Archive for June, 2006

French Presidency

Thursday, June 29th, 2006

French Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton and UNSG Kofi Annan (from UN Photo #115143/Ryan BrownWith the Security Council expected to move forward in July on the selection of the next UNSG, all eyes will be on France as it assumes the Council presidency next week. And they are not wasting any time.

A source noted that the French ambassador will be holding a discussion at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, 30 June) specifically on the guidelines that will be used in the selection process. It had yet to be determined today whether a press release or other advisory on the discussion’s outcome would be released afterwards.

Don’t expect much the first two weeks. The more important actions are not expected to occur until the second half of the month. The guidelines are not expected to include nor will France suggest any formal deadline by which the nominees must come forward. (Officially, there are at the moment only two candidates - Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala and Thailand’s Surakiart Sathirathai. India and South Korea have yet to formally convey their nominations to the President of the Security Council.)

Oh, and on Chirac seeking the job himself? According to the source, “That is amusing. Though he has a love for Japan, I don’t think that qualifies him as Asian.”

Update: from the UN Journal… France will hold a press briefing on the work for July on Wednesday, 5 July 2006, following the adjournment of the consultations of the whole.

Updated Odds

Wednesday, June 28th, 2006

Last January, Sportsbooks.com posted odds on candidates for the next UNSG. While an amusing exercise, it’s doubtful an accurate measure of the campaigns. Nonetheless, a regular reader (thanks, dracobs!) commented that an updated look at the odds might be of interest.

  Candidate Jan. 23rd Jun. 28th
Ban Ki Moon 5-2
Surakiart Sathirathai 5-2 5-2
Jayantha Dhanapala 7-2
Anwar Ibrahim 15-1 8-1
Bill Clinton 5-2 10-1
Aleksander Kwasniewski 6-1 10-1
Ashraf Ghani 5-1 12-1
Aung San Suu Kyi 12-1 12-1
Vaclav Havel  25-1 25-1
Nelson Mandela  25-1 25-1
 

Interestingly, neither Ban nor Dhanapala made the list in January, despite existing widespread expectations that they would be candidates and now being frontrunners.

Clinton and Kwasniewski both dropped significantly in their chances of getting appointed, according to Sportsbook.

The only gainer is former Deputy Premier Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, who has been approached and asked to run, but has not yet decided.

  Candidate FP’s Odds
Jayantha Dhanapala 6-1
Kemal Dervis 12-1
Ban Ki Moon 15-2
Surakiart Sathirathai 15-2
Aleksander Kwasniewski 18-1
Vaira Vike-Freiberga 20-1
Bill Clinton 1000-1
 

Though it was issued prior to Shashi Tharoor’s nomination and the increased attention to other Asian ”sleeper candidates” such as Anwar, Foreign Policy played oddsmaker itself a few weeks ago.

(Sadly, Aung San Suu Kyi did not make FP’s list. But perhaps that has something to do with the UN’s member states inability to negotiate her release from house arrest in Burma, let alone give her a job in New York?)

Whichever odds you go with, the Security Council is expected to come up with its short list by the end of July, so now might be the time to get your bets in. As Alex Czajkowski, Marketing Director with Sportsbook.com points out,

“Everybody bets, so, with Clinton moving down in the odds and the race now wide open, it’s a great time to gamble on who is most likely to lead the UN
into the next decade.”

Surakiart’s lawsuit over UNSG qualifications

Monday, June 26th, 2006

The Criminal Court in Thailand has agreed to hear a defamation case starting July 31 by Thailand’s UNSG candidate Surakiart Sathirathai against former Ambassador Asda Jayamana, who publicly critiqued the candidate’s qualifications for UNSG. 

Mr Asda was quoted as saying that Mr Surakiart had told Singapore that it would have to choose him as the Asian candidate if it did not want to see the bilateral relations of the two countries strained.

Has there ever been a more… interesting UNSG selection? 

Missing an opportunity?

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Campaign observers will not be surpsied to hear that the ripple effect spurred by Shashi Tharoor’s nomination may soon be lapping against the shores of Bangladesh. In the past week, two op/eds in the country’s Daily Star ask why, given Bangladesh’s “excellent record of service to the UN” in leadership posts and peacekeeping efforts, the government has not yet nominated a candidate.

