• World

Q&A with UN Secretary-General Candidate Igor Luksic

6 minute read

The UN is selecting a new secretary general in the fall. TIME foreign affairs columnist Ian Bremmer talks to Igor Luksic, the foreign minister of Montenegro, about how he would run the UN:


What is the single most important thing that a UN secretary general can do to make the United Nations a more effective institution?

All along I have claimed the work of the next UN secretary general will not be about the wheel reinventing but about delivering on already vast agenda. The UN despite all the efforts has grown a bit side-lined so there is need to assert the UN as relevant by showing we are fit for purpose. The more straightforward answer is to be more proactive than ever. More proactive in engaging with stakeholders, by building sets of partnerships and making sure there is better coordination. Things change quickly and we need to be able to anticipate well. We need to be able to encounter issues rather than get surpassed by events of many kinds.


What aspect of the UN’s work do you believe is in greatest need of reform?

First, we need to understand the environment. I never wanted to limit my approach to vagueness and platitudes. In order to deliver we must be as concrete as possible. The more discussion the better. The way to do UN work is not by internal competition for programmes and influence. Therefore the future Secretariat and different agencies, programmes and funds should work as a close team although it may seem unviable. There is need to modify our work to be able to meet our obligations stemming from the Agenda 2030 in all its comprehensive aspects as well as from the recently passed resolutions on sustaining peace. One has to bear in mind that human rights agenda permeates both of the mentioned fields. That is why I propose to revisit relationships within the Chiefs of Executives Board (CEB), establish the Office for Youth, cluster organisations to deal with the SDGs in a consistent way, define precise job description for the Deputy Secretary General to deal with mediation, prevention and communication with regional arrangements, and of course to set up an international panel of experts to do a deep review of the current spending in light of the need for better coordination and the need to better mirror UN agenda. Additionally, I am convinced we need to embrace modern technologies as that can help tremendously. For instance, the blockchain technology offers incredible possibilities to better coordinate and execute humanitarian aid and so on.


You have called for creation of a “Peace Operations Group.” What is the purpose of this group, and why do you feel it is needed?

Studying carefully the ways process operates now, and the recommendations of the international panel of experts which led to the simultaneous adoption of two resolutions in both the Security Council and the General Assembly on sustaining peace it came clear to me that there was need for better coordination over peace operations. There is an operational missing link in my view. That is why we need the group I call peace operations group. As I said this means revisiting the way current CEB works. We need to better integrate CEB and the Secretariat. So instead of the current UN Development Group and high level committees on management and programmes, I propose we set up UN Sustainable Development Group, UN Peace Operations Group and UN Budget, Programmes, Management Group. All made of both directors of various agencies and departments of the Secretariat. We need to closely work together not remoteness. This Peace Operations Group (POG) should reflect the spirit of the peace sustaining resolutions that peace and security and sustaining peace is everybody’s job description. Plus, we need to be able to start better combining humanitarian and development programmes to help hot spots graduate eventually under the oversight of the UN sustainable development group. The POG should also work to provide inputs through the coordinated work of the UN country teams in producing inputs to the Security Council and the Peace Building Commission in the more frequent review of mandates, more tailor made mandates, more capabilities to face asymmetric threats, to help DSG mediate better and so on and so on.


At 40 years old, you would be much younger than past Secretaries-General. What advantages can this offer you in helping to lead the UN into the future?

I believe the UN needs fresh, new approach, new style to be able to respond to the current and future needs. UN Secretary General is not a president of the world but the chief administrative officer and the first diplomat. That person should be able to engage in talking to everyone to overcome doubts and wrong assumptions. I believe my age combined with my managerial experience offers exactly this which up to now has enabled me to approach all my interlocutors with exactly the same lines. In addition, I want to reach out to the all too often disillusioned youth who see UN as a last resort. Almost 50% of the world population is under 25 and they are interested about their economic, social, cultural rights. They are the biggest asset the world has. UN should be there to work to build back optimism. Many a great achievement we have seen in recent years and decades, but there are huge challenges. Countries are sovereign and they all conduct national policies. UN should be there to help.


No institution can be all things to all people. What things do you believe the UN should avoid trying to do?

I believe we need first to understand the changing world and the issues we cannot face relying on the 20th century solutions. The UN cannot and should not do everything. UN should stand in the centre of the global efforts by leading the world’s activities in confronting different problems. The rise of regional arrangements should be seen as an

opportunity to build proper partnerships with the African Union, Arab League, EU, OSCE, ASEAN, OAD and so on. The creators of the UN Charter were farsighted. It is time we developed their vision. UN should be in the centre to coordinate and be proactive and the UN Secretary General an active campaigner to foster the implementation of jointly agreed agenda.


As a citizen of Montenegro, what do you believe are the most important lessons the UN should take from its failings in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s?

When I was in high school my country was under harsh UN sanctions. Some referred to it as the most beautiful prison in the world. A lot has happened and the trajectory of my region has since been positive. But it is not only UN to draw lessons. However, it is exactly the need to be more proactive in order to utilise all the UN Charter’s instruments such as mediation. There is a lot to learn from the reconciliation process through integration, regional cooperation and development as well which can be a know how to transfer to other parts of the world.

More Must-Reads From TIME

Contact us at letters@time.com