The Secretariat - Charter requirements

The charter lays down very few requirements governing the establishment of the sixth main organ of the UN—the Secretariat. Such requirements as are specified, in Chapter XV, may be conveniently listed under the following headings.

Composition. The charter states simply: "The Secretariat shall comprise a Secretary-General and such staff as the Organization may require."

Appointment of Staff. With regard to the Secretary-General, the charter stipulates that the person to hold the position "shall be appointed by the General Assembly upon the recommendation of the Security Council." In other words, the Security Council first must agree on a candidate, who then must be endorsed by a majority vote in the General Assembly. The other members of the Secretariat are to be appointed by the Secretary-General "under regulations established by the General Assembly." The charter stipulates that the "paramount consideration" in the employment of staff "shall be the necessity of securing the highest standards of efficiency, competence, and integrity." However, to this consideration is added an important rider—namely, that "due regard shall be paid to the importance of recruiting the staff on as wide a geographical basis as possible."

Functions of the Secretariat. The duties of the general staff are not specified beyond an instruction that an appropriate number shall be permanently assigned to the Economic and Social Council and the Trusteeship Council and, "as required, to other organs of the United Nations." With respect to the functions of the Secretary-General, the charter states only that he shall be "the chief administrative officer of the Organization," shall "act in that capacity" at all meetings of the General Assembly and the three councils, and shall also perform "such other functions as are entrusted to him by these organs." Apart from these general requirements, the charter accords the Secretary-General one specific duty and one specific power: to make an annual report to the General Assembly on the work of the organization, and he has the right to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter that "in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."

The single restriction on the Secretariat is that "in the performance of their duties the Secretary-General and the staff shall not seek or receive instructions from any government or from any other authority external to the Organization," and that "they shall refrain from any action which might reflect on their position as international officials responsible only to the Organization." As a corollary to this injunction, the charter puts member nations under the obligation to "respect the exclusively international character of the responsibilities of the Secretary-General and the staff and not to seek to influence them in the discharge of their responsibilities."

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