Dr. Abdul Hannan, a former press counselor at the Bangladeshi mission in New York, points out that Bangladesh “has never taken a back seat at the UN” and “has earned international acclaim as the top troops contributing country in the UN peace keeping…”

In the background of such impressive performance internationally it is only appropriate and legitimate for Bangladesh to have aspiration for the post of UNSG which potentially is within our reach. What is needed is to grasp the opportunity by making an intelligent decision in the selection of the right candidate soon.

Following on Dr. Hannan’s article this week, Talukder Maniruzzaman, a National Professor of Bangladesh, writes that 

It is sheer lack of vision on the part of our foreign ministry that they did not even think of nominating a candidate for the post of Secretary General of the United Nations to be selected/elected by September/October this year. This is surprising given the back drop of the fact that there are excellent prospects of a Bangladeshi nominee being selected as the Secretary General of the UN.

Reaz Rahman Iftekhar Chowdhury Dr. Hannan recommends the country’s former UN Ambassador Reaz Rahman or its present representative Dr. Iftekhar Ahmed Choudhury as possible nominees. Prof. Maniruzzaman adds another name to the list, that of Dr. Kamal Hossain.

Kamal HossainHe is the author of the Constitution of our country. He is an internationally known jurist. In 1989-90 I was a fellow at Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI). Several judges of the International Court of Justice, which is an organization of the UN, gave lectures at SIPRI at that time. To my great pride some of them were full of praise for the legal acumen of Dr. Kamal Hossain… I feel that some might argue that Dr. Kamal Hossain is one of our few sober, foresighted, honest, and visionary political leaders.

But Prof. Maniruzzaman worries that Dr. Kamal Hossain may be passed over, considering “charismatic political leaders like Anthony Eden and Charles De Gaulle” are usually rejected as unpalatable to some governments. Accepting that, Maniruzzaman offers Mustafa Kamal, the former chief justice of Bangladesh, who also had the distinct experience of serving on both the Pakistani and, later, Bangladeshi delegations to the UN.  

Anwarul Karim ChowdhuryBoth agree however (and others have shared the view) that Anwarul Karim Chowdhury would make the most promising Bangladeshi candidate. Chowdhury’s experience includes 25 years continuous service at the UN, in the General Assembly sessions and as the country’s representative on the Security Council. Presently, Chowdhury holds the senior most post at the UN for a Bangladeshi national, Under Secretary General for Least Developed Countries, Landlocked Developing Countries and Small Island Developing States (not to mention the longest title at the United Nations).

Surprisingly, neither author considered that a Bangladeshi candidate could bank on the country’s status as a small country without compelling interests in global power politics - a highly attractive criteria the candidate would share with almost all previous Secretaries General.

Both authors do insist that getting a Bangladeshi into the race is a nationalist imperative. Dr. Hannan begs those in power to ”Let not our posterity blame us for a missed opportunity to feel proud” while Dr. Maniruzzaman portends that “The next generation of Bangladeshis will not forgive this generation of Bangladesh leaders if they do not try for the post.”

Ramos-Horta resigns

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Jose Ramos-Horta resigned his post as Foreign Minister in the Timor-Leste yesterday, but this has apparently not changed his commitment to his country above seeking the post of UNSG.

“I decided to resign from the government until a new government is established,” said Mr Ramos-Horta through his spokesman. “I am ready to serve this nation in whatever position.”

We are not likely to see this change anytime soon, and the continued turmoil in Timor-Leste is almost certain to keep him out of the race. The turmoil itself will not be the cause as much as his personal commitment to helping end it.   

Update: Further distancing himself from the UNSG race, Ramos-Horta has put himself forward as a candidate for Prime Minister of Timor-Leste.

Maybe not…

Monday, June 26th, 2006

Reports of Pakistan taking the high road and supporting a regional consensus candidate may have been premature. The earlier rumored candidates are apparently off the table, but the government may still field a candidate and, as had been the case with Sadik, one who would be the only female Asian in the race.

