The UN








  • Srgjan Kerim - Macedonia

    Srgjan Kerim, the former Macedonian foreign minister and president of the UN General Nations Assembly from 2007 to 2008, has taught economics and speaks nine European languages, including Italian and Croatian. In his manifesto he writes: "The world is facing indescribable terrorist attacks, extremism, gender violence, poverty and starvation, environmental disasters and drought, civil wars and uprisings. And if there is anything that can bring us back to humanity, [it] is the faith, belief and partnership between nations and peoples that can restore our war torn and desolate communities."


  • Vesna Pusić - Croatia

    Vesna Pusić, the former deputy prime minister of Croatia, is a vocal supporter of the rights of women. She has worked in politics and the NGO sector, while her academic research focused on post-communist and post-conflict societies. In her mission statement, she describes the UN as a "flawed" but "essential" institution. "I saw the United Nation’s shortcomings first hand in my own country ... There was much to criticise: peacekeeping troops that didn’t keep the peace, safe areas that weren’t safe, and a peace process that involved multiple and revolving mediators who often seemed to have divergent agendas."


  • Igor Lukšić - Montenegro

    Igor Lukšić was the prime minister of Montenegro between 2010 and 2012, and pressed for reforms that led to the ascension talks with the EU. He speaks five European languages and has published books of poetry and prose, as well as papers on economics and transition. "The role of the next secretary-general will not be to reinvent the wheel, but to make sure to optimise delivering on agendas ... To make ever more value for money invested in order to achieve the commitment to leave no one behind," he writes in his mission statement.


  • Danilo Türk - Slovenia

    Danilo Türk was the president of Slovenia from 2007 until 2012, having run as an independent candidate, and served as the first Slovenian Permanent Representative to the UN from 1992 to 2000. In the former Yugoslavia, he worked as a human rights scholar. His mother was sent to a forced labour camp at the age of 14. "The UN needs a strong moral commitment to its original purposes and objectives in its effort to reduce and eliminate extreme poverty, to ensure sustainability of economic and social development, to strengthen human dignity and rights and to prevent violent conflicts," Turk writes in his mission statement.


  • Irina Bokova - Bulgaria

    Irina Bokova, currently the UNESCO director, is also Bulgaria's former acting minister of foreign affairs. She advocates for education for all, sustainable development and the safety of journalists. Her father was the communist-era politician Georgi Bokov. "I am more convinced than ever that the world, and the United Nations at its service, need a new humanistic approach to tackle a horizon of pressing challenges and threats," she says in her mission statement.


  • Natalia Gherman - Maldova

    Natalia Gherman was the deputy prime minister of Moldova from 2013 until 2016. She was a chief negotiator in the talks with the EU over the Moldova-EU agreement, which established political and economic ties. In her mission statement, she writes: "As our challenges become more global in nature and our respective futures grow increasingly interrelated, the UN is now, more than at any previous time in history, the expression of humanity's collective commitment to action. Whether working to end poverty, defeat the scourge of war, protect the rights of all, or preserve our planet, an effective UN has never been so necessary or so demanded."


  • António Guterres - Portugal

    António Guterres, the former prime minister of Portugal, served as the UN high commissioner for refugees from 2005 until 2015. During his tenure, which was marked by some of the world’s largest displacement crises, from Syria to South Sudan, the UNHCR’s activities tripled. "The UN faces new challenges in ensuring peace and security, promoting sustainable development, protecting human rights and delivering humanitarian aid … To succeed, it must further strengthen the nexus between peace and security, sustainable development and human rights policies," he writes in his mission statement.


  • Helen Clark - New Zealand

    Helen Clark, the former prime minister of New Zealand, currently heads the UN Development Programme. It is the body’s third highest-ranking position. In her role as prime minister, her cabinet was inclusive of women and Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand. "The UN needs to adapt and draw on its strengths to bring member states, organisations, institutions and people together to forge united and coordinated action. Global problems and opportunities require comprehensive and linked-up responses. Interconnectedness should be used as an advantage," she writes in her mission statement.


  • Vuk Jeremić - Serbia

    Vuk Jeremić was Serbia’s foreign minister between 2007 and 2012 and president of the UN General Assembly from 2012 to 2013. During his term in office, he launched negotiations that led to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. "This is a defining time for the world, which is in the midst of a profound transformation unprecedented in scale, scope, and pace. Whilst it is becoming more interdependent, multipolar, and globalised, it is also burdened by growing geopolitical frictions and an erosion of confidence in the international system," he writes in his mission statement.


  • Susana Malcorra - Argentina

    Susana Malcorra is the current foreign minister of Argentina and has served as chef de cabinet, a role supporting the secretary-general, from 2008 until 2012. Ban Ki-moon said she served the UN "with great distinction". In her mission statement, she writes: "A people, planet and prosperity-centred United Nations is focused on how it organises itself as a means to serving affected populations and addressing the problems they face, not as an end in itself."


  • Miroslav Lajčák - Slovakia

    Miroslav Lajčák, a career diplomat, is Slovakia’s current foreign affairs minister who also serves as deputy prime minister. Until the fall of communism, he was a member of the Communist Party. On his CV he says he is an "attentive listener, determined mediator and capable manager, who has experience with conflict resolution and conflict prevention". According to his mission statement, he says the UN "has the essential tools to be a trusted, reliable hub for addressing and resolving issues that require [a]global response. However, it needs to adjust its ways of operation and enhance its capacity to deliver".

  • Christiana Figueres - Costa Rica

    Christiana Figueres, a Costa Rican diplomat, served as the UN’s climate chief from 2010 until 2016 and is a career diplomat with 35 years of experience. "The question before us now is how to address the exigencies of a future so mired in complexity. In the face of rampant injustices, abuses, unrest and conflicts with increasing ramifications, there is understandable despair. But given the stakes, failure to address these challenges is simply not an option. Humanity has created these challenges, and we ourselves can and must step up to address them," she writes in her mission statement.


What is the UN?

Founded in 1945 after the Second World War ended, the UN is guided by the principles in its Charter - primarily maintaining international peace and security. The organisation has six official languages including Chinese and Russian, and is funded by its 193 member states. As well as striving to maintain peace, the UN promotes sustainable development, protects human rights, upholds international law and delivers humanitarian aid.

The job description

Equal parts diplomat and advocate, civil servant and CEO, the UN secretary-general is a symbol of United Nations ideals and a spokesperson for the people of the world, in particular the poor and vulnerable. The current secretary-general, and the eighth occupant of the post, is Ban Ki-moon of the Korea, who took office on 1 January 2007. A woman is yet to hold the top UN role, but that could change. This year, there are at least six female candidates vying for the job.

The secretary-general would fail if he, or she, did not take careful account of the concerns of the 193 member states. The job includes attendance at sessions of UN bodies; consultations with world leaders, government officials, and others; and worldwide travel intended to keep in touch with the people of the organisation's 193 member states.

Each year, the secretary-general issues a report on the work of the UN that appraises its activities and outlines future priorities.


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