Who Rules the World?


UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Korean musician Psy, courtesy of the UN website

[Oxford Handbook of International Organizations]

Have you ever wondered how the leaders of international organizations are chosen? The methods range from quasi-democracy through unilateralism to the random progression of alphabetical order by member state.

This essay surveys the different procedures by which international organizations appoint their executive heads — whether designated president, secretary-general, managing director, or some other title. Such procedures vary according to their formal processes, ranging from the appointment by a plenary body or a subgroup to cases in which appointment is delegated to a specific set of member states, as well as in the informal influence that certain member states may have. Regional and national criteria may play a role, including various forms of rotation by region or alphabetical order of member states. Less attention tends to be paid to the qualifications of executive heads. The full chapter includes a discussion of the appointment as well as functions and independence of executive heads of international organizations.

An excerpt from the chapter “Executive Heads”, in Jacob Katz Cogan, Ian Hurd and Ian Johnstone (eds), The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations (Oxford University Press, forthcoming) is available on SSRN here: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2354923