Thoughts on Davos “Debate”

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.

6 Responses to “Thoughts on Davos “Debate””

  1. mikus says:

    Vaira is a significantly acceptable candidate!

  2. dracobs says:

    Seems like it would be possible to make a more general argument about the structural demands for the next UNSG, e.g. that he or she as opposed to during the cold war has to have first hand experience with security politics, not just (but still) development and diplomacy. More at:

  3. […] « Thoughts on Davos “Debate” […]

  4. vestnik says:

    Vīķe-Freiberga is hated by Russians for her general attitude towards Moscow, for official discrimination of large Russian-speaking minorities in Latvia and particularly her offensive statements like that one before the previous WWII Victory Day celebration. Explaining why she doesn’t want to go to Moscow together with other world leaders she said something like she doesn’t really want to see “Russian people placing a Caspian roach on a newspaper, drinking vodka, singing folk songs and recalling how they heroically conquered the Baltics.” (Unfortunately, a great deal of rudeness is lost in translation here.)

    Here is an interesting article:

    It is not like I agree with everything written in there, it is just to inform you that tensions are very high in the region.

    Vīķe-Freiberga may become GS only if Russia somehow ceases to exist before the election.

  5. […] Noting the recent World Economic Forum roundtable with Ban, Dhanapala, and Vīķe-Freiberga, the proposal concludes that “it would be regrettable if the WEF could organize such an event but we found ourselves unable to do the same here at the UN for the benefit of the very people who will make the selection.” It strongly recommends that this year’s selection process could involve “…roundtables or public briefings…to provide a setting in which current and emerging candidates might introduce themselves to the UN community, discuss their experience and their achievements and explain their viewpoints and vision concerning the office of Secretary-General and the role of the UN in the years ahead. Such informal events might be convened under the joint auspices of the President of the General Assembly and the President of the Security Council, under circumstances that will encourage an informative but respectful exploration of the perspectives and positions of the candidates.” […]

  6. kevin says:

    It is high time the entire UN system goes through much needed reforms. only a person with clear set objectives and the experience of UN system upon his sleeves could deliver the good. UN is the last resort we all can turn into, UN should be run in a manner to give the priority to the people who cannot speak for themselves. UN should not deviate from this objective and be run as a mere financial or legal instituion. Let the best Humanitarian control this esteemed organization

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