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date: 13 November 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter describes the evolution of the role of the UN Secretary-General in the context of international relations, paying particular attention to the historical origins of the office within the international civil service. It explores the challenges faced by the Secretary-General in seeking to act independently on behalf of the global interest, in a political environment characterized by competing national interests and power politics. It also considers whether the process that resulted in the appointment of António Gutteres in 2016—seen as the most transparent, meritocratic, and inclusive in the history of the UN—might enable the Secretary-General to be more effective in the face of the many pressures upon the office.

Keywords: Secretary-General, international civil service, power politics, Dag Hammarskjöld, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, Kofi Annan, António Gutteres

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