The combined president, CEO, chief diplomat and civil servant of, to some, the world’s most important international organisation, are perhaps worth more attention than they are given. True, the UN keeps its candidates and election processes deliberately quiet, in an attempt to depoliticise what is supposed to be an entirely neutral process. This article and forthcoming pieces will propose some potential candidates for the next election, set to take place in 2016 when Ban Ki-Moon’s second term comes to an end (the Korean can, incidentally, stand again, it just so happens that no gen-sec has stood, or been elected, for a third term so far).
Candidate I – Vuk Jeremic
We start with perhaps the most ambitious candidate, but also the one with the most to do if he is to stand a chance in 2016. Mr Vuk Jeremic, a Serbian politician and diplomat, is just 37 years old, with degrees from Cambridge and Harvard Universities. An avid tennis fan, he is president of the Serbian Tennis Federation. He has held advisory positions to the Serbian Government in telecommunications, foreign affairs and the office of the ex-Serbian President, Boris Tadic, but made his name as Foreign Minister between 2007 and 2012. Jeremic has also represented Serbia at UN Human Rights Councils and UNESCO in recent years. His most senior position, arguably, is the post he currently holds, as President of the 67th UN General Assembly, which he will fill until September 2013. All in all, his CV is well suited to the job of UN gen-sec; he even holds the same MPA from Harvard that Ban Ki-Moon studied for. However, there is history, especially with important members of the Security Council, that Jeremic will have to overcome if he is to win the election.
Serbian Minister of Foreign Affairs – Jeremic has been described by The Economist as ‘making most foreign ministers look like sleepy laggards’. He is reported to have taken 1,000 flights in 1,500 days in office, an average of 2 hours per day in the air, visiting governments in over 100 countries in order to improve Serbia’s global relations. There is no doubt that he was an incredibly committed diplomat, but the nature of his visits, especially to the US and Western Europe, has soured his personal relationship with those states. Jeremic is a heavy campaigner on the non-recognition of the Republic of Kosovo, which declared independence from Serbia in 2008. His devotion to the matter cost him his position within the domestic Democratic Party, and turned him into a ‘Marmite minister’; loved or hated. However, if Jeremic were to play a distinct part in future Serb-Kosovo relations, perhaps to come to a political agreement on borders and funding, then perhaps his popularity with the Security Council – who require just one veto out of five to dismiss a candidate altogether – will improve.
President of UN General Assembly – Russian and Chinese support pushed Jeremic into power in 2012, along with the backing of most developing countries and some Western states as well. His watch so far has seen the 67/19 Resolution that granted Palestinian non-member observer status, an achievement that increases his popularity with Middle Eastern, African and Latin American states. His ambition will no doubt encourage him to aim even higher, but as previously mentioned, it is Britain, France and America that Jeremic will have to impress in order to move up the ladder. A turning point could arise later this year, if the Serb can push Kosovo back into the UN agenda in a positive and productive light, perhaps relinquishing some of his most passionate sentiments on the matter to appeal more to his current sceptics.
Conclusion – All in all, Jeremic has the credentials of a successful UN gen-sec. He is committed, passionate, popular with most of the world, and hails from an underrepresented area of the globe. The problem for him will lie in the power of the Security Council, but there are policies that Jeremic can support that could improve his relations there. Some describe the Serb as ‘divisive’, some as ‘on steroids’, and while he is younger and less experienced than some other candidates, his diplomatic success relative to his background of Yugoslav politics and international relations is incredibly high. Jeremic will certainly be one to watch in the coming years, as the 2016 elections get closer.
Economist, 2012. ‘A Divisive Serb: Vuk Jeremic is standing for the presidency of the UN General Assembly’. London, June 7 2012
Economist, 2009. ‘Better Troublesome than dull: Serbia’s busy foreign policy’. London, October 22 2009
United Nations, 2012. ‘General Assembly of the United Nations: President of the 67th Session’. Available at www.un.org. Retrieved April 5 2013