US Ambassador Samantha Power, pictured on June 29, 2016, called for "strong and swift action" by the Security Council to follow up on the findings that Bashar al-Assad forces and Islamic State jihadists carried out separate chemical attacks
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The United States will back a candidate to be the next UN chief who has great leadership and management skills, Ambassador Samantha Power said Thursday as the Security Council kicked off voting for the next secretary-general.
Council ambassadors met behind closed doors for a secret straw poll, the first of several rounds of voting to be held over the next two months to pick a successor to Ban Ki-moon.
"This could not be a more important job and it could not be a more important time to choose the best possible leader for this organization on which so much depends and so many depend," Power told reporters ahead of the vote.
"We are looking for somebody with great leadership skills, great management skills -- someone who has a commitment to fairness and accountability, and who stays true to the founding principles of the United Nations," she added.
There are 12 candidates in the race, six of them women. The bulk of the contenders -- eight -- are from eastern Europe.
Among the top contenders are Argentina's Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra, Slovenia's ex-president Danilo Turk, New Zealand's ex-prime minister Helen Clark and Antonio Guterres, who served as Portugal's prime minister and headed the UN refugee agency.
Britain's envoy called for a "strong" secretary-general to be elected while France stressed language skills, vision and decisiveness as important criteria for the job.
The 15 ambassadors including those from the powerful permanent five -- Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States -- are to each rate the candidates with ballots marked "encourage", "discourage" or "no opinion."
The results of the first round of straw polls will not be announced, but they will be communicated to the governments that have put forward candidates.
- High time for a woman? -
Power said the next UN leader will have "so much to do" from confronting terrorism to combating climate change, advancing the UN's development goals and making sure UN peacekeepers "act on behalf of civilians."
Council members are facing calls to pick the first woman secretary-general after eight men in the job, and to give preference to a candidate from eastern Europe, the only region that has yet to be represented in the top post.
"It is high time for a woman," British Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said, but he added that there were "very, very strong men" in the race and that Britain will not use its veto to block a man from winning the post.
For Britain, supporting a candidate from eastern Europe is "the least important criteria here," he said.
French Ambassador Francois Delattre said the best candidate to become the world's number one diplomat must have "leadership, diplomatic skills and multilingualism."
"The next secretary-general will have to have the skills, decisiveness and vision to lead the organization in these testing, and troubled times," added Delattre.
The secret vote follows a new, more open process that for the first time in the UN's history provided for hearings to allow candidates to present their pitch for the top job before the General Assembly.
The council is expected to arrive at a consensus on a nominee for the top post probably in October.
The General Assembly will then be asked to endorse the nominee, who will begin work on January 1.