Archive for March, 2006

Timeline on Selection

Wednesday, March 29th, 2006

UN Photo #115164/Ryan BrownA timeline for the selection of the next UNSG is coming together, with the UN Security Council agreeing yesterday to continue informal discussions for the next two-three months, then beginning formal deliberations in June or July. Though not set, the selection is expected to take place between late September and November, reports Edith M. Lederer with the Associated Press. 

The question over regional rotation is still challenging the Council, with current Council President Ambassador Cesar Mayoral of Argentina, noting “We have some names, some ideas…But formally, we need to know if there will be first, regional rotation or not. That, I think, is instrumental to decide.” 

The United States and the United Kingdom are insisting that qualifications for office should trump regional rotation. The Associated Press notes UK Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry commenting that most members of the Council favor selecting a highly qualified candidate within the regional rotation scheme. The UK has also suggested the extraordinary step of seeking from candidates a formal statement on their qualifications for office and the goals they would pursue if chosen.

What Britain, and possibly other council members would like to see, Jones Parry said, is “that people who put themselves forward actually present a manifesto” which could be assessed by all U.N. member states. It should include why they want the job and “what they want to achieve for the United Nations and the secretary-general,” he said.


Eastern Europe: Is it or isn’t it?

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

The common response to Eastern Europe’s regional rotation challenge to Asia in the selection of the next UNSG may have hit a snag this month, one which few people may have noticed.

U.S. Ambassador John Bolton has been the champion of Eastern Europe as a region deserving a shot at the top post. Most observers dismiss the notion, however, pointing to the group’s members’ approved and pending memberships in NATO and the EU. The Daily Times (Colombo) quotes Ian Wiliams, UN Correspondent for The Nation magazine, in suggesting that,

“The East European bloc is a total Cold War anomaly, and with most of its members in the European Union, or trying to get in, it should be folded into the U.N.’s Western European Group immediately.”

The snag came last week with the approval by the General Assembly – a majority of which favors regional rotation – of the new Human Rights Council. Ayca Ariyoruk points out the problem in the latest UN Reform Watch.

“Eastern Europe is acknowledged as a regional group…and has just recently been allocated six seats as a region on the newly established Human Rights Council. So if regional rotation is to be a consideration, contenders from Eastern Europe are as eligible as any, if not more…Thus if it is Asia’s turn, it’s not because the convention of geographic rotation dictates as such, but because China and Russia say so.”

Whether Amb. Bolton or other pro-East Europeans recognized this at the time is unlikely, and, frankly, irrelevant. What is important is whether they would care enough to now point out the implications to the rest of the world. But, if Russia and China (as veto-wielding permanent members) say so, does it matter anyway?

Fréchette’s Advice

Tuesday, March 28th, 2006

In the March 28th issue of Time Canada, departing Deputy Secretary General Louise Fréchette suggests an important qualification which the next UNSG – female or male – should possess: 

TIME: Secretary-General Kofi Annan is leaving at the end of the year. Should his replacement be a woman?

LF: I hope so. It’s important that women accede to the fullest responsibilities, although I’d be the last person to argue that a woman should be elected solely because she’s a woman. She has to have all the other qualities for the job.

TIME: Such as?

LF: A sense of humor. I’m a relaxed person, and I use humor to be happy in my work. In a multilateral, multicultural environment like this, 24 hours a day, there have to be some common bonds, and humor is one of them. If I couldn’t tease people, I wouldn’t be able to function.

Is that too much to ask?

Friday, March 24th, 2006

Sir David Hannay comes out swinging in the Financial Times yesterday, suggesting fundamental reforms with which most other observers could agree, but may be politically unwilling to give due consideration, particularly this year. Former British Ambassador to the UN and a member of the UNSG’s recent High Level Panel on Threats, Challenges and Change, Lord Hannay asks,

“Does it still make sense to apply a Buggins’ turn regional rotation, thus excluding any candidate from other regions? Is it wise to choose someone without a clear idea of how they will set about the job and what their main priorities will be? How can one square the circle between the need for a super-diplomat with real political influence and the equally pressing need for an able manager and administrator? Is a five-year term of office the right one, or would a single, non-renewable seven-year term not be better?”

