Senior Appointments at the UN: Trends Favor Wealthier Countries in Recent Years


CIC Data in Focus is a blog series discussing trends, peculiarities, and questions arising from UN data, mainly drawn from our datasets here at the Center on International Cooperation. 

Over the past four years, high-income countries have increased their share of Under-Secretary-General (USG) and Assistant Secretary-General (ASG) appointments from 47.5 percent to 60.5 percent. This expansion happened mostly at the expense of representatives from countries with the lowest income.

The UN has an established culture of balancing its senior appointments by world regions, a subject that has been well analyzed. However, there is another way of looking at UN senior appointments–the proportion of representatives from developing versus developed countries.

The data from January 2015 through December 2018 reveal that senior appointments are tilted toward the wealthier countries. Despite representing around 16 percent of the world’s population, citizens of high-income countries (identified using the World Bank classifications) represented 47.5 percent of senior appointments (USG and ASG-level) at the UN in 2015. By 2018 that share rose to 60.5 percent. At the same time, the share of the poorest countries fell from 25.5 percent to 10.5 percent. The middle-income countries expanded their portion by 3 percentage points.

UN Senior Appointments by Share of Income Group

This data only look at new appointments, not the overall number of USGs and ASGs in office. In the next post we will shift our focus away from new appointments and look into the proportion of representatives from developing and developed countries among the USGs and ASG who are currently in office.

Bar chart looking at UN Senior Appointments by Share of Income Group (2015-2018).

Data Source: United Nations. Prepared by the Center on International Cooperation.

If you have more ideas or questions about what we’re observing, we welcome your tweets @nyuCIC.

Thanks for reading CIC Data in Focus. We welcome and appreciate your feedback. Drop us a line at paulvonchamier[at] if there’s something you’d like to see us add to the blog.

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