Background, an initiative launched in January 2007 under the World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy, emerges from the recent yet distinct legacy of civil society efforts to promote accountability and transparency in world elections.

Ensuring the sound selection of global leadership

For more than a decade, civil society groups, governments, and progressive international organizations have been taking steps to improve the election procedures of regional and international organizations. As a result, prominent international organizations such as the World Trade Organization have reformed their election procedures to allow for search committees, open interviews and debates, and the regulation of conflicts of interest. The international community has benefited significantly from the increased transparency and accountability of elections on the world stage.

Case A: The International Criminal Court

One of the strongest example of the potential for civil society to safeguard institutions are the efforts of the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC).

1990s: the CICC took proactive measures to improve the election process for the judges of the new world court. Significant nomination and election procedures were adopted to ensure more qualified candidates, enhance transparency, and promote gender, regional representation, and diversity within legal systems.

2002: the CICC created a website and campaign to promote the transparency and accountability of the election. Resumes of nominees were uploaded immediately, most candidates agreed to fill out questionnaires about their qualifications, and interviews and panel discussions with candidates were held. Additionally, NGOs conducted close monitoring of government vote trading and reciprocal agreements.

Governments, UN officials, and the media had claimed that it would be useless to attempt to improve the election process. Yet CICC’s efforts culminated in the successful, scandal-free election of the inaugural bench of a new international tribunal. While it is open for debate whether the eighteen selected women and men were the best candidates, all were well-qualified, and candidates who had been widely criticized as unqualified were were not chosen. All agreed that the most powerful states had to campaign on a more equal footing with small and middle power countries. (Click here for more information on the election of the ICC judges.)

Case B: The United Nations Secretary-General 

Inspired by this success, the WFM-IGP, in cooperation with NGOs from all regions, established another effort in 2006 to campaign for more democratic and transparent procedures in the selection of the UN Secretary-General.  Reforming the selection process has been challenging, and our efforts will be ongoing for a number of years. However, most observers have agreed that the 2006 SG selection was the most transparent to date. Governments, civil society and the media were able to track nominations, research candidates, and follow “straw polls” or formal voting processes more closely than ever before.

In light of these gains, WFM-IGP recently began a new campaign to improve the selection process ahead of the appointment of the next Secretary-General in 2016. On the 4th of November, 2014, WFM-IGP and its NGO partners distributed an open letter to all member states and heads of government calling for a more equitable, transparent, and merit-based process and offering concrete proposals for reform.  For more information about this new campaign, please visit   


The work of NGOs in following the election of the world's first criminal court and of the head of the premier institution of international governance, offers a valuable model for monitoring future elections and appointments in the UN system. Today, we regularly update in our continued efforts to improve the selection processes for offices of international importance.