Archive for February, 2006

Official Website for Dhanapala

Monday, February 27th, 2006

Jayantha Dhanapala’s offical website - www.JayanthaDhanapala.com launched today, with the aim of “…[making] accessible to ‘the peoples of the United Nations’ the credentials, capabilities, views and values of Jayantha Dhanapala as he aspires to lead the UN through this critical juncture of its history.”

The site, in English and French, includes an exhaustive amount of material, including Dhanapala’s views on practically every issue which has or likely will confront the international community, as well as his personal journey from an 18-year old essay contest winner attending a student forum in New York (his essay was entitled “The World We Want”) to being Sri Lanka’s candidate for UN Secretary General.

In launching the campaign site (it cannot be described as anything but), Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Mangala Samaraweera emphasized the challenges of reforming the world body.

“That is why it is imperative that the UN finds itself a leader who is able to marshal the necessary political goodwill to renew the Organization, consolidate its strengths, and rectify its shortcomings. The UN needs the leadership of a person who has the vision, experience and diplomatic skills to re-engineer the Organization, so that it will be able to meet the challenges ahead, and the person to me- is undoubtedly Jayantha Dhanapala.”

(For comparison, readers may wish to also visit Dr. Surakiart Sathirathai’s official website at www.surakiart.com.)

A Little Mudslinging

Monday, February 27th, 2006

One reason that Ban Ki-Moon’s nomination, decided last October, was delayed until this month, was, according to the Foreign Ministry, because “…an early announcement of its candidate could trigger mudslinging and harsh media scrutiny.”

Well, it’s still not too late, apparently.

On Friday, the candidate had to defend his candidacy against his government’s practice of abstaining on UN resolutions critical of North Korea’s human rights record.

“I don’t think a specific issue like North Korean human rights has a direct connection to the bid for the UN secretary-general’s seat,” Ban told reporters. Asked by a CBS reporter whether the way the South Korean government handles human rights conditions in North Korea could hurt his bid for the UN job, Ban replied, “What the secretary general does is not directly related to a specific issue in a particular country.”

The minister said he was “well aware” of criticism of the South Korean government for abstaining on resolutions on North Korea’s human rights abuses in the world body. But he said the government had “taken many opportunities to demonstrate its concern about the issue.”

Ban recognizes that he will also face difficulties in securing Japan’s vote. Japan, presently a rotating member of the Security Council, was until last month strongly pressing for a permanent seat - a goal opposed by South Korea. Also, tensions escalated betweeen the two governments last October with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi’s publicized visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, a memorial to Japanese war dead that South Koreans see as a glorification of Japanese militarism.

President Roh Moo-hyun considers getting Ban elected as the next UNSG a task “of unprecedented importance since the establishment of the government,” according to the online newspaper Dong-a Ilbo. The government’s representatives to the P5 members have apparently been put on the campaign trail for their countryman. Ambassador to Russia Kim Jae-soop is hoping to gain Russia’s vote by leveraging Ban’s friendship with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. Ambassador to France Chu Cheol-ki is “going out of his way to collect relevant information,” given France’s silence on its position. Meanwhile, the country’s permanent ambassador to the UN, Choi Young-jin, is keeping tabs on possible movement in New York.

“At present, it is most important to keep tabs on the moves of the P5,” said Ambassador Choi. “That is why I keep my ears open for P5 developments while frequently participating in and having conversations with the P5.”

View of Asian candidates “Down Under”

Monday, February 27th, 2006

John Dauth, who has served as Australia’s ambassador to the UN for the past four years, is among those doubtful of Asia’s current field of candidates for the UNSG position:

“…we are, it’s true, great admirers for example of the Foreign Minister of Korea, who’s now an announced candidate, …although you know, I’d have to say to you in New York, I think that candidacies of Thailand and Sri Lanka are not necessarily travelling as well as perhaps they were…it remains the view of some in New York that we need a wider field of candidates.”

When asked whether the weak reception of Ban, Surakiart and Dhanapala could cost Asia its “turn” in the regional rotation, his response was unequivocal:

“Absolutely, I think that’s a real risk now…”

Louis Arbour, on running for UNSG

Monday, February 27th, 2006

“The selection of the next secretary-general of the United Nations will not be decided on the basis of whether I or anybody else expresses any interest in the position. An expression of interest by anybody is a pure exercise of vanity.”
Washington Times
February 26, 2006

Silence of the Candidates

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2006

As a new feature of UNSG.org, we will be inviting special guest commentators to contribute their views on aspects of the UNSG selection process, the candidates and the decision-makers. Our first guest commentator is Ayca Ariyoruk, the Larger Freedoms research fellow with the Center for U.N. Reform Education in New York. Ms. Ariyoruk recently interviewed Jayantha Dhanapala and Surakiart Sathirathai on their respective candidacies for UNSG. As always, we invite your comments in providing feedback to our guest commentators. 



