Who Will Be the Next UN Secretary General?

Something extraordinary took place at the United Nations this week. For twenty hours, over three days, each candidate in the race to become the next UN secretary general submitted themselves to hours of questioning by member states and civil society.

This was a radical departure from how things were done previously. For the past 70 years, the Secretary General was picked pretty much behind closed doors by the five veto wielding members of the Security Council. It was a totally un-transparent process, sometimes you did not even know who was in the running.

This time around, that is not quite how things are going down. For one, there are actually declared candidates–9 so far. And each of these candidates faced two hours of questioning by member states, forcing them to go on the record on some hot button global issues.

And it was all webcast! I watched nearly all of it.

I would be lying to you if I said that it was all riveting political theater. But for UN nerds like me and my guest Richard Gowen the novelty of it all offered some insights into the inner-workings of the United Nations, what individual countries prioritize in deciding who to back for Secretary General, and a glimpse into the diplomatic acumen of the candidates’ in the hot seat.

So, because these hearings were new, and different and genuinely exciting for UN watchers like Richard and I, this episode is in two parts. We first spoke before the hearings even began about our expectations for this event and discussed what we would be looking out for. Then, on Thursday afternoon, just as the hearings were wrapping up, we spoke again about some of the highlights from the week and any tea leaves that could be read into both the questions that the member states asked and the answers given.

For anyone who wants to learn what these public job interviews for the position of UN Secretary General can tell you about the UN and international relations more broadly, have a listen.

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