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Rights groups set 'priorities' for next UN chief

Rights groups say the next leader must strike a new deal for refugees and end the death penalty. This week, eight candidates for the top job will outline their vision for the role at the UN General Assembly.

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and four other rights groups have listed eight priorities for the next UN secretary-general, who will be elected later this year to replace Ban Ki-moon.

Their unofficial job description was released on Monday as United Nations member states were due to begin week-long question and answer sessions with each of the eight candidates currently running for the position. Other candidates are expected to emerge.

The priorities include forging a new deal for refugees and migrants that is based on "sustained international cooperation with an equitable sharing of responsibilities for resettlement." They also called for a full review of the bodies that manage international migration.

The rights groups said the next UN chief should be prepared to invoke the UN charter to prevent and end mass atrocities such as the deliberate targeting of civilians in wars.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

Current UN chief Ban Ki-moon steps down in December

Candidates were also urged to promise to work towards abolishing the death penalty during their term, after a recent Amnesty report showed that

executions worldwide rose by more than half in 2015,

compared to the previous year.

The surge was largely due to Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia carrying out more killings, but China and the United States also regularly resort to the death penalty.

Minority rights, gender equality

The NGOs also called on the next UN leader to champion the rights of marginalized people, ensure gender equality and work to combat impunity for crimes under international law.

The new secretary-general must also be willing to stand up to big powers at the Security Council to discourage them from using their veto power to block action to end atrocities, they said.

In 2014, the

Security Council failed to refer Syria to the International Criminal Court for war crimes prosecutions

after Russia and China blocked the measure.

UN officials said the two-hour public interviews of candidates, which will begin on Tuesday, were part of broader plans to make the selection process for the position of UN chief more transparent.

Eight candidates so far

So far, eight candidates have declared their interest. They include Irina Bokova, the chief of UN children's body UNESCO,

Helen Clark, former prime minister of New Zealand,

and Antonio Guterres, the former UN high commissioner for refugees.

The Associated Press cited unnamed UN officials as suggesting that German Chancellor Angela Merkel and European Commission budget chief Kristalina Georgieva may also make strong candidates for the role, although Merkel is reportedly not keen on the job.

Former UN human rights chief Antonio Guterres

Ex-UN rights chief Antonio Guterres is a candidate

The new UN secretary-general is formally picked by the 193-member General Assembly. But the 15-member Security Council recommends the successful candidate, and in practice the five permanent Security Council members - the US, Russia, China, Britain and France - have veto power over the nominees.

The successful candidate will take over the position on January 1, 2017, when incumbent Ban's second five-year term ends.

The human rights 'priorities' agenda was also endorsed by Civicus, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH), the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect and the World Federalist Movement - Institute for Global Policy.

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