It is about time the UN stops clinging to the age-old tradition of discouraging candidates for the top UN post from speaking and engaging in public debate. Candidates can not find in New York the ‘idea and debate-friendly’ environment they found in Davos. For that reason, they are pulling out of public speaking arrangements and are naturally hesitant to address wider audiences in close proximity to the UN, thinking it could undermine their candidacy. Representatives from the United States, France, China, Russia, and UK have a unique role in this. If they are indeed serious about strengthening the office of the secretary general, they should send a clear message that ’speaking publicly will not automatically undermine candidacy’ and encourage candidates to articulate their vision. Promoting silence is undermining the calls for a new mindset at the United Nations.   

The process of selecting the secretary general should be viewed as an integral part of management reforms and improved in the same manner as the other high level appointments at the UN. Not only is this long over due, but it is also politically viable. A nice gesture on behalf of the great powers, it could positively impact the negotiations with the developing countries on other reforms, convincing them to go along with other management improvements targeted at strengthening the office of the secretary general. It is an ideal ‘position here, grant there’ situation; an opportunity to ease suspicions towards the management reforms and a position that would build confidence in the United States’ approach.

The present U.S. approach on management reforms - “Do as I say, don’t do as I do” - will not get them where they want to be, at least not fast enough. The group that represents the developing nations at the UN is firm, ready to react and to block any initiative which could potentially reduce their influence in the Secretariat. If the U.S. wants to see a secretary general that is not micromanaged by the 132 developing countries and a more accountable and transparent United Nations, than the U.S. should be prepared to give on this tradition. Ambassador Bolton could further U.S. interests in broader UN reform by promoting a transparent, inclusive process for the next secretary general selection and affirming that candidates will not be “punished” for speaking publicly and directly about their candidacy. This approach would preserve the Security Council accountablity in their choice of secretary general, respect the interests of developing nations, and benefit the world organization through a more effective and trusted Secretary General.

New page on Security Council standings

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Now that the Security Council is discussing the selection process for the next UNSG, according to Ambassador Bolton, “to get a sense of where the Council is, so that we can begin to move forward…,” UNSG.org have set up a new page to better provide readers with a snapshot of positions believed to be held by the SC member states. The page will update regularly, reflecting news also reported via individual posts, but all in one place for readers’ convenience.

Race of the Dark Horses

Sunday, February 19th, 2006

Jose Ramos-Horta is pointing out that he is not lobbying to succeed SG Annan, but he’s not denying interest in the post should the Security Council come knocking either.

Ramos Horta did not completely rule out becoming a candidate to take over from Annan.

“In politics one should not say never. That’s all I can say,” he said on the sidelines of a meeting between Indonesian and East Timor leaders in Bali.

Another dark-horse gaining visibility is Prince Zeid Raed al-Hussein of Jordan. Mentioned months ago in the earliest coverage of the race, Richard Holbrooke described him as “the deft and elegant young Jordanian ambassador to the UN” in his Feb. 3rd WaPo article and Steve Clemons discusses Zeid in today’s Washington Note (thanks, kp!), noting his quiet but close working relationship with U.S. Ambassador Bolton.

…he has a major ally working quietly (believe it or not) on his behalf: U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton.

Bolton is currently the President of the UN Security Council (during the month of February) and is encouraging earlier deliberation on the potential successor to Annan than is traditional. What is traditional is for a name to come out of nowhere at the end of a complicated, opaque international negotiation and be announced practically at the very last moment.

Sources close to Bolton report that he has been meeting quite a number of the leading candidates for the Secretary General position, interviewing them as it were, and according to one source, the candidate who stands out so far among all others — in Bolton’s mind — is Prince Zeid.

Though discussed less frequently that Ban, Surakiart and Dhanapala, Zeid has never been absent from more thorough reports on the race. He has remained on this blog’s “serious speculation” list from the beginning. This quiet presence may serve him well, just as the assertive campaigning by Surakiart appears to be offending traditional sensibilities.

