The United Nations Secretary-General is the head of the Secretariat, one of the principal divisions of the United Nations. According to the United Nations Charter, the Secretary-General is appointed by the General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. The Secretary-General is described by the Charter as the "chief administrative officer" of this organization; his or her role includes not only administering the Secretariat, but also speaking out on global issues and using his or her good offices to mediate disputes.
- I am a cheerleader, I am a promoter, I am a salesman, I am a debt collector, I am a father confessor and there are other aspects I still have to discover. —UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan describing his job
The current Secretary-General is Kofi Annan. His appointment began on January 1, 1997, and his second term began on January 1, 2002.
The Secretary-General is appointed to a five year term. UN Secretaries-General normally spend two terms in office; however, sometimes, they will serve only one. The position of UN Secretary-General is supposed to rotate by geographic region, but that rule is often broken; since Mr Boutros-Ghali served only one term, a successor that was also from Africa was chosen, Kofi Annan, and after Mr Annan had finished his first term, the member states were so impressed with Annan's performance that he was appointed for a second term despite the fact that the next Secretary-General should have been from Asia. There has not yet been a Secretary-General from North America or Oceania.
Rumours have recently surfaced that former U.S. President Bill Clinton and current Chilean President Ricardo Lagos have set their sights on becoming Secretary-General. However, it is generally considered to be Asia's turn to fill the post. No announcement has been made, but behind the scenes China is already pushing the candidacy of Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, who also seems to have U.S. support. If Clinton does emerge as a candidate, however, China would most likely shift its support.
- Sir Gladwyn Jebb (United Kingdom, Europe), acting, 1945 to 1946.
- Trygve Lie (Norway, Europe), February 1946 to his resignation in November 1952.
- Dag Hammarskjöld (Sweden, Europe), April 1953 until his death in a plane crash in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia), September 1961.
- U Thant (Burma (now Myanmar), Asia), November 1961 to December 1971.
- Kurt Waldheim (Austria, Europe) 1972-1981
- Javier Pérez de Cuéllar (Peru, Latin America) 1982-1991
- Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt, Africa), January 1992 to the American veto of his second term in December 1996.
- Kofi Annan (Ghana, Africa), January 1997 to present.
- U.N. Secretary-General webpage (http://www.un.org/News/ossg/sg/index.shtml)
- Special and Personal Representatives and Envoys of the Secretary-General (http://www.un.org/News/ossg/srsg/table.htm)
- How is the Secretary-General appointed? (http://www.un.org/News/ossg/sg/pages/elect-the-sg.htm)