The Secretary-General of the United Nations (UNSG or just SG) is the head of the United Nations Secretariat, one of the six principal organs of the United Nations. The Secretary-General serves as the chief administrative officer of the United Nations. The role of the United Nations Secretariat, and of the Secretary-General in particular, is laid out by Chapter XV (Articles 97 to 101) of the United Nations Charter.
As of 2019, the Secretary-General is António Guterres of Portugal, appointed by the General Assembly on 13 October 2016.
of the United Nations
since 1 January 2017
|United Nations Secretariat|
|Member of||Secretariat |
|Residence||Sutton Place, Manhattan|
|Seat||United Nations Headquarters, New York City, United States|
|Term length||five years, renewable (traditionally limited to two terms)|
|Constituting instrument||United Nations Charter|
|Inaugural holder||Gladwyn Jebb |
as acting Secretary-General (24 October 1945)
as first Secretary-General (2 February 1946)
|Formation||24 October 1945|
The Secretary-General was envisioned by U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt as a "world moderator", but the vague definition provided by the United Nations Charter left much room for interpretation. The Secretary-General is the "chief administrative officer" of the UN (Article 97) "in all meetings of the General Assembly, of the Security Council, of the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council, and shall perform other functions as are entrusted to him by these organs" (Article 98). They are also responsible for making an annual report to the General Assembly. They may notify the Security Council on matters which "in their opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security".
Other than these few guidelines, little else is dictated by the Charter. Interpretation of the Charter has varied between Secretaries-General, with some being much more active than others. The Secretary-General, along with the Secretariat, is given the prerogative to exhibit no allegiance to any state but to only the United Nations organization; decisions must be made without regard to the state of origin.
The Secretary-General is highly dependent upon the support of the member states of the UN. Although the Secretary-General may place any item on the provisional agenda of the Security Council, much of their mediation work takes place behind the scenes.
In the early 1960s, Soviet First Secretary Nikita Khrushchev led an effort to abolish the Secretary-General position. The numerical superiority of the Western powers combined with the one state, one vote system meant that the Secretary-General would come from one of them, and would potentially be sympathetic towards the West. Khrushchev proposed to replace the Secretary-General with a three-person directorate (a "troika"): one member from the West, one from the Eastern Bloc, and one from the Non-Aligned powers. This idea failed because the neutral powers failed to back the Soviet proposal.
The Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council. As the recommendation must come from the Security Council, any of the five permanent members of the Council can veto a nomination. Most Secretaries-General are compromise candidates from middle powers and have little prior fame.
Unofficial qualifications for the job have been set by precedent in previous selections. The appointee may not be a citizen of any of the Security Council's five permanent members. The General Assembly resolution 51/241 in 1997 stated that in the appointment of "the best candidate", due regard should be given to regional (continental) rotation of the appointee's national origin and to gender equality,:5 although no woman has yet served as Secretary-General.
The length of the term is discretionary, but all Secretaries-General since 1971 have been appointed to five-year terms. Every Secretary-General since 1961 has been re-selected for a second term, with the exception of Boutros Boutros-Ghali, who was vetoed by the United States in the 1996 selection. There is a term limit of two full terms, established when China cast a record 16 vetoes against Kurt Waldheim's third term in the 1981 selection. No Secretary-General since 1981 has attempted to secure a third term.
The selection process is opaque and is often compared to a papal conclave. Since 1981, the Security Council has voted in secret in a series of straw polls. The Security Council then submits the winning candidate to the General Assembly for ratification. No candidate has ever been rejected by the General Assembly. In 2016, the General Assembly and the Security Council sought nominations and conducted public debates for the first time. However, the Security Council voted in private and followed the same process as previous selections, leading the President of the General Assembly to complain that it "does not live up to the expectations of the membership and the new standard of openness and transparency".
