António Guterres, the Secretary General of the UN, and many other UN employees were killed when Jormungandr, the Snakebot of Doom steamrolled New York city in January 2017.

Now, in early February 2017, aliens have come to negotiate with the people of Earth, and the UN is the most logical body to deal with them on behalf of the whole world. However, the world has been thrown into disarray by Jormungandr's attacks, the UN offices in New York have been destroyed and many UN personnel are dead, and no official successor to the position of the Secretary General has been appointed.

So, my question is:

Does the UN have a chain of succession, and how can I work out who would be acting Secretary General? I'm not after the name of the real-life people who might succeed the UN Secretary General, I'm looking for the positions whose incumbents (whoever they are) would be selected as - or who could function as - the replacement Secretary General in an emergency, pending proper selection of a new Secretary General. In the event that there is no such person in the UN, or there is no clear chain of succession, is there any other person or group who could act in the UN Secretary General's stead?


The answer to this question is not 'trivially googled'... enter the wrong search terms, and you get nothing useful. Additionally, the UN website has many broken links. Finally, while this may seem to be a trivial piece of information for which a worldbuilder could search, the answer may be necessary for a person's worldbuilding effort. I certainly found it so for mine, unless I wanted António Guterres to have a miraculous escape when so many non-famous New Yorkers didn't.

To address another issue mentioned in comments, it doesn't matter that the UN doesn't have any power delegated to it by any nation, since the Secretary General is a required point of contact in the event of first contact with aliens.

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    $\begingroup$ The Secretary General of the U.N.O. (and the U.N.O. in general) does not have any power to negotiate anything on behalf of Romania, or of any other country. There is no particular need to have a chain of succession for the leadership U.N.O., any more than there is a need to have a formal chain of succession for the leadership of the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts. The question shows a fundamental misunderstanding of what the U.N.O. is. In particular, no country on this Earth has delegated even the tiniest shred of power to the U.N.O. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 28, 2022 at 2:52
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    $\begingroup$ I’m voting to close this question because there is no world-building component, this is research into actual facts. The question, "Who succeeds the SecGen of the UN" doesn't become worldbuilding because "one was killed by a snakebot" is typed into the description. The premise doesn't even require the SecGen to be dead. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 28, 2022 at 4:19
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    $\begingroup$ @VogonPoet in what way are actual facts not relevant to the process of worldbuilding? $\endgroup$
    – Monty Wild
    Feb 28, 2022 at 4:21
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    $\begingroup$ I timed this at 12 seconds. In a Crisis, Does the UN Have a Leadership Succession Plan?. It took 2 minutes of another participant's time to create your hyperlink. Basic courtesy, please at least try. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Feb 28, 2022 at 4:31
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    $\begingroup$ @Otkin quite apart from the answer being trivially determined by a search engine query, there is a Politics SE for exactly this kind of question. This question is roughly the equivalent of saying that a company of soliders need to fix the brakes on their model XYZ bicycles and asking what size hex key is needed on Worldbuilding SE instead of Bicycles SE. For a real world question with a separate SE focused on that topic AND where the worldbuilding context is irrelevant, this is not the correct forum. $\endgroup$ Feb 28, 2022 at 20:21

1 Answer 1


Someone Else

There is a line of succession. This article has some interesting history as well as an outline of how succession works. Not just when ASBs attack New York, but apparently when enough people are out to lunch or otherwise unavailable.

Presumably if enough top officials are killed, the Security Council would presumably decide on a replacement, which is what happened in 1961 before they had a line of succession.

From the article, here is the relevant UN Resolution that establishes the Deputy Secretariat General.

  • $\begingroup$ As far as I know, the Deputy Secretary General is only abilitated to act in place of thr Secretary General in case of need; there is no rule that the Deputy Secretary General succeeds in the position of Secretary General in case the Secretary General falls prey to an errant bus or something. A new Secretary General still needs to be proposed by the Security Council and approved by the General Assembly. $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Feb 28, 2022 at 3:05
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP -- That's about as close as the UN gets to a formalised line of succession! We also have to realise that the UN is not a governing body of any kind. If the top two or three leaders died, no one would really notice outside of UN headquarters. $\endgroup$
    – elemtilas
    Feb 28, 2022 at 11:01

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