He dismisses from the start the continuation of regional rotation as a selection criteria as well as consideration of candidates on the basis of gender. “It is the right moment to break out of the system of rotation and choose the best candidate for the job, irrespective of origin,” he states, pointedly.

He suggests that candidates should aspire to a “real mandate vis-a-vis the member states and the UN bureaucracy” by publicly circulating their platform on challenges facing the world community and their approach to addressing them. (See update below.) Similarly, the NGO coalition,, has called for a more open timetable during which candidates would be asked to document their qualificiations for the office and meet with member state groups and other stakeholders for question/answer sessions.

More intriguing is Hannay’s suggestion that the next UNSG be appointed to a single 7-year term, a proposal also suggested by distinguished internationalist and former Under Secretary General for Political Affairs Sir Brian Urquhart for mostly the same reasons. But beyond even this, he argues for the under-discussed idea of selecting the UNSG and the Deputy UNSG as a single ticket.

“The appointment of a new secretary-general and that of his deputy should be seen as a single ticket, even if the procedures for appointment remain, as they should do, quite separate. Far more important than achieving regional or gender balance between the two (although those considerations will surely play a part) will be to achieve a functional balance, with complementary skills and experience and, as the present secretary-general has just proposed, clear allocation of responsibilities to the deputy.”

While there is strong merit in providing the UNSG the independence and authority in choosing his or her Deputy, selecting both on a single ticket could potentially resolve the regional question. By providing that the two candidates must be from different regions, it would weaken this politicization of the selection process, attract qualified candidates from a broader pool, and underscore the office’s “exclusively international character” (Article 100 of the Charter). 

As these proposals would not require changes in the UN Charter, Ayca Ariyoruk with the Center for UN Reform Education suggests, the the General Assembly has a real choice before it this year. By amending a 1946 resolution on the nomination of candidates, and reaffirming a 1997 statement on its role in the selection process, the GA could play a stronger role in the selection process this year. And as Lord Hannay notes, such changes would not

“…create an irreversible precedent that could not subsequently be changed if experience proved other approaches made more sense. Taken together they would send a clear signal that the membership wanted a strong, competent and effective secretary-general capable of adapting his office to the requirements of the situation. Is that too much to ask?”

I think not.

Update: In reviewing recent media, this item from the Feb 23rd China’s People’s Daily Online caught my eye:

[Thai candidate] Surakiart also outlined the platform for his candidacy to succeed Kofi Annan when he completes his second term late this year on six key platforms: The UN must adopt a “conflict avoidance” role through preventive diplomacy to ensure basic human rights for people, and strengthen communications links with its constituents, including non-governmental organizations and academics. To achieve management reform the secretary-general needed true administrative power in areas of staffing and at the same time must play the role of diplomat. This would need a business-like administrative system, such as a chief operating/executive officer, Surakiart said. Agencies dealing with disaster relief must be better coordinated and the UN head must be able to adapt quickly to developing circumstances, such as the spread of communicable diseases like bird flu.

Sir Brian Urquhart Interview

Thursday, March 23rd, 2006

Suzanne Dimaggio follows up on her earlier interview with Amb. Thoma Pickering for UNA-USA on the selection of the next UNSG by discussing the subject with Sir Brian Urquhart. Sir Brian, a distinguished international civil servant, has had the privilege of knowing all seven previous UNSGs.

Dimaggio notes that the UN Charter does not provide a term length for the UNSG. Sir Brian suggests establishing a single 7-year term for the UNSG, so that the world body “would not have to fuss with a re-election after five years…which is a big interruption.” He also suggests this would lessen the potential politicization of an incumbent playing to national governments, particularly the five permanent members.

Sir Brian also discusses the importance of reforming the UN’s infrastructure to meet today’s global humanitarian and peacekeeping needs and providing the necessary authority to the Deputy UNSG and others reporting to the UNSG on global concerns. On the question of recent demands that management accountability in the office of UNSG, given recent scandals, Sir Brian suggests that the UNSG “must be aware of the importance of this [concern], and he must be allowed to pick the best Deputy to deal with, and to always be aware that the buck stops at his desk eventually.”

