The UN Secretary-General and Moral Authority: Ethics and Religion in International Leadership

Kent J. Kille
Content Type
Georgetown University Press
The office of the UN secretary-general has been described as a needed voice in an international arena where moral principles are often seen as subservient to concerns over power and interest. In fact, because the secretary-generalship is a relatively constrained position lacking in traditional forms of power, those who analyze the position tend to see the moral authority of an officeholder as vital to the operation of the office. Such moral authority is often viewed as dependent on the personal qualities of individual officeholders. As one observer notes, “If it is a moral authority, one may ask, whence does this moral authority derive? It derives from the personality of the Secretary-General himself and not just from the office he holds.” It is therefore appropriate to inquire into the religious and moral values of those who hold the office. If a secretary-general's “own morality . . . must forbid him certain policies,” and presumably encourage other policies, then one should be able to trace the decision-making implications of these values across the activities of the officeholders.
International Relations, Religion, United Nations, International Affairs