Talk:Secretary-General of the United Nations

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Title of Page[edit]

As most leadership lists are named [position] of [country] - such as Prime Minister of Egypt or President of Ecuador. Shouldn't, logically' this page be entitled Secretary-General of the United Nations.--[[User:OldakQuill|Oldak Quill]] 09:19, 26 Jun 2004 (UTC)

Why Asia's Turn?[edit]

Can someone explain to me why Asia is next in the "rotation" even though there has already been a Secretary-General from Asia, and none from North America or Oceania? Just curious. It might make sense to explain it in the article too. -- 20:54, 5 Jan 2005 (UTC)

Hi, well first you must know that North America is part of the Americas and, it has been represented by peruvian Javier Perez de Cuellar. About Oceania, I don't know, we should investigate that. Anyway that's why! --Gonzalo
This is a complicated one, everyone says that there is an informal tradition that the post of Secretary-General (SG) "rotates" by continent. In effect, however, this has never really been the case. Former SGs (in chronological order) have been from the continents of Europe, Europe, Asia, Europe, Americas, Africa, Africa. Somehow now everyone says that it's Asia's turn. This probably reflects the growing influence of Asia geo-politically (China, India etc) and by percentage of the world's population, more than any informal tradition.

However, the Asian candidates are quite weak and the US and UK (both veto-wielders) are pushing heavily for appointment by merit, so I doubt that any of the current Asian candidates will get the job. Inevitably they'll be a compromise and it's highly unlikely that any of the candidates mentioned in this article will get the job. That's half the fun of making a prediction!

FYI: Oceania is considered to be part of Asia, just as North America is part of the Americas and Russia is part of Europe. That said, some of the supporters of Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga are saying that Eastern Europe has never had a Secretary-General before so its rotation right is higher than Asia's. Considering that Europe has already had three SGs and has two seats on the Security Council, it's unlikely there would be broad-enough support for another European as SG. Especially because of opposition from the developing world, which sees the Secretary-Generalship as a key counter-weight to the financial and political-clout of the developed world. --RingoStarr 07:21, 14 June 2006 (UTC)

I can clear this up. (Most of the responses above are wrong or only partly correct.)

The proposal that it is "Asia's turn" does indeed come from a "tradition" (more or less) of rotating between regional groups at the UN (not quite the same as continents). These five recognized regional groups are used to geographically balance almost all leadership posts in the UN system - including position among the elected Security Council members, the new Human Rights Council, etc.

North America is not part of the Americas, as suggested, but rather part of the Western Europe and Others regional group, or WEOG. (There is no Americas regional group, but rather a Latin American and Caribbean group). Most countries in Oceania are indeed part of the Asian regional group (Australia and New Zealand are also in WEOG). The idea that Eastern Europe has yet to have a turn has merit in this regard, in that Eastern Europe is in fact a recognized regional group, established at the insistence most likely of the Soviet Union during the Cold War as being distinct from Western Europe. In regards to electing an East European as the next UNSG, Russia has stated clearly that it would oppose any nominee from its former sphere of influence for the post.[1]

Reforming these groups, such as merging Eastern Europe into WEOG, giving Oceania its own has been suggested, but has not garned the political will for implementation yet Tfleming 16:09, 31 March 2007 (UTC) (originally posted 5 October 2006)

Rumors about Bill Clinton[edit]

Those rumors about Bill Clinton wanting the UNSG job have been circulating since Clinton's second term as President. Remember me 09:33, 16 Jun 2005 (UTC)

any idea why bit of rumours about Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga and the job were removed? Markizs 19:27, 20 September 2005 (UTC)

It might be nice for someone to mention when this "recent" talk in Halifax took place. Relative time is a difficult thing on wikip. ub3rm4th 22:26, 23 August 2006 (UTC)

First Secretary General[edit]

What this page does not care to explain is the very fact that Alger Hiss, famous for being a convicted russian spy, was the very first secretary general. He also wrote the charter for the UN.

there was another SG that was a fmr SA member and alleged neo-nazi

Alger Hiss was never Secretary-General of the UN. He was a US State Department official who was was the secretary-general of the United Nations Conference on International Organization (the United Nations Charter Conference) in San Francisco in 1945. This is probably where the confusion arises even though his role was purely administrative and not a leadership position. However, he never held the post of Secretary-General or an equivilant, in either a full or acting capacity. --RingoStarr 07:21, 14 June 2006 (UTC)


The following sentences from the third paragraph of the Term and Selection section have been directly copied from the first paragraph of the Accepted Practices section at

Most Secretaries-General are compromise-candidates from middle powers and with little prior fame. High-profile candidates are often touted for the job, but are almost always rejected as unpalatable to some.

