Ex-UN climate chief to take on Helen Clark for top job

  • 08/07/2016
Christiana Figueres (AAP)
Christiana Figueres (AAP)

Costa Rica has nominated former United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres to be the next UN Secretary-General, making her the 12th candidate to enter the race ahead of the first Security Council secret ballot later this month.

"The United Nations, and the world, needs a Secretary-General who is a bridge builder, who can listen and consult, who can help resolve disputes, build agreements and anticipate problems. Christiana Figueres has proven to be that person," said Costa Rican President Luis Guillermo Solis on Thursday.

Ms Figueres recently stepped down from her role as executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change after six years. She is credited by some diplomats for helping lead more than 190 countries to a global climate deal.

The search for a successor to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon - a former South Korean foreign minister who steps down at the end of 2016 after two five-year terms - has sparked a push by more than a quarter of the 193 UN states for the organisation's first female leader.

The other female candidates are: UN cultural organisation UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova of Bulgaria; former Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic; Moldova's former Foreign Minister Natalia Gherman; former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who heads the UN Development Programme; and Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, who was Ban's chief of staff until late last year.

The 15-member Security Council will hold its first informal secret ballot on July 21 and hopes to agree on a candidate by September or October to formally recommend to the General Assembly for election.

Ultimately the council's veto powers - the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China - have to agree on a candidate.

Since the power to authorise military force or sanctions lies with the Security Council, the UN chief has little more than a bully pulpit. Many diplomats say the veto powers prefer a "secretary" rather than a "general."

Under an informal tradition of rotating the top post between regions, it is Eastern Europe's turn and eight of the current nominees are from there. Russia backs the rotation, but has signalled it would not veto a candidate just because that person was not from Eastern Europe.