New Analysis on UNSG Selection

Friday, February 17th, 2006

Security Council Report, which publishs in-depth monthly analyses on issues before the UN Security Council, has released a special research report on the appointment of the UNSG. The report is an informative introduction for those new to the topic but substantive enough for those with a strong familiarity with the process. It provides an oversight of the history, process and procedures surrounding the selection, including a history of past SG’s selections and terms, recent GA resolutions that could play out this year and the weakness of “traditions” such as regional rotation and the five-year term. (Trivia question: What does a red ballot signal during straw votes?)

For ease of understanding, the report is divided in seven sections, addressing the following core questions:

1) Who actually decides the appointment?
2) What is the selection process?
3) How important is the veto?
4) Can the length of the term of office be varied?
5) Are there any requirements relating to the timing of the decision?
6) Is there a requirement for regional rotation?
7) What is the status of the Deputy Secretary-General position and is it linked to the Secretary-General’s position?

The report is available in HTML, MS Word and Adobe PDF formats.

Canadian Non-Paper

Wednesday, February 15th, 2006

An observant reader reported (hat tip, db!) that the Canadian Permanent Mission to the UN today released a non-paper suggesting that a “more open and rigourous” selection process for the UNSG could involve changes this year, as well as discussions on later reforms. It was reportedly shared with other missions in New York this week.

At a time when member states are discussing the reform and renewal of so many aspects of the UN, it seems entirely appropriate that we should critically examine the way in which we choose the person who will serve as the organisation’s leader. This non-paper offers preliminary suggestions for a more transparent and open selection process aimed at ensuring that individuals with the right temperament, talents and judgment are identified and submitted to the General Assembly for consideration.

The non-paper recommends that the UNSG selection process could adopt practices currently used in the selection of the OECD Secretary General and the WTO Director General - processes that are “consultative, transparent and merit-based.”

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.”

Though the proposal stresses the authority and role of the Security Council in the selection process, there is an underlying insistence that the General Assembly’s role in the process be likewise respected, and that the larger body carefully

“…exercise its judgment in concluding that the person recommended by the Security Council merits appointment. The current practice does not provide for any means—formal or informal—by which the General Assembly can develop knowledge about the candidate(s) sufficient to allow it to exercise that judgment in an informed and responsible way. One of the key objectives of the changes we propose is to enable the General Assembly to make a decision based on relevant and reliable information.”

More substantive improvements, to be established later the paper suggests, should include a formal search committee to identify candidates, agreed upon qualifications, and informal sessions of the GA or regional groups to evaluate “the relative merits of the candidates, their approach to the office and their vision of the UN.”

Update: U.S. Ambassador John Bolton was asked about the Canadian proposals outside the Security Council chambers today:

Reporter: (inaudible) circulated yesterday, a proposal for changing the method for how the next Secretary General will be chosen. They’re basically proposing more active involvement with the General Assembly and there are other specific proposals out there. I wonder if the US government had a chance to review this document and if you had any initial reactions to it?

Ambassador Bolton (in his national capacity): We are reviewing it now. We certainly welcome constructive suggestions. We have already begun consultations in the Security Council this month on the selection of the next Secretary General. As you know, the Charter of the United Nations specifies that the Security Council takes the first action; and we have begun those consultations.

Ban to Announce Tuesday

Saturday, February 11th, 2006

A short note… The New York Times and the Asian Age are reporting that Ban Ki Moon will formally announce his candidacy on Tuesday. More to come…

Update: The Korean government made its official announcement this morning, February 14th:

“The government of the Republic of Korea has decided to present Mr. Ban Ki-moon, minister of foreign affairs and trade, as a candidate for the post of the next secretary-general of the United Nations. We will notify the Security Council of his candidacy, through a letter addressed to its President, once the Council officially commences the election process. “

According to the Korea Times, the Korean government decided last October to nominate Ban, “[b]ut the government has been conducting a ‘low-key’ campaigning as an early announcement of its candidate could trigger mudslinging and harsh media scrutiny.”

With the formal annoucement, Ban responded “I humbly accepted the government’s decision to field me as the candidate for the secretary-general in order to make available South Korea’s services to the development of the United Nations.”

Ban’s candidacy could be seen as a referendum on the international importance of continued negotiations with North Korea over its nuclear weapons program. Ban has been heavily involved with the six-party talks and is seen as a keen moderator.

On whether a national from a divided nation would be seen as a qualified candidate, Ban responded, “Some people have even told me that it would be better to have somebody who has been in the middle of those kinds of complex issues, who will have to deal with the complex issues that the United Nations is facing.”