Global Tax and LGBT: Candidates Stumble in UN Top Job Interviews

By | April 21, 2016

Irina Bokova and Vesna Pusić

NEW YORK, April 22 (C-Fam) For the first time, countries publicly interviewed applicants for UN Secretary-General last week – and provided a glimpse into governments’ frustrations with UN mismanagement and scandals.

The diplomatic grilling of nine contenders for the top job coaxed out troubling views – like support for a global tax – and misunderstandings that Secretary-General is a post for an activist rather than administrator.

António Guterres toyed with ideas for a global tax during his examination. The former head of the UN refugee agency said the UN and international financial organizations need to find ways for humanitarian efforts to be “funded by global funding sources,” such as fees on plane tickets and financial transactions.

This “will be one of my key concerns of advocacy and this is something I have been working very strongly on in the recent past,” Guterres said.

Critics, however, worry that a global tax would free the scandal-prone UN from accountability.

A question submitted by a pro-abortion group was given to Helen Clark, head of the UN Development Agency. What would she do on women’s rights and a “restrictive” family resolution passed by the Human Rights Council?

The resolution urges countries to adopt family-friendly policies.

This “alludes to some kind of roll-back or not moving forward on critical issues for women,” Clark said, using talking points referring to abortion and sexual rights.

“My whole life has been breaking glass ceilings. These are huge, huge issues for me,” she vowed.

Gender equality – equal numbers of women as men – in UN jobs was top of candidates’ list of promises. The problem is not a lack of quality women but “nobody is looking for first-class people,” said Vesna Pusić from Croatia.

“You mentioned gender, but not sexual orientation,” Canada asked her. “Can we count on you to champion the UN Declaration on Human Rights even when it makes member states uncomfortable?”

The Declaration does not mention sexual orientation.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) rights “need to be protected,” Pusić answered, because “human rights that have to do with a person’s identity is where the state ends and the autonomy of the individual begins.”

As foreign minister of a government that threatened its citizens who support traditional marriage, Pusić attended the UN LGBT Core Group in 2013 and called LGBT rights “the poster child for universal human rights.”

The UN has a bad reputation, said Hungary and Caribbean Islands. But Irina Bokova differed when asked about institutional corruption and bad management among UN agencies. The head of UNESCO, an agency so plagued by fraud and scandal that the U.S. quit it twice, said the UN has a “sound system through internal oversight services” and “whistleblowers have proven it functions.”

Yet the U.S. signaled utter exasperation over unrelenting crimes, impunity for perpetrators and bungling of whistleblower cases and asked each candidate, “How will peacekeepers be held accountable who sexually abuse the people they are tasked with protecting?”

Though often mistaken for being tantamount to the world’s president, the UN charter says the Secretary-General is the “chief administrative officer” who performs the functions entrusted by the General Assembly, Security Council, and other UN bodies.

Ultimately, five countries which have the power of a veto decide who gets the job: the U.S., UK, Russia, France and China.


The new secretary-general takes office on Jan 1, 2017.