The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general of the United Nations is heating up. More or less open candidates are emerging with growing frequency. This may seem premature: Ban will not leave office until the end of 2016, and he has a lot of unfinished business to attend to. He hopes to seal deals on climate change and the future of international development next year. He also needs to contain the crises in South Sudan and Syria, both of which threaten to cast a profound shadow over his legacy.
The pressure seems to have given Ban extra energy. He has just announced a root-and-branch review of U.N. peacekeeping to address operational problems revealed not only in South Sudan but also Mali and other trouble spots. But if Ban seems intent on going out with a bang, U.N. officials and diplomats are already speculating about his successor.
Fifteen months ago, I wrote in WPR about the first glimmers of the race. Back then, a small number of candidates from Eastern Europe, which convention suggests should be the next region to put forward a secretary-general, were testing the waters. Early entrants included Danilo Turk, a former U.N. staffer and Slovenian president; Jan Kubis, a Slovak and the current U.N. envoy in Kabul; and Vuk Jeremic, an ex-foreign minister of Serbia. All three are still very much in the game.