United Nations Secretary-General selection, 2006

United Nations Secretary-General selection, 2006
United Nations
13 October 2006
Candidate Ban Ki-moon Shashi Tharoor Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga
Country  South Korea  India  Latvia
'Encouraged' votes[1]
14 / 15
10 / 15
5 / 15

UN Secretary-General before election

Kofi Annan

Elected UN Secretary-General

Ban Ki-moon

Ban Ki-moon was elected Secretary-General in October 2006.

An election was held in 2006 to succeed Kofi Annan, whose second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations expired on 31 December 2006. Seven candidates were officially nominated for the position.

The United Nations Security Council conducted a series of unofficial straw polls between 24 July and 2 October. South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon emerged as the front-runner, and the only candidate with the support of all five permanent members of the Security Council (P5), each of whom has the power to veto candidates. Following the final straw poll, all the candidates withdrew except for Ban. The Security Council conducted a formal vote on 9 October, and forwarded its choice to the General Assembly, which elected Ban on 13 October.

Selection process

The United Nations Charter provides for the Secretary-General to be appointed by the General Assembly upon the nomination of the Security Council. Therefore, the selection is subject to the veto of any of the five permanent members of the Security Council.

The Charter's minimal language has since been supplemented by other procedural rules and accepted practices. In practice, the Secretary-General cannot be a national of any of the permanent members of the Security Council. An accepted practice of regional rotation has also been adopted in the selection of successive candidates. The ability of candidates to converse in both English and French is also considered an unofficial qualification for the office.

Background to the 2006 race

When the race to succeed Annan began in 2006, it was widely expected the successful candidate would be Asian, since a number of Security Council members (including China, which has a veto) indicated they would only support an Asian candidate.[2]

Noting that all Secretaries-General to date have been men, Equality Now launched a campaign for the election of a female Secretary-General, and identified a ‘sampling’ of 18 qualified women, including Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, Louise Arbour, Gro Harlem Brundtland, and Tarja Halonen.[3] Equality Now also noted that there are many qualified Asian women, including Aung San Suu Kyi from Burma, Sadako Ogata from Japan, Nafis Sadik from Pakistan, Anson Chan from Hong Kong, and Leticia Shahani from the Philippines.[4] The idea of a female Secretary-General received some support (including from Kofi Annan[5] and US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton[6]), but no Asian women were nominated.


Seven candidates were officially nominated for the position:[7]

Official candidates
Image Candidate Position Nominated by Regional group
Ban Ki-moon Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of South Korea  South Korea Asia-Pacific Group
Shashi Tharoor Under-Secretary General for Communications and Public Information  India Asia-Pacific Group
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga President of Latvia  Estonia
Eastern European Group (EEG)
Surakiart Sathirathai Deputy Prime Minister of Thailand  Thailand Asia-Pacific Group
Ashraf Ghani Chancellor of the Kabul University  Afghanistan Asia-Pacific Group
Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Jordanian Ambassador to the United Nations  Jordan Asia-Pacific Group
Jayantha Dhanapala Former Under Secretary General to re-establish the Department of Disarmament  Sri Lanka Asia-Pacific Group

A number of other potential candidates were mentioned by commentators but did not run, including Bill Clinton (former President of the United States), Jean Chrétien (former Prime Minister of Canada), Anwar Ibrahim (former Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia), Goh Chok Tong (Senior Minister of Singapore), Fidel Ramos (former President of the Philippines), José Ramos-Horta (Prime Minister of East Timor), Aleksander Kwaśniewski (former President of Poland), and Tony Blair (then Prime Minister of the United Kingdom),[7] though one of the customs that has developed regarding the selection process is that the appointee may not be a citizen of any of the Security Council's five permanent members (such as Clinton or Blair).[8]