In her companion report, Dimaggio expands on the question of management and accountability in regards to the UNSG’s own role in the selection of his or her Deputy.

“There has been some discussion about whether slates in which candidates for both the secretary-general and deputy are appointed together would improve the selection process. Such an approach may unnecessarily complicate matters…Instead, nations should consider looking for a qualified candidate for secretary-general who can then make the right choice in his/her future appointments, including a deputy.”

Why Care About Mandate Review?

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2006

Our latest guest contributor is David Shorr, Program Officer with the Stanley Foundation. In this contribution, he reviews the mandate review currently underway at the UN and how decisions made may affect the authority of the man or woman who next serves as UNSG. As always, we invite your comments.  


Many thanks to Tony for inviting me as a guest. My focus will be on the reforming, (we hope) renewing organization that the new SG will be asked to lead. One issue coming prominently onto the management reform agenda is the review of mandates older than five years that was, er, mandated by the summit last fall.

Let’s start with a quiz. The mandate review is:

a) a chance to overturn many undesirable mandates and shift the organization’s priorities,

b) a good way to highlight how ridiculous the UN is, or

c) an opportunity to look at whether mandates are helping achieve the desired objectives?

Which of these would serve as the basis for a constructive debate? I’ll give you one guess. In all seriousness, ambassadors at a Stanley Foundation conference last month said that a focus on the effectiveness of mandates would enjoy broad support and help forge consensus, something sorely needed at the UN. It could help create a more positive dynamic between member states and the secretariat.

In essence, mandates are the communications channel through which member states, in their committees and councils, give tasks to the UN staff. In the bigger picture, mandates are member state decisions for how to direct resources (especially human resources) to achieve the ideals of the Charter.

But as our conference participants highlighted, mandates are fraught with the same mistrust that is so pervasive these days in the UN and the wider international system. If mandates are about work assignments and resources, then they are inevitably about priorities, and questions about commitment to development and other political sensitivities inevitably hang over the exercise. So what’s to be done?

Our conference participants suggested how to put the focus on mandate effectiveness. The goal, they said, should be a UN that does better, not less. Donor countries could disavow any idea of seeking a rebate or budget reduction. The assumption for the review could be that any resources freed up by the streamlining of mandates be preserved within
the same program activity or thematic focus.

No member state or staff interest is served by mandates that are mainly “makework.” The compulsion to mandate reports, for instance, has generated countless papers that literally no one reads. If done right, mandate review could focus attention, and creativity, on how staff can help the membership make the impact they seek. It could be energizing and forge a much greater common purpose between member states and the secretariat. Isn’t that a legacy we’d like to see the next SG inherit and build on?

Derviş Denying

Saturday, March 18th, 2006

Kemal Derviş, head of the UNDP since last summer and considered the leading dark horse candidate, again rebuffed suggestions he is interested in the position.

“I assumed my responsibility at the UNDP a short time ago. I’m an economist, and I’ve always worked on economic affairs. I want to continue working here as well. I’m not a candidate,” Derviş was quoted as saying by the Anatolia news agency in an interview published in yesterday’s edition of Spanish daily El Pais.

Is the UN done paying lip service to women?

Friday, March 17th, 2006

Our second guest contributor is Yamil Anglada, Media Director for Equality Now. In the article below, she suggests how reforming the UNSG selection process could support the nomination of female leadership for the world body. As always, we invite your comments 

In the Washington Post of 16 March, Equality Now’s president, Jessica Neuwirth continued to make the case for nominating women to the post of Secretary-General, offering a sampling of qualified women from Asia and elsewhere who have relevant experience for the job.  Whichever region the next Secretary-General comes from, given the UN’s stated commitment to achieving gender balance at the body and Kofi Annan’s comment on International Women’s Day that, “the world is ready for a woman Secretary-General,” the Security Council should be actively seeking similarly qualified women and encouraging them to put their names forward for consideration rather than waiting for women themselves to declare their candidacy.   

