Will the Cost of Becoming the Next Secretary-General Be a Less Western U.N.?

Will the Cost of Becoming the Next Secretary-General Be a Less Western U.N.?
European Commission Vice President Kristalina Georgieva at a press conference, Brussels, Belgium, July 27, 2016 (European Commission photo).

United Nations headquarters in New York is abuzz with rumors about the organization’s future leadership. The race to replace Ban Ki-moon as secretary-general next year is entering its final straightaway, but it looks like there will be some serious twists before it is complete. Meanwhile, big powers including China and Russia are allegedly looking to secure top jobs in the next secretary-general’s team. That could make the U.N. a rather less Western institution than it has been since the end of the Cold War.

What is going on? Right now, it is hard to disentangle passing rumors from hard facts. Some of what follows may well prove to be speculative nonsense. What is certain is that the Security Council held the fourth in a series of straw polls on the candidates vying to be the next secretary-general. Former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres won a clear lead over his nine rivals, as he had in the three previous polls.

Guterres enjoys widespread diplomatic support. But this is not game over. Russia is thought to be lukewarm about having a former NATO head of state atop the U.N., and can use its Security Council veto to block him. Moscow has been opaque over its intentions.

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