Archive for January, 2006

New York Sun interview

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

Look in tomorrow’s New York Sun for an article by Benny Avni on the UNSG race for which I just gave a brief interview.

Update: Here is the link to the February 3rd article (hat tip to Rik). The article profiles this blog and includes a brief quote at the end on its contrast with the race’s usually opaque selection process.

Ban’s Candidacy

Tuesday, January 31st, 2006

I think it is fair to say that Ban is clearly in the running.

Although “[n]o official announcement had been made by the Korean government nominating Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon for the position of UN Secretary General” (email from ROK Embassy in Washington), the Minister’s diplomatic rounds apparently includes discussions of his prospective nomination.

Yesterday, Ghanan Minister for Foreign Affairs Nana Akufo-Addo discussed Ban’s candidacy over lunch with his Korean counterpart.

“We are aware that your excellency is a candidate for the position of secretary-general of the UN in succession to our illustrious compatriot, Kofi Annan,” Akufo-Addo told Ban. However, he said, Ghana would take a decision in concert with members of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and African Union. “We will keep your candidature under close scrutiny and continue to consult within the wider West African family, so that we can support a common candidate who will enjoy our common support for the good of the organization.”

A Korea Times article - while wrongly suggesting Ban would be the first Asian to head the UN if chosen - reports that the day after participating on a Davos panel with fellow candidates Vīķe-Freiberga and Dhanapala, Ban suggested his experience in inter-Korean negotiations “will help (me) perform in the U.N. secretary general post and become a good asset.”

(What the “(me)” originally was is unknown. The interview has not been reported elsewhere and an email inquiry to the paper bounced.)

More: During the January 17th press conference, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton noted that, during Minister Ban’s visit to New York, he and the Minister discusses a number of issues, his candidacy being one of them.

Thoughts on Davos “Debate”

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

The audience at the Davos panel listened attentively to yesterday’s panel describing the UN’s numerous successes over the past decade and looming reform challenges, while patiently waiting to get to the crux of the event. The sole question from the audience - on what the three potential SG candidates participating would consider their top priorities if chosen as the next SG - is excerpted here from the full podcast. Speaking of the ongoing reforms, Kofi Annan remarked that, “…my successor — since I understand several members of this panel may be interested in the position — need not worry. Changing the mindset of the United Nations, so that it can both reflect and influence the temper of the times, is a never-ending challenge. There will plenty more work to do in the years and decades to come.”

Each candidate - in alphabetical order, as Minister Ban affably pointed out to the audience’s amusement - gave a brief response that emphasized the current UN reform efforts. While President Zedillo moderated expertly, one had to wonder whether Jim Lehrer simply wasn’t available for the international version of a campaign “debate”.

Minister Ban stressed the need for a cultural change in the management of the UN system, a responsiblity of both the Secretariat and member states. He suggested that the UN’s body of resolutions should be reviewed and reaffirmed according to today’s priorities, and that a high standard pf service and professionalism should be set for the UN civil service, emphasizing the desirability of introducing practices from the private sector.

Ambassador Dhanapala concured with Ban on the practicality of adopting some business practices, specifically citing the Gingrich-Mitchell report on UN reform, suggesting “there is a lot in that that could be looked at.” He emphasized the ownership of member states in making the institutional and necessary program reforms, which were to then be implemented by the SG. He also noted the threat of a North-South hiatus replacing the Cold War’s East-West divide, and the importance of addressing not just threats to the North, but also mobilizing resources to address poverty, disease and famine affecting developing countries.

President Vīķe-Freiberga noted the main responsibility of the UN in intervening in humanitarian crises as rapidly and efficiently as possible. She proscribed this responsibility not only in response to natural disasters but also to man-made tragedies, noting specifically the continuing massacre taking place in Darfur. The UN’s capabily to mobilize national resources in response is crucial, she stated. She emphasized the importance of meeting the Millenium Development Goals, which, in her opinion, would lessen the scale of other problems. Lastly, she called for improvement in the coordination among UN bodies, civil society and donors in development efforts.

Davos Update

Thursday, January 26th, 2006

The Financial Times’s Mark Turner, an early friend of this blog, reports on today’s participation of three SG contenders in the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As reported here earlier, rumored SG candidates Ban Ki-Moon (South Korea), Vaira Vike-Freiberga (Latvia) and Jayantha Dhanapala (Sri Lanka) will participate in a panel discussion on the future of the UN with current SG Kofi Annan. Neither Surakiart Sathirathai (Thailand) nor Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland), other front runners, will appear.

The article provides additional insight for the three candidates (only Dhanapala is officially in the race) and their priorities for the UN if selected:

Mr Ban said: “The secretariat has . . . been discredited by criticisms of inefficiency and corruption. The new secretary-general must reform the culture of the organisation, increase accountability and toughen ethics. The SG . . . must be given the flexibility to manage. There must be a sense of accountability among the staff of the secretariat.”

Ms Vike-Freiberga said: “The first challenge is to restore confidence in the organisation, as the world body we look to as an initiator of ideas, of movements to solve the world’s problems.” But “we get the feeling that the current reforms are being received with reservations in some countries, who see it as an imposition by richer more developed nations.”

Mr Dhanapala said: “I believe the global system must find a way not only to accommodate a rising China but a rising India, so we can have a harmonious accommodation of more economic powers which will be able to share responsibility.”

