Issue 11 - 15 August 2006 - General Assembly Revitalization working group addresses SG selection procedures
New York, 15 August 2006 – The drafting group for a resolution on Revitalization of the General Assembly (GA) was brought to a close last Tuesday, but a final agreement was not reached. The text is being passed back to the Co-Chairs of the larger Ad-Hoc Working Group on GA Revitalization with the revisions that were agreed upon or left open for further discussion. The Co-Chairs will be responsible for seeing the text to a conclusion, with a goal to finish this month.
Tuesday’s meeting focused on the Selection of the Secretary-General. The delegates agreed on very few points. Algeria (on behalf of NAM, the Non-Aligned Movement) emphasized the need for the process to be “inclusive, democratic, and participatory” (OP 17 of draft). No delegation objected to adding this to the draft, and the text was adopted. The United States spoke a few minutes later and stated they could not support it. It was unclear whether their late input would result in reopening the text for discussion.
A major point of difference throughout the meeting was over the method of nominating candidates and the GA’s proper role in the process. Currently, Member States may submit candidates to the Security Council without any authorization from the General Assembly. But in 1997 the GA passed Resolution 51/241 calling for the following procedure (OP 60):
“Without prejudice to the prerogatives of the Security Council, the President of the General Assembly may consult with Member States to identify potential candidates endorsed by a Member State and, upon informing all Member States of the results, may forward those results to the Security Council.”
In the drafting group, NAM Member States proposed language that would strengthen the General Assembly’s role in identifying candidates, by reiterating this procedure without mention of the Security Council’s “prerogatives.” This would raise the GA’s profile as a filter for Member States’ nominees. A theme in the Pakistan delegate‘s comments was the importance of GA confidence in the face of the Security Council’s influence. He spoke about “making full use” of the GA’s power of appointment, citing resolution 51/241 (OP 57), by giving it a concrete form, and he spoke against being too deferential to the Security Council, in part because the Charter gives the General Assembly the “final authority” in the selection process.
Germany and Finland, speaking on behalf of the EU, preferred to maintain the Security Council’s right to receive Member States’ nominees directly, by restating the Security Council’s “prerogatives.”
The facilitator of the group, Ms. Amparo Anguiano of Mexico, called upon the Office of Legal Affairs (OLA) for advice on the legalistic aspect of this issue: if text on the method of identifying candidates did not mention the Security Council’s prerogative to receive nominations directly from Member States, would it undermine its legal right to do so? The OLA’s preliminary opinion was that the presentation of candidates by Member States directly to the Security Council is a practice, not a legal obligation, and that it existed prior to Article 97 of the Charter, making the practice independent of that Article. Therefore, according to OLA, an amendment to this practice would not require an amendment of the Charter. Pakistan then stated that it would only support language that gave the President of the General Assembly the sole prerogative to approve candidates for the Security Council’s consideration.
The OLA’s opinion shed light on an important fact about SG selection: The practice of Member States’ submitting their nominees to the Security Council for consideration is not written in the UN Charter, and legally it can be changed – e.g. the GA could have a greater role in screening candidates – without requiring a change to the Charter.
An outstanding issue that the drafting group did not have time to discuss is the suggestion by Cuba that the Security Council recommend more than one candidate to the GA for its consideration. This proposal was raised by India at NAM’s May meeting in Malaysia, but it did not receive much attention until Cuba reintroduced it in the context of this drafting group. The facilitator of the drafting group commented on Tuesday that she was certain the issue would lead to a lengthy discussion. The proposed method would give the GA greater choice, vis-à-vis the Security Council, in the selection process.
The next step is for the Co-Chairs to decide whether or not to reconvene before the end of the 60th Session. It is expected that if agreement is not reached this month, NAM states will insist on reconvening in the 61st session. If that is the case, the Working Group meetings may afford some Member States the chance to raise an additional, contentious issue in the selection procedures: the proposal to recommend a single term for the eventual candidate. In 1997 Member States resolved (in Resolution 51/241, OP 58) to consider term limits:
“The duration of the term or terms of appointment, including the option of a single term, shall be considered before the appointment of the next Secretary-General.”
The Security Council Report’s first “Special Research Report” on SG appointment (16 February 2006) provides background information on this debate.
Egypt speaks on transparency in SG selection
In the 20 July General Assembly meeting on Security Council reform, Egypt made a statement regarding the SG selection process. Ambassador Abdelaziz said that Egypt was among many states seeking “serious” increases in transparency by the Council, “far beyond informing the Membership through the President of the General Assembly of the procedural aspects of the work of the Council on this issue.” Further,
“In this particular regard, the General Assembly should also act on its own to develop a mechanism for the consideration of any candidate to be recommended by the Security Council for the appointment by the General Assembly. This General Assembly mechanism should include meetings with the candidate and preferably a straw poll to determine his/her rate of acceptance in the General Assembly in order to assure that the candidate obtains the largest possible support of the entire membership of the organization and to ensure that his/her official appointment by consensus at the later stage is a true reflection of a transparent and democratic process.”
This goal may be influencing Egypt and like-minded Member States to support language in the GA revitalization draft, in favor of formalized opportunities for the wider membership to meet with candidates.