as well as the outcome of that process, I wish to register my country’s overall positive observation on by-far the most transparent, representative, inclusive and rigorous yet methodical selection and appointment process of the Secretary-General during 2015-2016. In particular, the open and informal dialogues allowing all candidates to make presentations on their vision and priorities enabled the Member States as well as the wider public to familiarize themselves with the caliber and expertise of the candidates in advance. The spectrum of candidatures for the Secretary-General last year also remained unprecedented, with women making up 50% of the candidates.
As a result, we have now in place the most competent and experienced former statesman and an old UN hand of proven excellence as our Secretary-General. Nepal has its full confidence on, and support for, His Excellency Antonio Guterres in the fulfillment of his extensive responsibilities as well as the expectations that the world has pinned on him largely because of the transparent process he was selected through.
However, a Secretary-General can hardly be stronger than the Member-States want and allow him or her to be. There may be a hundred and one ways that may be clipping his wings. It should therefore be not only a question of the competence, ability, experience and commitment of a person who holds that position but also a test of the collective political will of the UN membership of how far they allow him to perform for which they have recruited a candidate of his/her stature.
I also feel compelled to make an additional observation that since the UN was created to be biased in favour of the nations and peoples that are the poorest, the weakest, the most-down trodden and, in today’s UN lexicon, the most vulnerable and the furthest behind, the Secretary-General must be allowed, encouraged, resourced and appreciated for doing this part of his job well. It relates to development just as it relates to peace and security, it relates to climate change and disasters—natural or manmade—as much as it relates to the rule of law and human rights, more prominently in case of the Least Developed and Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States.
I am confident that the Secretary-General chosen with such a rigorous exercise will be given a hand and requisite resources to help uphold the Principles and Purposes enshrined in the United Nations Charter and preserve the integrity and ownership of this world body, reinforcing its centrality in multilateral affairs.
Nepal stresses the need of greater transparency and inclusiveness in the appointment process of the Secretary-General in the future and our experience of 2015-16 tells us that it is indeed possible to raise the ideals of transparency and inclusiveness in the appointment process of the Secretary-General to the next level.
Having said that, I also wish to touch on a few lapses or lacunae we experienced in the process we followed last time, for reforms in the future.
First is the deadline. My delegation understands that we were in a way running against time and some of us were reluctant on putting a deadline for applications last time. Next time, a joint call by the presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council for applications to the position of Secretary-General should have an unambiguous deadline attached to it. Without a deadline, we cannot ensure a sense of fairness and transparency among the candidates as well as others, neither can all candidates be given the same opportunity to present themselves if applications are accepted until the very last minute of decision.
The second point I wish to mention is about the lead-time for the call for applications. The call for applications should be made at least nine to twelve months before, and the final selection made at least six months before, the end of the term of the incumbent Secretary-General. It will serve at least two purposes: it allows more time to the selected candidate to prepare for the job better; it will also allow time if the deadline has to be extended for any unavoidable reason.
My third point relates to the tenure. As my delegation has put it on earlier occasions, the positive experience of Nepal with a fixed term tenure for the highest level positions where candidates are selected on the basis of merit, namely the permanent secretaries and the Chief Secretary of the Government, has encouraged us to propose a fixed term for the position of the Secretary-General. Nepal is of the view that it should be a fixed term of seven years so that the newly appointed Secretary-General need not bother about the renewal of his/her term and can focus solely on accomplishing the responsibilities throughout the tenure from a higher of plane of confidence, independence and moral standing.
The fourth point I wish to mention relates to the element of regional or geographical rotation. During the selection of the Secretary-General in 2015-16, there were no candidates from Asia and Africa- not because they didn’t have qualified and aspiring candidates but understandably out of their regard for the principle of geographical rotation. The Secretary-General from Asia-Pacific was just leaving office, and Africa had its stints just before Asia’s. While the selection of the most qualified candidate is always desirable for the Organization’s success, provided Member-States complement with due commitment to ensure best performance of the Organization, and while my delegation does not want to speculate any scenario for the next round of the process, I believe the General Assembly cannot just wish the element of geographical rotation away. The Working Group may wish to have some brainstorming to see if the question can be settled at least partially well in advance of the next cycle of recruitment process.
The same applies to the question of gender. My delegation stresses the fair and equitable gender and geographical representation for the selection process of the next Secretary-General as mentioned in paragraph 38 of resolution 69/321 and 39 of 70/305. The candidate must be the most qualified one possessing an extensive and proven track record of excellent leadership, administrative and diplomatic knowledge, acumen and experience.
My fifth point today is about the several resolutions and decisions that the General Assembly has produced so far seeking to govern the process of selection and appointment of the Secretary-General. Since the Ad-Hoc Working Group and the Member States have sometime between now and the onset of the next cycle, I propose that we revisit all the related resolutions and decisions with a view to adopting a single consolidated resolution which would repeal all earlier related resolutions or relevant sections of the related resolutions and/or decisions, so that we do not have to keep on referring to different resolutions and their sections/paragraphs for different elements involved in the process. In fact, such an initiative will in itself trigger a concrete contribution towards revitalizing the work of the General Assembly.
Last but not the least, we are also of the view of having more nomination of women candidates for positions at the level of Under-Secretary General and Executive heads of United Nations system. For a wide geographical representation, we support the view that no national of a Member State should succeed a national of that State in a senior post and there should be no monopoly in the appointment of senior posts by nationals of any State or a group of States. Contribution of States in particular areas must also relate to the nationals of those States being recruited at related Department’s senior positions in the field as well as headquarters, for instance, in case of relatively small and poor yet prominent troop/police contributing countries for the success of peacekeeping missions as the flagship activity of the United Nations.