Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados gave her enthusiastic nod when asked last week by reporters if she intended to run for UN Secretary-General; insiders speculate that she may well become the frontrunner.
Though the 2026 elections remain several years away, discussion about who might stand a better chance at winning this coveted job has already started.
Over time, an annual geographical rotation was in place at the United Nations; many expect their next leader will come from Latin America and the Caribbean regions. Many supporters feel now is an appropriate time for women candidates after having only male leaders for so long.
Mottley has been discussed among possible candidates at the United Nations Headquarters in New York as possible candidates. According to multiple sources, former Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos– a Nobel Peace Prize laureate– is planning a campaign soon; however, his spokesperson denied such claims.
Rafael Grossi, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency is another name often brought up when discussing who might succeed UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as Secretary General; she could join such figures as Mexico’s foreign affairs secretary Alicia Barcena; top UN official Rebeca Grynspan who previously held vice presidential duties; Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garces an ex-president of UN General Assembly as well as minister in Ecuador as possible successors.
Mottley tends to garner the greatest amount of interest. Although she hasn’t announced whether or not she plans on running for president yet, one UN diplomat stated he could “jump in excitement if she decided that.”
Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines an island nearby has said she could count on his support if she decided to start campaigning.
“I believe she could make an excellent Secretary-General,” he stated, reiterating their support.
Do you believe Mottley will make an impressionable impression?
Mottley was elected the inaugural premier of Barbados in 2018 and returned with an overwhelming majority vote four years later in a subsequent election.
Internationally, she’s received praise for breaking away from Britain’s postcolonial legacy as well as for her forceful rhetoric around compensation for slavery as well as climate change compensation payments as well and reform of global financial institutions such as the International Monetary Fund or other multilateral banks.
Mottley doesn’t hold back when speaking out against powerful interests either, like Chevron. She addressed the General Assembly last week asking, among other questions: ‘How come Chevron, along with European companies such as Chevron and Total are allowed to access Venezuelan resources at discounted rates of 35%? This question raises one more: why can citizens from the Caribbean not access those same resources at 35% discounts from Venezuela themselves?”
Mottley initiated and implemented The Bridgetown Initiative as part of his policy plan that seeks to change global finance and development structures so as to be fairer, especially given climate-related catastrophes. He would alter how loans were allocated among developing nations while setting aside an emergency fund dedicated to climate-related disasters.
Mottley also announced her intent to replace UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres as UN Chief, while also unveiling her company, Bridgetown 2.0, with six priority areas for development finance to be discussed at global forums such as IMF-World Bank Group’s Annual Conference during October, COP28 in November and the Summit of the Future 2024.
Diplomats both inside and outside New York City had great faith in her ability to address issues facing people living in developing nations as UN Secretary-General as well as to bring her unique style of leading into her position.
“Outside of President Barack Obama, no other leader from history has captured international interest in quite the same manner,” according to one UN diplomat.
Some critics fear Mottley is taking risks with her political career by challenging international finance norms with her plan, according to Richard Gowan of International Crisis Group who advises Mottley should carefully consider all future steps before taking them.
Some observers note that any attempts at changing the current system could result in unhappiness among one or more of the five permanent members on the UN Security Council, who act as arbiters of selection processes for Secretaries-General.
Mottley’s office has not responded to my numerous requests for interviews.
Women Fight for Steering Wheel
In 2027, we should see the next Secretary General take office as Secretary General – but why must this discussion wait four years before taking place? After all, UN members face geopolitical tension and criticism within its Security Council that requires timely decision-making at such critical junctures in its history.
“I believe it isn’t too early at all”, stated Elina Valtonen, Finland’s foreign minister: “it is essential to begin discussing this because, from my point of view, this issue pertains to what the future may hold for both the UN and Security Council”.
Valtonen and other people also believe now is an appropriate time for her company to appoint its first female leader, which should ultimately be determined based on merit alone; she noted, however, that it would be remarkable if there is still no woman chosen for the post.
Selection processes have long been conducted behind closed doors; this was changed in 2016. Now, applicants for positions must first receive endorsement from one nation prior to being submitted as candidates to the Security Council or General Assembly for consideration.
At the 2016 selection process, a number of nations agreed to submit female candidates, an idea now revisited to be implemented during screening procedures in future selection processes. Out of 13 candidates competing that year and 7 female ones; only Guterres emerged victorious as Portugal had long considered him their leading candidate – this initiative will likely return this time around as more nations agree on female candidate inclusion during screening processes in subsequent selection processes.
Ben Donaldson, director of the Campaign Department at the United Nations Association UK stated “There are always male candidates expressing an interest in running for office”.
He stated in the past, that his hope is the message is receiving loud and clear confirmation from both civil society and states alike that no reason exists for states to place men into running for public office. We all are working tirelessly together in making it harder for people to recognize this problem before it escalates any further.”
Susana Malcorra, who ran as a candidate in the 2016 Secretary General elections and is co-founder and president of the advocate group Global Women Leaders Voices, aims to ensure press pressure put on politicians will help bring forth female candidates in future election cycles.
“Our focus should not just be on discussing Julie or Anne or Mary individually; rather it should be more broadly on considering Madame Secretary General as an overall concept and then taking steps toward reaching that destination,” said Ms. Leese-Stewart.
Not everyone supports this effort.
Dennis Francis, president of the 78th UN General Assembly from Trinidad and Tobago, does not believe men should not run again when next time around, since women should run in equally large numbers, according to Francis. “I believe male candidates need to run again next time round as women must run equal numbers”, Francis stated.
“What I want is for women to thrive under these circumstances; not the opposite message to be sent out by an array of females.
Due to Russia’s conflict in Ukraine, which has left much of its power within the Security Council in abeyance over many issues, it seems difficult to imagine its members coming together around a candidate for any decision-making body such as NATO’s Security Council.
“All I can suggest is eating some popcorn,” Julia Maciel, a diplomat from Paraguay stated.