Various observers have talked for months about the possibility, but now it’s official: Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga has announced she will be a candidate to replace outgoing United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.
The president was expected to elaborate on her decision during a press conference scheduled Sept. 16 in Rīga, but in an announcement posted Sept. 15 on the president’s chancery Web site, she said she was urged on by a joint statement from the governments of the three Baltic governments supporting her candidacy.
Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga noted that in the orgnization’s 60-year history, a woman has never been head of the United Nations. She called on the United Nations to observe the principle of equality in appointing the next secretary general.
“Half of humankind has never been represented at the helm of the U.N.,” Vīke-Freiberga said in the statement. “It is time to change this practice, which fails to reflect the structure of the world population. At the same time I wish to emphasize that the world cannot be divided into female and male, and we all must join together to defend human values and make the world a better place.”
Vīķe-Freiberga, 68, is serving her second term as president. The term would expire next year, but the job of secretary general will become available at the end of this year, when Annan’s tenure ends.
Although Vīķe-Freiberga does have some U.N. experience, having served as one of five special envoys touting Annan’s reforms of the world body, she does face at least one major hurdle. The new secretary general will have to be approved by the U.N. Security Council. One permanent member of the council is Russia, which could be expected to use its veto against the Latvian president, who has not always been viewed favorably by officials in Moscow.
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