UN Starts Search for Kofi Annan Successor

The UN Security Council has started looking for Kofi Annan’s successor as General Secretary. Predictably, the discussion has already devolved into a spat over which region’s “turn” it is.

AP’s Edith Lederer asserts that, “By tradition, the job of secretary-general rotates by region — and Asian and African nations, who represent the majority of U.N. members, believe it is Asia’s turn to lead the United Nations.” Actually, though, as she reports in the very next sentence, “The Asian group has been courting support from Latin America but has run into opposition from the United States and some European countries who say the best qualified candidate should be selected, regardless of his country.”


U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has argued that in practice there has been no geographical rotation because three secretary-generals have come from Western Europe, two from Africa, one from Latin America, one from Asia and none from Eastern Europe.

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry said “quite a lot of members of the council favor rotation” and most insist on a candidate who is very highly qualified for the job. “If that person is an Asian, then those who argue that it should be an Asian’s turn, then their interest is met,” Jones Parry said. “For those who say the important thing is the quality, provided there is a candidate who actually can do the job and who comes forward from Asia, then that too meets the wishes of those who emphasize the quality.”

Further, the last two Secretaries General have been from Africa: Boutros Boutros-Ghali was Egyptian (on the African continent, although Middle Eastern politically) and Annan is from Ghana. One only has to take a quick look at the previous occupants to see that no “rotation” has been in place:

Photo: UN Secretaries General
Click for larger image

Europe, Europe, Europe, Asia, Europe, Latin America, Africa/Middle East, Africa. The pattern is obvious, no?

The bottom line is that the U.N. needs a consensus builder–preferably someone who can repair the growing tripartite rifts between the US-UK-Commonwealth block, the rest of the West, and the rest of the world. That’s perhaps an impossible task and it may well be that there’s an Asian candidate who can do it as well as anyone. But, surely, ability should be the first consideration.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DC Loser says:

    Lee Kwan Yew, ex-Singaporean leader, if he’s still able to do something like this in his old age. Has feet in both East and West. Pro-western but trusted by China.

  2. Elmo says:

    I thought the U.N. was moving to Montreal? Isn’t that building going condo? The U.N.? How positively 20th century. I mean primitive …. no, no wait. I got it … Jessica Alba [sorry Angelina (Pomona in da house)].

  3. just me says:

    So are North Americans left out of the rotation? Is there something wrong with the US, Canada or Mexico?

    I agree with Bolton on this one-the person who is chosen to lead the UN should be the best person from the job, not somebody from some region.

    Granted I would just rather the US tell the UN to go jump in a lake, and withdraw from the body and keep our money-but I realize that is just wishful thinking on my part.

  4. roberto says:

    Thanks for your listing of Secretary Generals, James.

    AFter reviewing it, I think a clear requirement becomes apparent for any SecGen: you must have a weird name.

    U Thant?
    Boutros Boutros?

    I think the Asians have a leg up–not for the geographic factor, but for the weird name factor:


  5. Mark says:

    The bottom line is that the U.N. needs a consensus builderâ??preferably someone who can repair the growing tripartite rifts between the US-UK-Commonwealth block, the rest of the West, and the rest of the world.

    The choice is obvious:

    Gerhard Schroeder! hehe

  6. LJD says:

    Kojo has a good idea about how ‘things work’.

  7. Bithead says:

    Sect’y general John Bolton.

    Wouldn’t that just tick off the left?


  8. Jay says:

    I’d been wondering when they’d get rid of that corrupt dolt with world-in-a-tinpot ambitions. About time!

  9. Mike M says:

    Its a bit rich to hear John Bolton say that the best person should be chosen for a job …

  10. Mike M says:

    I think the Asians have a leg up�not for the geographic factor, but for the weird name factor:

    Weird according to who ? If you polled all the people of the world, you might find a Chinese or an Indian name the least weird of all

  11. mannning says:

    Please, God, keep Bill Clinton out of this!

  12. Roger Ridenour says:

    Bill Clinton. Outstanding suggestion! An intelligent person who has the ability to discuss issues rationally with other foreign leaders.

  13. floyd says:

    roger; you mean bill clinton aka eddie haskel?

  14. Roger Ridenour says:

    No, Clinton the consensus builder who got more positive things done with Republicans controlling both houses of Congress than Bush has been able to do. The guy who helped make America more respected the world over. But if you don’t like Clinton for the job, Al Gore would be great as well.

  15. floyd says:

    nothing offered right now,from either party, thanks, i’m cursed with the memory of freedom.

  16. Roger Ridenour says:

    Me too. I miss it.

  17. mannning says:

    If Hillary wins the Presidency and Bill wins the Secretary General post, with the blessings of the radical left in the US, this will be a nightmare for those who are anti-secular humanist in this nation.

    I suggest that everyone read up on the Humanist Manifesto, with its emphasis on one world government, children raised by the government, and eradication of Christianity everywhere in favor of atheism. The Clintons are false Christians but true one-worlders.

  18. Roger Ridenour says:

    Actually I think it was Bush Sr. who always talked about a “New World Order.” Used to scare my rapture-focused kin something fierce. They thought they could see the Antichrist behind every bush, so to speak.