UN Secretary General

  • The charter is vague in defining the duties of the secretary-general, the United Nations’ top official.
  • He or she is expected to show no favoritism to any particular country, but the office is largely dependent on the funding and goodwill of the most powerful nations.
  • The Security Council — notably the P5 — chooses the secretary-general, by secret ballot, to serve a maximum of two five-year terms.
  • This process makes it difficult for the role to be independent of the P5’s influence.
  • The secretary-general has no army to deploy, but what the position does enjoy is a bully pulpit.
  • If the officeholder is perceived as being independent, he or she is often the only person in the world who can call warring parties to the peace table.
  • The 10-year tenure of the current secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, has repeatedly revealed the limits of the office’s authority.