Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade

Appointment of UN Secretary General: Motion

10:00 am

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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We will move on to the motion tabled by Senator Jim Walsh on the selection of the UN Secretary General. I call on Senator Walsh to speak.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I move:

We, the undersigned members of the Foreign Affairs and Trade Committee of Ireland, Recalling the upcoming selection of the next UN Secretary General, who shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council in 2016, in accordance with Article 97 of the UN Charter of which we are a State Party;

Recalling existing UN General Assembly resolutions on the selection and appointment of the Secretary General - including resolutions 51/241 (1997), 60/286 (2006), and 68/307 (2014) - which call for improvements to the appointment process and have not yet been implemented;

Recognising that the UN Secretary General has a crucial role to play in tackling global challenges, including promoting peace, stability and sustainable development under the rule of law, addressing mass atrocities and protecting fundamental human rights;

Emphasising that as the chief administrative officer of the United Nations, the Secretary General represents the hopes and concerns of the world’s 7 billion people, who are affected by her or his decisions; Paying tribute to all eight Secretaries General who have served the Organisation, Trygve Lie of Norway, Dag Hammarskjöld of Sweden, U Thant of Myanmar, Kurt Waldheim of Austria, Javier Perez de Cuellar of Peru, Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt, Kofi Annan of Ghana and Ban Ki-moon of the Republic of Korea;

Evoking the 70th anniversary of the United Nations and determined to ensure that it continues to serve the peoples in whose name it was established;

Recalling and endorsing the “1 for 7 Billion Campaign”, which calls for a more open, transparent and inclusive selection process for the next UN Secretary General, and the proposed set of formal criteria and qualifications, which should include:

- A comprehensive understanding of, and demonstrated commitment to, the purposes and principles of the UN Charter including peace and security, human rights and development;

- The possession and display of the highest qualities of moral authority, independence, integrity and courage;

- A demonstrated capacity for moral, intellectual and political leadership of an international organisation and capacity to provide leadership to the wider UN system;

- A proven ability to manage a complex international organisation;

- Sophisticated diplomatic, mediation and problem-solving skills;

- The public speaking and media skills required to be an effective and inspiring global communicator;

- Proven multicultural understanding and sensitivity to equality and diversity;

- A track-record showing a willingness to work with civil society and all other relevant stakeholders.

Observing that the procedures to identify and appoint the best candidate for UN Secretary General should be in line with the best practices in high-level appointments of executive heads of the United Nations and other international organisations;

Emphasising that in order to ensure capable and effective leadership at the highest levels of the UN Secretariat, candidates for Secretary General must not be under pressure to appoint individuals of any particular nationality to the Secretariat in exchange for political support;

Urge the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Charles Flanagan, to:
1. Ensure that the Government of Ireland only nominates or supports the nomination and election of the most-qualified candidates for the position of the UN Secretary General, based on the criteria above and with due regard to gender equality and geographic balance;

2. Support, without prejudice to the role of the principal organs enshrined in Article 97 of the Charter, improvements to the selection process to make it fair, open, inclusive and geared to producing the best-qualified candidates, including:
- A public call for nominations;

- A timetable for the selection process with clear deadlines, to be published no later than the start of the General Assembly’s 70th session;

- A list of all official candidates and their relevant experience and qualifications to be published by the President of the General Assembly at the end of the nomination phase, and by the Security Council when considering its short-list;

- Regular updates on progress to be delivered by the Presidents of the General Assembly and Security Council;

- The organisation by the General Assembly of open hearings with candidates, with a role for civil society and the media, to enhance transparency and inclusivity;

- The presentation by the Security Council of two or more candidates for the General Assembly to consider;

- The appointment to be made by a two-thirds majority of member states present and voting by secret ballot, unless it is the wish of the General Assembly to make the appointment by acclamation.
3. Call for the appointment to be made for a seven-year, non-renewable term, upon consideration of a single term of appointment, as suggested by UN General Assembly resolution 51/241 (1997) on "Strengthening of the United Nations system.

I refer to a campaign organised by Parliamentarians for Global Action of which body some of those present are members. Effectively, the motion seeks to ensure that there is more transparency in the selection of the Secretary General. We have been fortunate in having very many good Secretaries General of the United Nations, but the existing UN General Assembly has passed resolutions on the selection and appointment of the Secretary General - 51/241 (1997), 60/286 (2006) and 68/307, and they all call for improvements to the appointments process, but have not yet been implemented, although a new appointment is now imminent.

What we are really pushing for is implementation of these resolutions as part of the process for the next election. The campaign is called 1 for 7 Billion and sets out criteria that should be satisfied during the process to ensure the United Nations has the right leadership. We have heard today that there are more challenges every day for the United Nations to rise to and I think its leadership is crucial to how successful it will be in that regard. The motion should be uncontroversial and I hope it will receive a lot of support.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Yes and we should also support the idea of gender equality. We have some upstanding women who have contributed so much. People like Helen Clark, the former Prime Minister of New Zealand, and Michelle Bachelet, President of Chile, have contributed so much at UN level. Gender equality is to be considered in the increasing role women will play.

Photo of Seán CroweSeán Crowe (Dublin South West, Sinn Fein)
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The motion is very long and detailed. While I would approach it in a very positive way, it has not really come up as an issue at this committee. I have no problem if the Senator wants to take it today, but I would prefer if, at some stage, the committee could invite speakers to outline the background and give an overview of related doubts to get a sense of what it is we are actually voting on rather than pass the motion today. I would like it to be part of a discussion and an approach that we are actually going to take. That would be helpful.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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Is there any opposition or does the Senator wish to hold back the motion?

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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I do not have a difficulty with seeking a presentation; that is a sensible suggestion. I deal with a small group of international parliamentarians and we have met and discussed this issue with a number of ambassadors of various countries to the United Nations. They were very supportive of the idea because they see the need to have resolutions passed by the assembly implemented, adopted and dealt with. The suggestion made by Deputy Seán Crowe will add strength in having the issue ventilated. Perhaps the motion might then be passed on to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

Photo of Pat BreenPat Breen (Clare, Fine Gael)
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We will hold back the motion until the committee has heard from further speakers.

Photo of Jim WalshJim Walsh (Fianna Fail)
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That is fine.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.