How is the Secretary-General of the United Nations appointed?
Last Updated: Nov 16, 2016
The Secretary-General heads the Secretariat as the chief administrative officer of the Organization.
Article 97 of the Charter states, "The Secretary-General shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council".
General Assembly resolution A/RES/11(I) of 1946 states, inter alia,
"Both nomination and appointment should be discussed at private meetings, and a vote in either the Security Council or the General Assembly, if taken, should be by secret ballot."
The documents related to the appointment of Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon in 2006 illustrate the general pattern past appointments have followed. Mr. Ban was appointed to a second 5 year term in 2011.
- Member states send letters to the Security Council recommending candidates
- for example, S/2006/524
- Security Council meets in a closed meeting to decide on a candidate
- for example, S/PV.5547
- Security Council adopts a resolution to recommend the candidate
- for example, S/RES/1715 (2006)
- Security Council transmits the recommendation to the General Assembly
- for example, A/61/501
- General Assembly meets to consider the recommendation of the Security Council
- for example, A/61/PV.31
- General Assembly adopts a resolution to appoint the Secretary-General
- for example, A/RES/61/3
As illustrated in the sample meeting records, very little discussion about the candidates occurs in open, formal meetings of the Security Council or General Assembly. Most of the negotiations on this matter take place behind the scenes and the official documents rarely reflect the process, just the outcome.
There have been regular calls for an increase in transparency in the selection and appointment of the Secretary-General, for example in General Assembly resolution 69/321, operative paragraphs 32-44, adopted 11 September 2015.
For the selection of the next Secretary-General, the Presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly have issued a joint letter to invite states to nominate candidates (A/70/623).
"In line with General Assembly resolution 69/321, the present joint letter serves to begin soliciting candidates and to set in motion the process of selecting and appointing the next Secretary-General of the United Nations, in accordance with the provisions of Article 97 of the Charter of the United Nations and guided by the principles of transparency and inclusivity."
The President of the General Assembly's website includes a page on the selection process and information about the candidates.
In the past, there have been websites and activists who advocate for candidates and about the appointment process. It is expected that similar sites will become more active as the next appointment approaches.
Names of candidates nominated for appointment of the next (ninth) Secretary-General are available from the President of the General Assembly page.
Disclaimer: answers are prepared by library staff using resources available at the time of writing. This site may include links and references to third-party databases, websites, books and articles, this does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.