UN Secretary-General: Vision Statement

The process of selecting the next United Nations (UN) Secretary-General (SG) is close to the end. The third straw poll has indicated that the former UN High Commissioner for Refugees is leading the race so far. A few months ago, I was given a task of drafting a vision statement for an imaginatory SG candidate. Here is the draft. I am posting it here in hope for a new Secretary-General who can lead the world organization with prime principles of accountability, transparency and responsiveness.

The United Nations (UN) is facing a critical time. The challenges it faces are unprecedented, including more complex, violent and lengthy conflicts, mass atrocities caused by non-traditional groups, threat to innocent civilians, mass flow of displaced persons, deterioration of human rights situations in some parts of the world, persisting poverty and inequality, and environmental and climate challenges. The UN’s tasks may seem daunting. It is time that we shall have a clear vision, agreed priorities and to stand firm on the principles and spirits that created our Organization.


The key principles are accountability, transparency and being responsive to voices of the people.


First, accountability relates to that of the UN and of its personnel. On the former, we are responsible to learn from our mistakes and not to repeat Srebrenica or Rwanda. If something within our Organization is dysfunctional, we must find another way. This cannot be done without also addressing individual wrongdoings. We must not let any more civilians to become victimized, and we as an Organization also cannot afford any more bad individual behaviour to taint the work of all others.


Second, transparency is a crucial principle for our success. This is so on all issues at all levels, including the performance of decision-making bodies, evaluation of our programmes, budgetary limitations, administrative and resource issues, and quality of our personnel. It means that the discussion on what is desirable and what is realistically achievable must be more openly discussed. It is only when we have a common acknowledgement of the issues that we can make a move forward together.


Third, we need to keep in mind that we are here to work for the people. Their voices guide us in all our operations and activities. Therefore, I would pursue inclusion. I would focus on the civil society’s involvement in formal and informal UN procedures. Putting people first also mean that some of the headquarter-heavy administrative procedures must change to enable our field offices to respond to the needs of the ground more swiftly.


In terms of areas of focus, I envisage three broad areas: international peace and security, human rights and development, especially addressing extreme poverty and inequality.


First, peace and security area needs a major change. We need to address peace and security as one broad area without dividing it into prevention, ending the conflict and post-conflict recovery. As the Peace Operations and Peacebuilding reviews made it clear last year, conflicts need to be prevented, and for that, we need resources. I would work on making it sufficiently flexible for our offices to act to prevent a conflict or to rebuild a post-conflict society, guided by the needs on the ground.


Second, human rights should guide all our actions. Where people’s human rights are denied on a massive scale, it can become a root cause of a conflict. In such situations, there cannot be any excuse for the UN to ignore it. I would be most enthusiastic to review our practice and record to ensure that we are not only inculcating but also performing according to human rights standards.


Third, development is the other area of focus. This sector has multiple donors and actors, internally and externally. Our Organization’s priorities should be on extreme poverty and inequality, in particular where other resources are thin. For this purpose, we need to keep a clear picture of what is available and what is needed. We must ensure good network, coordination and cooperation with all actors. Here I would emphasize on the involvement of non-traditional actors, such as civil society groups, informal leaders and marginalized groups.


In addition, our world is facing such a mass of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) that these people must be put as our priority for the coming years. Their continuous sufferings are not only unbearable but also our shame. The reception, well-being and future plans cannot be left to the good will of our generous Member States, but we the UN must be lead solutions, and facilitate a sustainable system. I pledge to address this urgently at all levels.


These priorities for the Organization must be clearly set out and shared among all. In that respect, I emphasize on the UN’s integrity as one. The Organization has been reviewed as severely fragmented at all levels, posing a serious challenge to its effectiveness. I would address this by looking into political issues, structural and policy issues, and also practical issues such as administrative and financial procedures. All resources and strengths need to be mobilized to their maximum potential, and that cannot be achieved where we fight within for limited power or resources. I would initiate a mapping of all the resources of the UN and network of partner organizations, in order to share with you a better understanding of the big picture and to make our plans accordingly.


The UN has ambitious goals, and they can only be achieved if all decision-making bodies, all offices, all personnel and all our Member States can put together their strengths. I would be very honoured and am confident that I would be a key piece of that, guided by the principles of accountability, transparency and the voices of the people. I believe we can deliver as one.

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