The official residence of the Secretary-General is a townhouse at 3 Sutton Place, Manhattan, in New York City, United States. The townhouse was built for Anne Morgan in 1921, and donated to the United Nations in 1972.
|Dates in office||Country of origin||UN Regional Group||Reason of withdrawal||Ref.|
|24 October 1945 –
1 February 1946
|United Kingdom||Western European & Others||Served as Acting Secretary-General until Lie's election.|||
|After World War II, he served as Executive Secretary of the Preparatory Commission of the United Nations in August 1945, being appointed Acting United Nations Secretary-General from October 1945 to February 1946 until the appointment of the first Secretary-General, Trygve Lie.|
|2 February 1946 –
10 November 1952
|Norway||Western European & Others||Resigned.|||
|Lie, a foreign minister and former labour leader, was recommended by the Soviet Union to fill the post. After the UN involvement in the Korean War, the Soviet Union vetoed Lie's reappointment in 1951. The United States circumvented the Soviet Union's veto and recommended reappointment directly to the General Assembly. Lie was reappointed by a vote of 46 to 5, with eight abstentions. The Soviet Union remained hostile to Lie, and he resigned in 1952.|
|10 April 1953 –
18 September 1961
|Sweden||Western European & Others||Died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), while on a peacekeeping mission to the Congo.|||
|After a series of candidates were vetoed, Hammarskjöld emerged as an option that was acceptable to the Security Council. He was re-elected unanimously to a second term in 1957. The Soviet Union was angered by Hammarskjöld's leadership of the UN during the Congo Crisis, and suggested that the position of Secretary-General be replaced by a troika, or three-man executive. Facing great opposition from the Western nations, the Soviet Union gave up on its suggestion. Hammarskjöld died in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) in 1961. U.S. President John F. Kennedy called Hammarskjöld "the greatest statesman of our century".|
|30 November 1961 –
3 November 1966,
2 December 1966 –
31 December 1971
|Burma||Asia-Pacific||Declined to stand for a third election.|||
|In the process of replacing Hammarskjöld, the developing world insisted on a non-European and non-American Secretary-General. U Thant was nominated. However, due to opposition from the French (Thant had chaired a committee on Algerian independence) and the Arabs (Burma supported Israel), Thant was only appointed for the remainder of Hammarskjöld's term. He was the first Asian Secretary-General. The following year, on 30 November, Thant was unanimously re-elected to a full term ending on 3 November 1966. He was re-elected on 2 December 1966, finally for a full 5-year term, ending on 31 December 1971. Thant did not seek a third election.|
|1 January 1972 –
31 December 1981
|Austria||Western European & Others||China vetoed his third term.|||
|Waldheim launched a discreet but effective campaign to become the Secretary-General. Despite initial vetoes from China and the United Kingdom, in the third round, Waldheim was selected to become the new Secretary-General. In 1976, China initially blocked Waldheim's re-election, but it relented on the second ballot. In 1981, Waldheim's re-election for a third term was blocked by China, which vetoed his selection through 15 rounds; although the official reasons by the Chinese government for the veto of Waldheim remain unclear, some estimates from the time believe it to be in part due to China's belief that a Third World country should give a nomination, particularly from the Americas; however, there also remained the question of his possible involvement in Nazi war crimes. From 1986 to 1992, Waldheim served as President of Austria, making him the first former Secretary-General to rise to the position of head of state. In 1985, it was revealed that a post–World War II UN War Crimes Commission had labeled Waldheim as a suspected war criminal – based on his involvement with the army of Nazi Germany. The files had been stored in the UN archive.|
|Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
|1 January 1982 –
31 December 1991
|Peru||Latin American & Caribbean||Did not stand for a third term.|||
