Speech

"It is high time for a woman to lead the United Nations."

Statement by Ambassador Matthew Rycroft of the UK Mission to the UN on the adoption of the resolution on General Assembly Revitalisation

Thank you Mr President; the United Kingdom warmly welcomes the adoption by consensus of this landmark resolution. I want to thank my Namibian and Croatian colleagues for all their efforts as co-chairs to shepherd through this important agreement, and I align myself with the statement delivered by the EU on behalf of its Member States.

Mr President,

On my first day as British Ambassador to the UN, I set out three principles that I thought should guide the selection of the next Secretary-General - a clear timeline, a transparent selection process and an opportunity open to all, no matter their gender. It is of great personal and professional satisfaction to see that we have made important steps forward to realise these principles today, particularly the first and second.

Our welcome consensus moves us closer to realising a more predictable and more transparent process. So we have started the race to find a person fit for one of the most important jobs in the world. A person who will guide us through the most challenging threats to our peace and security. A person who will oversee the most ambitious development agenda in our history. A person who truly is one for seven billion.

We have taken three important steps to realise this goal.

First, we have agreed to a joint letter from the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council that will solicit candidates for the role of Secretary-General. In doing so, we have agreed to set out, for the first time in the United Nations’ history, a clear starting point for, and a description of, the selection and appointment process for this vital role.

Second, we have agreed to maintain a public, consolidated list of candidates, held jointly by the Presidents of the General Assembly and the Security Council. The days of smoke filled rooms, of rumours and speculation on the runners and riders for the job, are over. Through consensus today we have brought overdue transparency to an archaic and opaque practice.

And finally, Mr President, we have pledged to hold candidates up to genuine scrutiny, through informal dialogues with them, open to all members. We all now have the chance to test the calibre of those who put themselves forward. To understand their motivation and their ambition. And to challenge them, question them, cajole them in their bid for this highest of offices.

It is disappointing, however, that there was a strong resistance to the participation of civil society in these meetings. As I said in my statement to the Ad Hoc Working Group in April, the United Kingdom wants to see a process that is open to all member states, but also to observers, and to civil society. That is why we are open to organising an Arria-formula meeting with candidates that really is open to all.

There is always more to be done. We have only just begun. A predictable and transparent process will fail without the broadest range of credible candidates. And this must mean expressions of interest from the broadest range of men and women. I have said it before, and I will proudly say it again – the United Kingdom believes that other things being equal, it is high time for a woman to lead the United Nations.

So it is incumbent on us all to ensure that we have the broadest range of women competing for this role. We will never find the best candidate if we exclude half of the world’s population. So let us all encourage the world’s leading women to answer the call and apply for this role.

Mr President,

Let me close by again thanking you for all of your efforts to secure consensus on this resolution today. It is a fitting way to herald in the 70th anniversary of the UN. And I also want to thank so many groups outside of this room – the advocates, the civil society groups and so many others – who have pushed us along this path. In doing so, we have together brought greater transparency to such an important task ahead of us.

Thank you.