I'm not sure of wikipedia's policies regarding this, so I'll leave it to someone else to fix it, and I'll keep an eye out for other portions that may be plagiarized Uniqueuponhim 16:46, 12 May 2006 (UTC)

I am the author of, and appreciate the note that this text was lifted from my site. I don't mind, as long as reference is made back to, and hope the material is useful to others. Tfleming 01:13, 14 October 2006 (UTC)

Zimbabwe instead of Zambia[edit]

I believe that the reference to Rhodesia and Zambia may be incorrect as shown regarding the place where the plane crash occured that killed Dag Hammarskjöld.

See your reference: "Dag Hammarskjöld 10 April 1953 – 18 September 1961 Sweden Died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia)"

Please verify and change as necessary.

Thank you

C. Hamilton, St. Kitts and Nevis West Indies

Zimbabwe instead of Zambia[edit]

I have double-checked for myself and you were correct. It was Zambia.

C. Hamilton

Why so male-dominated?[edit]

Why is the position of Secretary General so male-dominated? There has never been a female SG and in the most recent contest only one serious candidate was female. I think the article needs to explain or discuss this issue. There must be some reason for it. 12:38, 15 October 2006 (UTC)

  • I see no reason to believe that there is any particular reason for this. Given that UNSG is a lesser position than, for example, Prime Minister of a sovereign nation, I don't see any inherent sexism leaping to mind here. If there is some particular reason that there hasn't been a female UNSG, then the article should include it. However, there's no particular reason to believe that there is. --Don Sowell 21:26, 12 December 2006 (UTC)

Election process[edit]

I'd be interested to see some description of exactly how candidates get nominated, by whom, etc. Brettz9 19:17, 29 October 2006 (UTC)

Role and Powers[edit]

This article says next to nothing about the SG's formal role and what his powers are under the Charter, or how much influence he has over the UN. I would add it myself but I would rather that someone who already knows a bit about this did it instead. Richard75 20:14, 11 December 2006 (UTC)

Opening Sentence[edit]

" The Secretary-General of the United Nations is the head of the Secretariat, one of the principal organs of the United Nations. "

Er... anyone wanting to reword that? (the word "organs" gives an interesting first impression upon reading). Colonel Marksman 16:16, 13 February 2007 (UTC)

Organs is the correct term according to the United Nations Charter. Any other "interesting impression" is entirely in your own mind. Dodiad 21:17, 10 August 2007 (UTC)

Image:Boutros Boutros-Ghali.jpg[edit]

The image above is missing essential source information. It will be deleted on 2007-03-20.   — Jeff G. (talk|contribs) 02:20, 19 March 2007 (UTC)


I removed all the photos from the list of Secretaries General. The reason for this is that we don't have free images for all of them and non-free images are subject to greater restrictions such that they are used in a few locations as possible. Yes, some of the images were free, but to have some people with an image and some not just doesn't make much sense. howcheng {chat} 18:48, 10 July 2007 (UTC)


The citations tag has been removed, with the edit summary "This article has 23 citations. Many articles three times the length have less than one third as many. What EXACTLY is the problem here?"

It's true that the article currently has 23 citations, but these relate to the table and the section on the 2006 selection. The main bulk of the article is completely without inline citations. As such, it is extremely difficult for the reader to determine which claims are supported by reliable sources. In fact, many of the article's claims do not appear to be supported by any of the references provided.

We do not judge the quality of an article by the number of citations, but by whether the claims made are clearly backed up by reliable sources. This article needs work to bring it up to Wikipedia's standards of verifiability. I'm restoring the citations tag until references are provided. This might be an ugly solution, but I think it's better than the alternatives (either tagging each of the two main sections or individually tagging each unsupported claim in the article).

Sideshow Bob Roberts 14:14, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

I respectfully disagree with your reasoning, but I am extremely appreciative of the fact that you at least have provided it here on this page. Let me make a few points:
  • Though many editors make the claim that everything has to have citations (not that you actually said that), the fact is, there is much knowledge contained within Wikipedia—I would venture to say perhaps 90% of it—that it utterly without citation, and is nonetheless accepted.
  • Citations are generally only needed when something is truly a point of contention, either because its accuracy is genuinely doubted, or because it is POV.
  • I am no expert on the UN; I am merely an ordinary man who reads that article and it pretty much seems okay to me.
  • I think (as a matter of personal belief; I know that this is not Wikipedia policy) that tags should be placed at the top of articles only when it is truly necessary to protect the reader from deception. I find that ugly, distracting, and non-encyclopedic, though occasionally they are necessary.
With these thoughts in mind, I see your tag at the top as unnecessary, and even unhelpful. I think that a few {{Fact}} tags placed within the text would help me ascertain what problems that you see that I am missing. It would also make it easier for an editor who was knowledgeable to then go in and correct these problems.
At this time, I will not remove the tag, but I am going to move it to the bottom of the article. In this way, it will still trigger a category footer noting its need to be better cited, but will render the article more attractive. Respectfully, Unschool 01:15, 22 July 2007 (UTC)