|Pérez de Cuéllar was selected after a five-week deadlock between the re-election of Waldheim and China's candidate, Salim Ahmed Salim of Tanzania. Pérez de Cuéllar, a Peruvian diplomat who a decade earlier had served as President of the UN Security Council during his time as Peruvian Ambassador to the UN, was a compromise candidate, and became the first and thus far only Secretary-General from the Americas. He was re-elected unanimously in 1986.|
|1 January 1992 –
31 December 1996
|Egypt||African||The United States vetoed his second term.|||
|The 102-member Non-Aligned Movement insisted that the next Secretary-General come from Africa. With a majority in the General Assembly and the support of China, the Non-Aligned Movement had the votes necessary to block any unfavourable candidate. The Security Council conducted five anonymous straw polls—a first for the council—and Boutros-Ghali emerged with 11 votes on the fifth round. In 1996, the United States vetoed the re-appointment of Boutros-Ghali, claiming he had failed in implementing necessary reforms to the UN.|
|1 January 1997 –
31 December 2006
|Ghana||African||Retired after two full terms.|||
|On 13 December 1996, the Security Council recommended Annan. He was confirmed four days later by the vote of the General Assembly. He started his second term as Secretary-General on 1 January 2002. He is the first UN Secretary General to win the Nobel Prize for Peace.|
|1 January 2007 –
31 December 2016
|South Korea||Asia-Pacific||Retired after two full terms.|||
|Ban became the first East Asian to be selected as the Secretary-General and the second Asian overall after U Thant. He was unanimously elected to a second term by the General Assembly on 21 June 2011. His second term began on 1 January 2012. Prior to his selection, he was the Foreign Minister of South Korea from January 2004 to November 2006.|
|1 January 2017 –
|Portugal||Western European & Others|
|Guterres is the first former head of government to become Secretary-General, and the first Secretary-General born after the establishment of the United Nations. He was Prime Minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002. He has also been President of Socialist International (1999–2005) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2005–2015).|
|#||Secretary-General||Date of birth||Age at ascension
|Time in office
|Age at retirement
|Date of death||Longevity|
|acting||Gladwyn Jebb||25 April 1900||45 years, 182 days||101 days||45 years, 283 days||24 October 1996||96 years, 182 days|
|1||Trygve Lie||16 July 1896||49 years, 201 days||6 years, 282 days||56 years, 117 days||30 December 1968||72 years, 167 days|
|2||Dag Hammarskjöld||29 July 1905||47 years, 255 days||8 years, 161 days||56 years, 51 days||18 September 1961||56 years, 51 days|
|3||U Thant||22 January 1909||52 years, 312 days||10 years, 31 days||62 years, 343 days||25 November 1974||65 years, 307 days|
|4||Kurt Waldheim||21 December 1918||53 years, 11 days||9 years, 364 days||63 years, 10 days||14 June 2007||88 years, 175 days|
|5||Javier Pérez de Cuéllar||19 January 1920||61 years, 347 days||9 years, 364 days||71 years, 346 days||Living||99 years, 91 days (Living)|
|6||Boutros Boutros-Ghali||14 November 1922||69 years, 48 days||4 years, 365 days||74 years, 47 days||16 February 2016||93 years, 94 days|
|7||Kofi Annan||8 April 1938||58 years, 268 days||9 years, 364 days||68 years, 267 days||18 August 2018||80 years, 132 days|
|8||Ban Ki-moon||13 June 1944||62 years, 202 days||9 years, 365 days||72 years, 201 days||Living||74 years, 311 days (Living)|
|9||António Guterres||30 April 1949||67 years, 246 days||2 years, 109 days (Ongoing)||Incumbent||Living||69 years, 355 days (Living)|
|UN Regional Group||Secretaries-General||Terms|
|Eastern European Group||0||0|
This is a graphical lifespan timeline of the Secretaries-General of the United Nations. They are listed in order of office.
As of April 2019, the only former Secretaries-General that are alive are Javier Pérez de Cuéllar and Ban Ki-moon. The most recent death of a former Secretary-General was that of Kofi Annan (1997–2006) on 18 August 2018.
With a figurative puff of white smoke, the United Nations Security Council finally selected a new Secretary General – a seasoned and soft-spoken diplomat from Peru, Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Not to be confused with Amina Mohamed, Cabinet Secretary for Sports of Kenya.
