The United Nations formally started the process to elect the next secretary general with the Security Council and General Assembly on Tuesday, calling member states to recommend female candidates for the top job that has been served by men for the past 70 years.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will step down at the end of next year after completing his two five-year terms. The role customarily rotates between regions, with the next one on the list to be Eastern Europe.
The 15-member Security Council, including veto powers China, Russia, the United States, Britain and France always consider an undisclosed list behind closed doors and put forward a candidate to be elected by the General Assembly.
However this time, the presidents of the Security Council and the General Assembly - US Ambassador Samantha Power and Mogens Lykketoft of Denmark submitted a letter on Tuesday to the 193 member states, including names of candidates solicited for the next UN Chief in an attempt to make the process more transparent.
"Convinced of the need to guarantee equal opportunities for women and men in gaining access to senior decision-making positions, Member States are encouraged to consider presenting women, as well as men, as candidates," they wrote.
In September, the General Assembly requested such a letter that would be sent when it adopted a resolution on the issue.
"This fires the starting gun for the race to be the next secretary-general," British UN Ambassador Matthew Rycroft, who helped draft the letter said, adding that the letter provided gender equality, transparency and clarity to the process.
The letter also states "the regional diversity in the selection of previous Secretaries-General."
UN officials expect that a list of candidates will be completed by March and the Security Council will start selection process in July.
The letter stated that contenders could informally meet with member states before the process began.
Lykketoft disclosed names of two candidates that have been so far put forward for selection, former UN General Assembly President Srgjan Kerim of Macedonia and Croatian Foreign Minister Vesna Pusic.
"We invite candidates to be presented with proven leadership and managerial abilities, extensive experience in international relations and strong diplomatic, communication and multilingual skills," said Power and Lykketoft in the letter.
Power and Lykketoft demanded member states to present their candidates by letter in order to circulate the 193 UN members.
No woman has served as secretary general in the 70 years that the UN has been in existence.
Current UN chief Ban is a strong proponent in electing a woman as his successor and said several times that “it’s high time for a Secretary-General to be a woman”.
The next secretary general will take over the role in January 2017 and will serve a five-year term, which may be renewed by member states for an additional five years.