Proposal to split the 2006 selection process into a new article[edit]

I think our coverage of the 2006 selection process is worth keeping but I don't think we should go into so much detail about this stuff here in the main UNSG article (per WP:Recentism). Any objections to splitting it off to a new article (say, "United Nations Secretary-General selection, 2006" or something)? Sideshow Bob Roberts 05:02, 9 November 2007 (UTC)

I support the creation of such an article, at least. Along with pages for all the other elections. Punkmorten (talk) 21:22, 18 November 2007 (UTC)
Done. The new article's here, please review it! Sideshow Bob Roberts (talk) 14:40, 24 November 2007 (UTC)

Proposal to change europe to 4 insted of 3[edit]

i would understand counting the first two secretaries an one if they were in fact from the same countries but seeing as they are not then i feel that the western Europe number should be changed from 3 to 4 so the total on the list reflects the total on the table —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 03:47, 16 January 2008 (UTC)

UK+Norway+Sweden+Austria = 4

Eastern European = 0? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 12:17, 16 May 2009 (UTC)


I find the claim that 'the fact there has been no North Americans secretary general is strange', bizzare and it sounds to me like it was added by someone who doesn't understand the UN. There is no North America regional group in the UN obviously. Canada is of course part of the Western Europe and others group and there have been 3 SG from that group. The US is basically part of the group as well. Other countries in North America including the Carribean Islands are of course part of the Latin America and Carribean Islands group and there has been only one SG from there. Also, in reality, there is little chance for a SG coming from any permanent members which automatically excludes the US. This leaves Canada and Mexico+few other Latin American countries+Carribean Islands [which are probably too small to realisticly have a chance] (remembering there has only been 1 SG from there anyway). So all in all, I don't see any reason why the fact there has never been a SG from North America is strange. If anything, you could just as much argue it's been strange there has never been a SG from South Asia (1.5? million people). Or that there's only been one SG from the Latin America+Carribean Islands group. Or from the Eastern Europe group. Or whatever you want Nil Einne (talk) 07:38, 24 February 2008 (UTC)

Nobody from a NATO country has ever been elected[edit]

It says in the Ban Ki-moon section that nobody from a NATO country has ever been elected, but Trygve Lie was norwegian and Norway is a member of NATO. Or am I missing something? —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:00, 21 October 2008 (UTC)

Yes your right. Removed QueenCake (talk) 19:31, 26 October 2008 (UTC)

UN's worst humiliations??[edit]

Boutros Boutros-Ghali's description reads, "his watch the UN suffered two of the worst humiliations in its history...". That seems biased and a bit much right, or is that actually sourced somewhere? (talk) 05:07, 6 April 2009 (UTC)

Since most of the descriptions only talk about the electoral issues of each Secretary General, discussions of events that happened during Boutros-Ghali's term seem inappropriate. I think they should be deleted. Teedieroosevelt (talk) 22:40, 3 January 2011 (UTC)


Article says serves 5-yr term. Misleading. Nothing in the Charter specifies term. Just custom. Peter jackson (talk) 09:19, 15 April 2009 (UTC)

Most Powerful Person Alive[edit]

With the most control over the UN, is the Secretary General the most powerful person alive?

without any doubt at all the answer is obviously no. He has no real power over the member states of the United Nations BritishWatcher (talk) 20:47, 18 August 2010 (UTC)

World President[edit]

Would it be accurate to say that, if the title were used to describe any one person, the president of the world would be the Secretary-General of the UN? Even though the SG has little real power, who else could you possibly say would have that title? Dan Wang (talk) 14:39, 8 July 2012 (UTC)

Is this your personal speculation or is it part of the ongoing public discussion about the role of the Secretary-General? Absent the latter it doesn't belong in an encyclopedia. Wikipedia is not a discussion forum. ---Vroo (talk) 19:20, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

bad citation[edit]

There are six different references to the article An Historical Overview on the Selection of United Nations Secretaries-General (footnote 10 at the time I write this). However, that article does not actually contain any of the facts that it is cited for. ---Vroo (talk) 08:01, 2 December 2012 (UTC)

What are "good offices"?[edit]

I've never heard the term "good offices" as in "Most of his time is spent on good offices missions and mediation". Is this correct, or a mistake? Could the meaning of "good offices" be clarified in a way that most readers will understand. If it simply refers to offices that are of high quality, I propose rewording it to "Most of his time is spent in offices, on missions and mediation".

Also a citation to support "offices" (as opposed to 'his office') should be added, if one exists.

Aboutscript (talk) 05:34, 21 July 2013 (UTC)

It's not a mistake. It's a term of art used in international relations since before the UN existed. It basically means mediation. Bk Read Talk 17:39, 16 March 2014 (UTC)