The Security Council conducted four straw polls, on 24 July,[9] 14 September,[10] 28 September,[11] and 2 October,[12] in which each of the 15 member states were asked whether they would "encourage" or "discourage" each of the official candidates (or if they had ‘no opinion’ on the candidate). Ban Ki-moon and Shashi Tharoor topped each of these polls. In the fourth poll, Ban emerged as the only candidate with the support of all five permanent members, each of whom has the power to veto candidates; Shashi Tharoor had received more overall "encourage" votes in some previous straw polls but China indicated it would veto Tharoor, who is Indian. One Permanent Member (later revealed to be the US under the Bush Administration)[13] opposed and China abstained from voting. After the vote, Shashi Tharoor, who finished second, withdrew his candidacy[14] and China's Permanent Representative to the UN told reporters that "it is quite clear from today's straw poll that Minister Ban Ki-moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend to the General Assembly".[15]

Zeid and Ghani withdrew from the race on 4 October.[16] They were followed on 5 October by Surakiart and Vīķe-Freiberga, leaving only Ban in the race.[17] The Security Council conducted a formal vote on 9 October, and forwarded its choice to the General Assembly, which then elected him on 13 October.[18]

United Nations Secretary-General selection straw poll results[19]
Candidate 24 July 14 September 28 September 2 October Final Vote
South Korea Ban Ki-moon 12 1 2 14 1 0 13 1 1 14 0 1 Acclaimed
India Shashi Tharoor 10 2 3 10 3 2 8 3 4 10 3 (1P) 2 Withdrawn
Thailand Surakiart Sathirathai 7 3 5 9 3 3 5 7 3 4 7 (2P) 4 Withdrawn
Sri Lanka Jayantha Dhanapala 5 6 4 3 5 7 3 7 5[20] Withdrawn Withdrawn
Jordan Prince Zeid bin Ra'ad Not yet nominated 6 4 5 3 6 6 2 8 (1P) 5 Withdrawn
Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga Not yet nominated Not yet nominated 7 6 2 5 6 (2P) 4 Withdrawn
Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani Not yet nominated Not yet nominated 3 6 6 4 11 (3P) 0 Withdrawn

See also


  1. 2 October straw poll
  2. "Support of UNSG candidates by UN member states". UNSG.org.
  3. "The Next United Nations Secretary-General: Time for a Woman". Equality Now. November 2005.
  4. Neuwirth, Jessica (15 March 2006). "Give the U.N.'s Reins to a Woman". Washington Post. Retrieved 26 May 2010.
  5. "International Women's Day". UNSG.org. 8 March 2006.
  6. "Bolton pushing for female UNSG?". UNSG.org. 10 April 2006.
  7. 1 2 "Candidates for UN Secretary General". UNSG.org.
  8. "Kofi Annan: Job at a Glance". PBS. Educational Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved September 2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)
  9. "Ban takes 1st Straw Poll". UNSG.org. 2006-07-24. Retrieved 2006-09-28.
  10. "Ban firms up lead in second Straw Poll". UNSG.org. 2006-09-14. Retrieved 2006-09-28.
  11. "Ban slips but holds, Vike Freiberga pushes into third". UNSG.org. 2006-09-28. Retrieved 2006-09-28.
  12. "Ban Ki-moon wins". UNSG.org. 2006-10-02. Archived from the original on November 4, 2006. Retrieved 2006-10-02.
  13. http://www.openthemagazine.com/article/cover-story/the-inside-story-of-how-i-lost-the-race-for-the-un-secretary-generals-job-in-2006-shashi-tharoor
  14. "Shashi Tharoor pulls out of UN race". NDTV.com. 2006-10-02. Retrieved 2006-10-02. External link in |publisher= (help)
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on August 7, 2007. Retrieved August 2, 2007.
  16. "Jordanian, Afghan candidates drop out of race for next UN chief". Xinhua. 2006-10-05. Retrieved 2006-10-05.
  17. "Vike-Freiberga withdraws, Ban now sole candidate". UNSG.org. 5 October 2006.
  18. "South Korean elected new UN Chief". BBC News. 2006-10-13. Retrieved 2006-10-13.
  19. "Overview of Secretary General Candidates officially nominated by Member States and the results of straw polls and vote(s)" (PDF). Center for UN Reform Education. 13 October 2006. Retrieved 24 July 2016.
  20. "Ban slips but holds, Vike Freiberga pushes into third". UNSG.org. 28 September 2006. Retrieved 26 September 2016.
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