Amina Jane Mohammed (born 27 June 1961) is the current Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations and a former Minister of Environment of Nigeria.Boutros Boutros-Ghali
Boutros Boutros-Ghali (; Coptic: Ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ Ⲡⲉⲧⲣⲟⲥ-Ⲅⲁⲗⲓ, Arabic: بطرس بطرس غالي Buṭrus Buṭrus Ghālī, Egyptian Arabic: [ˈbotɾos ˈɣæːli]; 14 November 1922 – 16 February 2016) was an Egyptian politician and diplomat who was the sixth Secretary-General of the United Nations (UN) from January 1992 to December 1996. An academic and former Vice Foreign Minister of Egypt, Boutros-Ghali oversaw the UN at a time when it dealt with several world crises, including the breakup of Yugoslavia and the Rwandan genocide. He was then the first Secretary-General of the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie from 16 November 1997 to 31 December 2002.Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations
The Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations is the deputy to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. The office was created to handle many of the administrative responsibilities of the Secretary-General, help manage Secretariat operations, and ensure coherence of activities and programmes. The post was formally established by the General Assembly at the end of 1997.Amina J. Mohammed of Nigeria was named Deputy Secretary-General by then Secretary-General-designate António Guterres. Mohammed assumed the office the same day as Guterres began his term, on 1 January 2017.Ibrahim Gambari
Ibrahim Agboola Gambari, CFR (born November 24, 1944, in Ilorin, Kwara State, Nigeria) is a Nigerian scholar and diplomat. He was Minister for External Affairs between 1984 and 1985. Gambari has been appointed by the secretary-general of United Nations Ban Ki-moon and the chairperson of the African Union Commission as Joint African Union-United Nations Special Representative for Darfur effective from 1 January 2010. He is currently the Special Adviser on the International Compact with Iraq and Other Issues for the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Previously, he served as the Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (USG) for the Department of Political Affairs (DPA). He was appointed on June 10, 2005, and assumed the post on July 1 of that year.
On March 4, 2013, Ibrahim Gambari was named by the Kwara State Governor, AbdulFatah Ahmad, as the pioneer chancellor of the Kwara State University, making him the ceremonial head of the university who presides over convocations to award degrees and diplomas and also supports the vision and mission of the university in all respects, including fundraising, social, economic and academic goals. As a university that continues to gain credence as a community development university with world class standards, the selection of Gambari is expected to give the institution additional international boost and recognition. Gambari is also co-chair of the Albright-Gambari Commission.Javier Pérez de Cuéllar
Javier Felipe Ricardo Pérez de Cuéllar de la Guerra KCMG (; Spanish: [xaˈβjeɾ ˈperez ðe ˈkweʝaɾ]; born January 19, 1920) is a Peruvian diplomat who served as the fifth Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1, 1982 to December 31, 1991. He ran unsuccessfully against Alberto Fujimori for President of Peru in 1995 and following Fujimori's resignation over corruption charges, he was Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs from November 2000 until July 2001. In September 2004, he stepped down from his position as Peru's Ambassador to France, where he formerly resided. He is also a member of the Club de Madrid, a group of more than 100 former Presidents and Prime Ministers of democratic countries, which works to strengthen democracy worldwide. At the age of 99 years, 92 days, Pérez de Cuéllar is currently both the oldest living former Peruvian prime minister and Secretary General of the United Nations.Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert (born 7 April 1973) is a Dutch politician and diplomat serving as Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq since 1 November 2018. She is a member of the People's Party for Freedom and Democracy (VVD).
Hennis-Plasschaert, a civil servant by occupation, was elected as a Member of the European Parliament for the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group (ALDE) after the European Parliament election of 2004 on 20 July 2004; she was reelected after the European Parliament election of 2009. She was elected as a member of the House of Representatives after the general election of 2010 and resigned as a Member of the European Parliament the same day he took office as a Member of the House of Representatives on 17 June 2010.
