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Part VII Structure and Operations, Ch.38 Executive Heads

Simon Chesterman

From: The Oxford Handbook of International Organizations

Edited By: Jacob Katz Cogan, Ian Hurd, Ian Johnstone

From: Oxford Public International Law (http://opil.ouplaw.com). (c) Oxford University Press, 2022. All Rights Reserved.date: 28 September 2022

Collective security — Membership of international organizations — International organizations, practice and procedure — Resolutions of international organizations

The executive head of an international organization (e.g. president, secretary-general, managing director, or some other title) exists in a curious limbo. He or she is entrusted to lead an organization that may employ tens of thousands of people and administer a budget in the billions of dollars. At the same time, however, his or her ability to operate independently of member states may be severely constrained by the powers entrusted to the office or tight constraints over finances. This tension is evident in the United Nations (UN), where the Secretary-General heads the Secretariat and is nominal commander-in-chief of 100,000 peacekeepers but is formally appointed as the organization's ‘Chief Administrative Officer’. This chapter examines the appointment of executive heads and the formal functions ascribed to them. It then turns to the question of how the various officeholders have implemented those functions in practice, focusing on the ability to operate independently of member-state interests.

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