Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra will not, after all, be appointed as the first female leader of the United Nations, as the Security Council has unanimously chosen former Portuguese prime minister Antonio Guterres as the organization’s next secretary-general. After a sixth informal consultation, Russian ambassador Vtaly Churkin announced Guterres as “the clear favorite” ahead of a definitive decision tomorrow, with the possibility of putting the vote to the whole general assembly, the first time such a decision would be opened up to all.
Malcorra took to twitter to congratulate her opponent, but also mourned the failure of the campaign to choose a female candidate, declaring that “gender remains a pending issue” for the international organization.
Nos queda una asignatura pendiente con respecto al género.
— Susana Malcorra (@SusanaMalcorra) October 5, 2016
The decision today was taken with unusual speed and unanimity, with thirteen votes cast in support of Guterres, only two abstentions and no negative votes. The speed of the decision was all the more surprising given that Bulgaria had only just put their candidate forward, Kristalina Georgieva, the European commission’s vice-president. The nomination also breaks with the tradition of geographical rotation which would have suggested a representative from an Eastern European country would win.
After 71 years of male leaders at the top, the current leader Ban Ki-moon had been just one of many high-profile figures to express optimism he could be succeeded by a woman, but the four female candidates came at the bottom of the ranking of 10 candidates. Bulgarian leader Irina Bokova and Georgieva were favorites among the women, but the former was seen to be too close to Russia, and the latter as having entered the race too late.
Guterres is currently head of the UN Refugee Agency (ACNUR) — his nomination as Secretary General is reflective of the organisation’s focus on the Syrian refugee crisis, the worst since the Second World War. He emerged as the favourite during successive rounds of informal consultation among the 15 members of the Security Council, and will succeed Ban Ki-moon as leader in January, 2017.
Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra originally entered the contest as one of the favorites, endorsed by the United States and intimately familiar with the UN after more than a decade working there. After some initially disappointing results she managed to improve her ranking in successive straw polls, climbing from eight, to seventh and then fourth place.
Her candidacy was however marred by criticism questioning her ability to stand up to powerful member states such as the US and Russia, her lack of action on human rights in Venezuela, and her handling of a Central African child abuse investigation case within the organization.