Following the election of 2012 and after the cabinet formation the Second Rutte cabinet was formed with Hennis-Plasschaert becoming Minister of Defence. She stepped down as a member of the House of Representatives on 5 November 2012, the same day she took office as Minister of Defence. She served as Minister of Defence until her resignation on 4 October 2017. After the election of 2017 she returned as a member of the House of Representatives, serving from 23 March 2017 until 13 September 2018.Ján Kubiš
Ján Kubiš (born 12 November 1952) is a Slovak diplomat and former Minister of Foreign Affairs who has been serving as United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon since 2019. He was appointed to this position by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.Kofi Annan
Kofi Atta Annan (; 8 April 1938 – 18 August 2018) was a Ghanaian diplomat who served as the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 1997 to December 2006. Annan and the UN were the co-recipients of the 2001 Nobel Peace Prize. He was the founder and chairman of the Kofi Annan Foundation, as well as chairman of The Elders, an international organization founded by Nelson Mandela.Annan studied economics at Macalester College, international relations at the Graduate Institute Geneva, and management at MIT. Annan joined the UN in 1962, working for the World Health Organization's Geneva office. He went on to work in several capacities at the UN Headquarters including serving as the Under-Secretary-General for peacekeeping between March 1992 and December 1996. He was appointed the Secretary-General on 13 December 1996 by the Security Council, and later confirmed by the General Assembly, making him the first office holder to be elected from the UN staff itself. He was re-elected for a second term in 2001, and was succeeded as Secretary-General by Ban Ki-moon on 1 January 2007.
As the Secretary-General, Annan reformed the UN bureaucracy; worked to combat HIV/AIDS, especially in Africa; and launched the UN Global Compact. He was criticized for not expanding the Security Council and faced calls for resignation after an investigation into the Oil-for-Food Programme, but was largely exonerated of personal corruption. After the end of his term as UN Secretary-General, he founded the Kofi Annan Foundation in 2007 to work on international development. In 2012, Annan was the UN–Arab League Joint Special Representative for Syria, to help find a resolution to the ongoing conflict there. Annan quit after becoming frustrated with the UN's lack of progress with regards to conflict resolution. In September 2016, Annan was appointed to lead a UN commission to investigate the Rohingya crisis.List of Secretary-General of the United Nations memoirs
The United Nations Secretary-General is the head of the Secretariat, one of the principal divisions of the United Nations. Many of the individuals who have served as the world body's top office have written memoirs, either before, during or after their terms of office.Martin Kobler
Martin Kobler (born 1953 in Stuttgart) is a German career diplomat who is the current German Ambassador to Pakistan. He also served as Special Representative, Head of United Nations Support Mission in Libya from November 4th 2015 to June 22nd of 2017. He also previously served as Special Representative for the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Head of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in June 2013. In this capacity, he headed more than 20,000 peacekeepers in the country.Nickolay Mladenov
Nickolay Evtimov Mladenov (Bulgarian: Николай Евтимов Младенов; born 5 May 1972) is a Bulgarian politician and diplomat who served as the minister of foreign affairs in the government of then prime minister Boyko Borisov from 2010 to 2013. He was a Member of the European Parliament from 2007 to 2009 and was Minister of Defense from 27 July 2009 to 27 January 2010. On 2 August 2013 Mladenov was appointed as United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's Special Representative for Iraq and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. On 5 February 2015, Mladenov was appointed UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General
The Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General is a department of the United Nations that provides information to the news media regarding the activities of the U.N. as a whole.Raoul Wallenberg Monument, London
