The Next Secretary-General, Secretariat Reform, and the Vexed Question of Senior Appointments

Publication: Report

The appointment of a new United Nations Secretary-General in 2016 will provide special opportunities for the reform and renewal of the UN Secretariat.

While an ambitious agenda for reform may be unrealistic, the relationship between the UN bureaucracy and member states needs to be reevaluated. The way senior staff are recruited must change. Building a merit-based group of top level officials around the incoming secretary-general should be a priority. Creating a special transitional team to manage their selection process could be one way to achieve this goal.

This report starts off with a short history of senior appointments, and outlines recent efforts under the present secretary-general, and then examines the more general issues of secretariat renewal. It then turns back to senior appointments as a pressing issue deserving immediate attention. Choosing people for the top jobs will be the first decisions the new secretary-general will have to make (perhaps even before being formally appointed). These decisions made will shape the secretariat’s next five years. It concludes with a few observations on the current political environment and a specific suggestion on a more managed post-appointment transition to a new administration.

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