This may mean adopting a pro-active recruitment process, for example through an international search committee, which would seek out qualified candidates including women, instead of simply doing business as usual behind closed doors.

Establishing a transparent and fair mechanism for this and future UNSG elections might well encourage more women to put their candidacy forward and so be a step towards concrete implementation of the commitment made by Member States to achieving gender equality within the UN.

Kwasniewski Out?

Friday, March 10th, 2006

Despite rumored U.S interest in his unannounced candidacy, former President Aleksander Kwasniewski is likely out of the race for UNSG, given his new role at Georgetown University beginning this spring.

Former President of Poland (1995-2005) Aleksander Kwasniewski was today appointed Distinguished Scholar in the Practice of Global Leadership at Georgetown University where he will teach students in the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service about contemporary European politics, the trans-Atlantic relationship, and democratization in Central and Eastern Europe.

Kwasniewski had indicated last spring that his interest in the position hinged on the United Nations having undergone reforms, a challenge which continues to elude the world body. This concern, his new position and the strong likelihood of a Russian and Chinese veto suggests he may have bowed out of the race.

Update: Kwasniewski will be delivering a lecture at Georgetown’s Bunn Intercultural Center Auditorium on Tuesday, March 21st on “Taking the Chance: the Road of Central and Eastern Europe to Security, Integration and International Engagement,” starting at 1:30pm. Additional information is available here.

International Women’s Day

Wednesday, March 8th, 2006

At a program (webcast) marking International Women’s Day, SG Kofi Annan praised the successes of female candidates in national election during 2005 and suggested the UN itself was ready for a female leader.

“I think we should see a clear message in the overwhelming success on women in presidential elections over the past year: the world is ready for a woman Secretary General, ” stated Annan to wide applause, afterwardly joking, “Some of my male colleagues are going to kill me, but that’s okay!”

UN Photo #113503 - Mark GartenEfforts to promote a female nominee have been less than encouraging than hoped. No woman candidate has officially declared or been nominated, though Latvian President Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga is invariably suggested as a potential candidate, despite the fact she would likely draw a Russian veto. (Her comments critical of the P5 at the Davos conference lead many to doubt her chances as well.)

On SG Annan’s remarks, Equality Now President, Jessica Neuwirth, noted,

We are glad the Secretary-General mentioned the possibility of a woman Secretary-General and expressed his view that the world is ready.  Much of the world is ready and waiting. We are urging the Security Council to seek qualified women to serve in this post.  Unfortunately there is no such outreach effort that we are aware of, although the Platform for Action adopted in Beijing in 1995 specifically called for the creation of “mechanisms to nominate women candidates for appointment to senior posts in the United Nations.”  As this language was agreed more than ten years ago, there is no reason any of his male colleagues should want to kill him, as he suggested they would. His comment is a sad reflection of where things REALLY are.

Last year, Equality Now launched a campaign to nominally encourage female nominees for the top post. Unfortunately, the laudableness of this goal may be undermined by the campaign’s symbolism. No one of the suggested nominees – all unquestionably qualified – have expressed formal interest in being nominated, and several have recently succeeded in securing powerful national positions, as recognized by SG Annan. A number also are African nationals, which would markedly compete with the “traditional” geographic rotation following a 15-year stint of the position being held by African men. In contrast, Korean Times columnist Philip Dorsey Iglauer suggested that the regional criteria could strategically reinforce the qualifications of female nominees from Asia.

Update, March 15th: Equality Now President Jessica Neuwirth‘s article in today’s Washington Post – “Give the U.N.’s Reins to a Woman” – makes a strong case for the Security Council nominating a female candidate. Recognizing “the idea of a woman’s ‘turn’ [in itself] has not yet taken hold,” she notes four female leaders well qualified for the post in their experience and with the called-for “regional” qualification – Sadako Ogata (Japan), Nafis Sadik (Pakistan), Anson Chan (Hong Kong), Leticia Shahani (Philippines).