A monument to Raoul Wallenberg stands at Great Cumberland Place in London's Marble Arch district, outside the Western Marble Arch Synagogue and near the Swedish Embassy in London. The 10ft bronze monument was sculpted by Philip Jackson and is a larger than life representation of Wallenberg, standing against a bronze wall made up of 100,000 Schutz-Passes, the protective passes used by Wallenberg to rescue Hungarian Jews.The monument was unveiled by Queen Elizabeth II in February 1997, in a ceremony attended by the President of Israel, Ezer Weizman, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Kofi Annan, and survivors of the Holocaust. Annan also gave a speech at the ceremony. The statue was unveiled during the second day of Weizman's state visit to the United Kingdom. The ceremony was also attended by Sigmund Sternberg, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Wallenberg Appeal and Robert Davis, the Lord Mayor of Westminster.The statue was described as a monument at the time of its unveiling rather than a memorial as Wallenberg's family believed that there was no evidence for his death. Wallenberg would have been aged 84 in 1997.A second British monument to Wallenberg stands near the Welsh National War Memorial in Alexandra Gardens, in Cardiff, Wales.Sahle-Work Zewde
Sahle-Work Zewde (Amharic: ሳህለወርቅ ዘውዴ; born 21 February 1950) is the current President of Ethiopia and the first woman to hold the office. A career diplomat, she was elected president unanimously by members of the Federal Parliamentary Assembly on 25 October 2018.Sahle-Work was previously Special Representative of United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to the African Union and Head of the United Nations Office to the African Union at the level of Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations.Special Representative of the Secretary-General
A Special Representative of the Secretary-General is a highly respected expert who has been appointed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations to represent her/him in meetings with heads of state on critical human rights issues. The representatives can carry out country visits to investigate allegations of human rights violations or act as negotiators on behalf of the United Nations.Swedish Tourist Association
The Swedish Tourist Association (Svenska Turistföreningen, Swedish: [²svɛnːska tʉ²rɪst.fœrˌeːnɪŋɛn], abbreviated STF), founded in 1885, aims at promoting outdoor life and knowledge among the Swedes about their country.The Association maintains a variety of trails, huts and hostels in different parts of Sweden. It became known for the creation of Kungsleden, a 440 kilometer long hiking trail in Lapland, through one of Europe's largest remaining wilderness areas.
The association has approximately 300,000 members, employing about 500 people of which 400 for seasonal work, for instance as landlords for 45 fell huts and 10 larger fell hostels.
Dag Hammarskjöld belongs to the association's most prominent leaders. As Secretary-General of the United Nations the only remaining duties Hammarskjöld kept in Sweden were those associated with his vice-chairmanship of Svenska Turistföreningen and his membership of the Swedish Academy. The farm Backåkra, acquired by Hammarskjöld in 1957, is in accordance to his will maintained by STF. A part of the farm serves as a retreat for the members of the Academy.Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
An Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations (USG) is a senior official within the United Nations System, normally appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Secretary-General for a renewable term of four years. Under-Secretary-General is the third highest rank in the United Nations, after the Secretary-General and the Deputy Secretary-General. The rank is held by the heads of different UN entities, certain high officials of the United Nations Secretariat, and high-level envoys. The United Nations regards the rank as equal to that of a cabinet minister of a member state, and under-secretaries-general have diplomatic immunity under the UN Charter.United Nations Security Council Resolution 1090
United Nations Security Council resolution 1090, adopted without a vote at a closed meeting on 13 December 1996, having considered the question of the recommendation for the appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Kofi Annan be appointed for a term of office from 1 January 1997, to 31 December 2001.Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian diplomat, was the seventh Secretary-General of the United Nations. The United States had vetoed another term for his predecessor, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, due to lack of reform.It was the first time that a Security Council resolution had been adopted by acclamation.United Nations Security Council Resolution 1715
United Nations Security Council Resolution 1715, adopted by acclamation at a closed meeting on October 9, 2006, having considered the question of the recommendation for the appointment of the eighth Secretary-General of the United Nations, the Council recommended to the General Assembly that Mr. Ban Ki-moon of South Korea be appointed for a term of office from January 1, 2007, to December 31, 2011.Four days later, the General Assembly also voted symbolically to approve the decision of the Security Council.
League of Nations
1 Provisional Secretary-General prior to the election of Trygve Lie.
|United Nations System|
|Members and observers|