9 September 2016

INTERVIEW: Selection of next UN Secretary-General has been game-changing process, says outgoing General Assembly President

8 September 2016 – On 15 June 2015, the United Nations General Assembly elected Mogens Lykketoft – a Danish national – to serve as the President of its seventieth session. At the time of his election, Mr. Lykketoft was the Speaker (President) of the Danish Parliament, a position he had held since 2011. Born on 9 January 1946, it was a fitting coincidence that he would turn 70 during his term as President of the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly– a personal fact he highlighted during his acceptance speech to the world body upon his election.

His tenure as President of the UN General Assembly – which ran from September 2015 – comes to an end this September 2016.

From the outset, Mr. Lykketoft strongly believed that if the UN was successful with the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals and getting the Climate Agreement, the whole discussion on the implementation of these and the accompanying partnership – with member states, business sector, financial institutions, civil society – that would get this started as quickly as possible, would be one of the most important things.

In addition to these, the 70th Session of the UN General Assembly set, as an important item on its agenda, the re-evaluation and re-validating of the different tools of peace and security efforts of the United Nations.

Among its highlights, the 70th Session also set what Mr. Lykketoft has described as “a unique priority to create maximum transparency and influence from the general membership on the selection of the next Secretary-General."

Based on those priorities, the UN News Centre asked Mr. Lykketoft, in an interview, to give his assessment of the UN General Assembly’s performance during his tenure as president.

But I think your question is also about the Security Council, in particular. There we have a kind of catch 22 because you can’t change the Security Council without having a two-third majority among the member states, and the ratification from the Permanent Five we have now. So that is, of course, the real explanation why this has been going on for more than twenty years without real progress. There is, also in this Session, during the work of the Ambassador of Luxembourg with the member states, a manifested will to enlarge the Council so that it will become more representative of the geopolitical reality of the 21st Century. But on the very important questions of: will there be more permanent members? What about the veto power, and so on, there has been no real progress. And I have said it consistently in these discussions, that the first necessary condition for change here is that there will be a two-third majority bringing themselves together on a specific model for this, and then there will, maybe, even then be opposition from some of the permanent members, but that may maybe overcome if two thirds of the countries come forward for compromise – a negotiated member states compromise – to a specific model for the future Security Council.

UN News Centre: How has it been for you, personally, being the GA President for the 70th Session?

Mr. Lykketoft: it has been a very challenging- a very fascinating role; I was not quite aware, when I accepted the nomination, that it was so much different from the position I had just come out of as Speaker of the Danish Parliament. As President of the General Assembly of the United Nations, you are very much involved, directly and indirectly, in appointing co-facilitators for different processes; in creating the political decisions. And that has been very, very interesting, and I think I have been able to use some of the experiences from Danish politics with many, many parties, and no party having their own majority, and that is certainly also the situation in the United Nations.