May 21 - Issue 13 - Election for President of the 62nd General Assembly: May 24

New York, May 21, 2007 - The General Assembly will elect the President of the 62nd Session this Thursday, May 24, according to a list of key GA dates for May. 

That election will be followed by meetings of the Main Committees to elect their respective Chairmen and Bureau members for the 62nd session.  After that election, the plenary will meet again to elect the Vice-Presidents of the session.

Role of the President

The President does not vote on General Assembly decisions but has control over all other aspects of the discussions including time limitations for speakers, closure of the list of speakers, suspension and adjournment of debate, and ruling on points of order. In addition to these formal duties the President also has an informal facilitative role to play by consulting bilaterally with delegations to assess differences in position, propose solutions, and build consensus for proposals. 

Election Procedure

The President of the General Assembly follows an unwritten system of regional rotation. Each year one of the regional groups nominates an individual, who is then elected by the entire GA membership. The pattern of regional rotation since 1963 has been:

Latin American and Caribbean States

African States

Western European and Other States

Asian States

Eastern Europe

The nomination for GA President this year falls to the Group of Eastern European States. As Eastern European grouping members, the following states were eligible to make nominations:  Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Ukraine.

No formal criteria for the President exist in the Charter or the Assembly's Rules of Procedure.

A national of Macedonia, Dr. Srgjan Kerim, has been announced by various sources as the selected nominee. He reportedly was nominated without any formal procedures on the part of the Eastern European group (announced timeline for selection, regional criteria, short-list, etc.). Dr. Kerim was Macedonia's foreign minister from 2000-2001 and Permanent Representative to the UN from 2001-2003. See biography.

Reportedly, Hungary has already requested the right to nominate a candidate for the 2022-2023 term, fifteen years from now.  This may indicate that other Eastern European members have claimed that right for the intervening terms of 2012-2013 and 2017-2018. Agreeing on the PGA's nationality decades ahead of time leaves the decision out of the reach of the voting states of the General Assembly and could prevent the use of regionally developed criteria or a thorough selection process.

Civil Society Initiatives

The UNelections.org campaign has initiated discussion with the regional grouping that will choose the PGA nominee for the 63rd Session (2008-2009) - Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC).  They have been urged not to repeat the procedure of Eastern Europe's selection.  The campaign's specific recommendations to the LAC regional grouping are to:

  • Develop clear and appropriate criteria for the consideration of candidacies.  Criteria should address the unique responsibilities of the position while also advancing the specific concerns of each region.  Based on practices and recommendations of other international organizations, criteria could include:
  • o Political independence;
  • o Ability to devote a year of full-time work to the position;
  • o Multilateral leadership experience, including negotiation and consensus-building skills and the ability to deal with multiple powerful stakeholders; and
  • o A thorough understanding of the UN Charter.
  • Establish a search committee.  The nomination process should focus on identifying the best-qualified candidates, avoiding any reciprocal agreements, as Member States consider candidacies. 

Benefits of such procedures:

  • Nomination of individuals who are qualified, experienced, and able to devote the necessary time to the position;
  • Allows for small and middle-power countries in each region to make nominations on more even footing, giving each an equitable chance to put forward qualified individuals;
  • Reduces the pressure to choose nominees based on reciprocal agreements, as well as the pressure to narrow the candidate pool to just one individual out of the entire region;
  • By publicly announcing criteria, sets an example for transparency in high-level selection processes throughout the UN system; and
  • Forms a foundation for future processes, making the region better equipped to undertake other high-level nominations. 

In other words, despite the effort to be invested in an elections committee and/or search committee, the benefits of this investment would extend beyond just next year's selection for the President of the General Assembly. 

Letter to Latin American and Caribbean delegations regarding selection process for President of the General Assembly

In the News

Kerim: Lies of a rejected security officer - Makfax, May 14

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