While the Davos meetings are attended - sorry, invitation only - by government and business elites, the public is invited to view the discussions via webcast today at 18:45 Davos time (12:45 New York time) or podcast afterwards.

Original Intent

Wednesday, January 25th, 2006

U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John BoltonU.S. Ambassador John Bolton reinterated yesterday that member goverments are responsible for ensuring the next SG brings to the table strong administative skills and the ability to “tighten supervision” over the Secretariat. The U.S. statement, that “oversight by the secretary-general should be strengthened,” followed findings of potential procurement fraud, possibly reaching into the tens of millions of dollars.

And the Ambassador did not miss the opportunity to frame the U.S. view in his uniquely, “Boltonesque” style:

“The U.N. charter clearly says that the U.N. Secretary General should be chief administrative officer,” Bolton said Monday. “We are original intent people in the Bush Administration and that’s what we’re looking for, a chief administrative officer. We need one. We need one very soon.”

Update on NGO Engagement

Tuesday, January 24th, 2006

The World Federalist Movement-Institute for Global Policy is also closely monitoring the SG selection process and inviting contributions toward what they hope will be “an agreed list of procedural requirements and candidate criteria” that can be endorsed by multiple NGOs and civil society groups. The broad goals of this effort include a more concrete timetable for nomination and selection, defined candidate criteria, a more transparent nomination process, and public interviews or hearings between the candidates and UN member states and appropriate stakeholder groups.

Those who wish to contribute to this discussion should contact Seher Khawaja, Program Manager.

Place Your Bets!

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

I was just waiting for this to pop up…

  Latest Odds
Bill Clinton (USA) 5-2
Surakiart Sathirathai (Thailand) 5-2
Ashraf Ghani (Afghanistan) 5-1
Aleksander Kwasniewski (Poland) 6-1
Aung San Suu Kyi (Burma) 12-1
Anwar Ibrahim (Malaysia) 15-1
Vaclav Havel (Czech Republic) 25-1
Nelson Mandela (South Africa) 25-1

Sportsbook.com is now taking wagers on the next SG!

According to their press release, “there is rampant speculation that Annan’s successor will be a political heavyweight with international clout. According to UN insiders, the list of names being floated in diplomatic circles includes current and former presidents, Nobel Prize winners and champions of human rights.”

This goes against history, of course, as most of the SGs to date have been dark horse candidates from small or middle powers. And other than Bill Clinton, I’m not sure their own odds really reflect this bold statement.

Just harmless fun, anyway, eh? Maybe and maybe not. Here’s a wealth of information from the AEI-Brookings Institution Joint Center on Regulatory Studies on the subject of “policy futures” - markets that allow speculators to buy and sell contracts based on their expectations regarding the outcome of an uncertain future event.

Ante up, anyone?

Madam Secretary-General

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

In this article in Korea Times, Philip Dorsey Iglauer focuses attention on the campaign for a female SG. Though not mentioning it by name, he refers to the symbolic campaign by Equality Now. Unlike that campaign, however, he takes a more strategic approach by identifying four qualified women leaders who also happen to come from Asia - thus meeting the regional qualification as well.

Ideally, selecting a qualified female candidate for the UN’s top position would demonstrate governments’ committment to gender equality. From a realpolitick point of view, choosing an Asian female would allow face-saving by any government that, sadly, may still need it.

Why do you want this job?

Monday, January 23rd, 2006

As part of its educational mission, the Center for UN Reform Education (CURE) plans to interview a number of leading SG candidates over the coming year. This month, CURE research fellow Ayca Ariyoruk spoke with Jayantha Dhanapala from Sri Lanka. She posed a number of intriguing questions, not the least of which was simply, “Why do you want this job?”

Dhanapala, who chaired the remarkably successful 1995 NPT Review Conference, was the Under SG for Disarmament affairs before returning to Sri Lanka in 2003 to serve as the secretary general for the Sri Lankan peace process. Noting the dedication to the United Nations that prompted his candidacy, Dhanapala shared his thoughts on rogue states and nuclear weapons, the necessary equilibrium between the UN’s principle organs and the relationships that often challenge the UN’s chief adminstrator. In describing the post, he suggested that

“…the ability to be a leader while at the same time recognizing that you derive your mandate from the member states is an essential quality the next secretary general must have.”

As one of only two declared candidates for the top post, he commented that,

“We are deliberately refraining from running an aggressive high profile campaign because this is not analogous to running for office in one’s own country. It is something more sacrosanct, almost, and it has to be approached with a certain level of dignity.”

Update (Jan 25): Readers may be interested in reading this article describing Amb. Dhanapala’s role in the Iraqi weapons inspections effort by then Senior VP of the American Enterprise Institute, and current U.S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton.

How do you score a ticket to this?

Friday, January 20th, 2006

One session of this month’s Davos conference will include a discussion of the UN’s continued relevance and its role in global affairs. The session, “A New Mindset for the UN,” will include at least two, and maybe four of the leading contenders for the UN top post - Ban, Dhanapala, Surakiart, and Vīķe-Freiberga. The program for participants unambiguously notes that one objective of the session, will be “…an open discussion with the current secretary general of the UN, and potential future secretaries general” on the near-term challenges and prospects for the UN.

Oh well…the public can at least view a webcast of the session at this link.