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United Nations Secretary-General

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The United Nations Secretary-General is the head of the Secretariat, one of the principal divisions of the United Nations. According to the United Nations Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council.

The Secretary-General is described by the Charter as the "chief administrative officer" of the organization. Originally some felt that the role of the Secretary-General should be purely administrative. It was Trygve Lie, the first Secretary-General, who asserted that it was his role to speak out and act as leader and mediator. Every Secretary-General since has spoken out on global issues and used his good offices to mediate disputes. This is in keeping with Franklin Roosevelt's original vision that the UN should be headed by a "world moderator."

I am a cheerleader, I am a promoter, I am a salesman, I am a debt collector, I am a father confessor and there are other aspects I still have to discover. —UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan describing his job

The current Secretary-General is Kofi Annan. His appointment began on January 1, 1997, and his second term began on January 1, 2002.

The Secretary-General is appointed to a five year term. UN Secretaries-General normally spend two terms in office; however, sometimes, they will serve only one. The position of UN Secretary-General is supposed to rotate by geographic region, but that rule is often broken; since Mr Boutros-Ghali served only one term, a successor that was also from Africa was chosen, Kofi Annan, and after Mr Annan had finished his first term, the member states were so impressed with Annan's performance that he was appointed for a second term despite the fact that the next Secretary-General should have been from Asia. There has not yet been a Secretary-General from North America or Oceania.

Most Secretary-Generals are compromise candidates from middle powers and with little prior fame. While high profile candidates are frequently touted for the job, these are almost always rejected as unpalatable to some. For instance for the first Secretary-General such figures as Charles de Gaulle, Dwight Eisenhower and Anthony Eden were considered, but were rejected in favour of the uncontroversial Norwegian Trygve Lie.

Rumours have recently surfaced that former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current Chilean President Ricardo Lagos have set their sights on becoming Secretary-General. However, it is generally considered to be Asia's turn to fill the post. No announcement has been made, but behind the scenes China is already pushing the candidacy of Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who also seems to have U.S. support.

In the early 1960s Nikita Krushchev led an effort to do away with the Secretary-General position. The numerical superiority of the western powers meant that the Secretary-General came from one of them, and was sympathetic towards the west. Krushchev advanced a proposal to replace the Secretary-General with a troika. One 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.


Sir Gladwyn Jebb (United Kingdom, Europe), acting, 1945 to 1946.
  1. Trygve Lie (Norway, Europe), February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.
  2. Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden, Europe), April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), September 1961.
  3. U Thant (Burma (now Myanmar), Asia), November 1961 to December 1971.
  4. Kurt Waldheim (Austria, Europe) 1972-1981
  5. Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru, Latin America) 1982-1991
  6. Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt, Africa), January 1992 to the American veto of his second term in December 1996.
  7. Kofi Annan (Ghana, Africa), January 1997 to present.

See also

External links

Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:08:55
Last updated: 05-07-2005 18:09:53