Pakistan may field its High Commissioner to Britain Maleeha Lodhi as its candidate for UN secretary general, essentially to counter Indian nominee Shashi Tharoor.

‘As for the names of Prime Minister Aziz and Ambassador Munir Akram (permanent representative of Pakistan to the UN), it was all rumours but the candidature of (UN official) Nafis Sadik was considered,’ the official said, adding that it was dropped because of the ‘age factor’ and the decision been taken in favour of High Commissioner Lodhi.

Some media reports earlier suggested that Pakistan was unlikely to go in for a tit-for-tat nomination on India’s bid for the post of UN secretary-general after it came up with the candidature of Shashi Tharoor as candidate for the secretary-general’s job. However, the official said Pakistan would counter the Indian move and all possible efforts would be made for the success of Lodhi.

As mentioned, this contradicts Dawn’s report just days ago, citing unnamed officials who claimed President Musharraf was committed to backing a consensus candidate in “the spirit of multilateralism” and that “nominating a Pakistani candidate is not on the cards neither is a change of heart on the issue.”

So for now, the most that can be is either the Pakistani government is divided on whether to challenge Tharoor, or it is dropping names left and right in hopes one of them excites the other missions in New York. 

Update: I forgot to note the ”Envoys Meeting” this week in Islamabad, after which a more formal announcement on Pakistan’s decision is expected.

Will Goh enter the fray?

Sunday, June 25th, 2006

With signs that Pakistan is now willing to back a non-Pakistani for UNSG, attention is turning to whether Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong will enter the race. He has often been mentioned as a likely late entry. He is reportedly seeking assurances from at least three P5 members before he throws his hat in the ring.

The immediate impact of Goh entering the race would be the unraveling of ASEAN’s backing of Thailand’s Surakiart Sathirathai. As recently as the beginning of this month, Goh was reaffirming Singapore’s support for the ASEAN-endorsed candidate.

“It could be a Singaporean. At one time, we actually talked through that, whether we should field a candidate. But there were no volunteers from Singapore,” said SM Goh… ”We decided that since Asean has a candidate in the Thai DPM Surakiat Sathirathai, we supported him and that is our position,” Mr Goh added.

China is expected to be favorable to a Goh candidacy, at least more so than to the current field of candidates. The UK is also reportedly encouraging Goh to run, which suggests the U.S. would not be opposed to him. The key signal however remains with China. Any signal from China that the field contains worthy candidates would be a significant development, likely signaling their interest in the latest competitor.    

Goh’s nomination would likely intially contrast his age and experience in a  foriegn ministry with Tharoor, his outsider status with Dhanapala and, in contrast to Ban and Surakiart, his greater salability to China.

Pakistan backing out?

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

It appears now that Pakistan may be backing off from fielding its own candidate against India’s Tharoor, and instead may throw its support behind either Sri Lanka’s Dhanapala or Thailand’s Surakiart as a consensus candidate. 

Key foreign office aides, speaking on condition of anonymity, now say that Islamabad is likely to focus on the need for a consensus candidate for the UN top post, and does not see India’s nominee, Shashi Tharoor, as a sure shot candidate.

Earlier, there were rumours that Pakistan’s possible candidates were Prime Minster Shaukat Aziz and Munir Akram, its Permanent Representative at the United Nations. But now, if sources are to be believed, Aziz is keen on retaining his present job till 2012, while Akram is seen as being too crucial to be removed from the UN as yet.

Pakistan made strong declarations in the last week that it would be fielding a candidate and has since been canvassing missions in New York. But the recent “change of heart” may indicate a lack of enthusiasm both by its candidates and for them. (Dr. Nafis Sadik has told friends she has no interest in being UNSG.)

It’s still too early to tell where Pakistan will come out, but if it does go multilateral, it could only be damaging to Tharoor’s campaign and a boon to the candidate that secures the endorsement.

Skeptical perceptions

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

In the last two weeks, whispers and comments among close observers of the UN and the UNSG candidates have become less favorable to Shashi Tharoor

Tharoor’s oversight of DPI is often mentioned in suggestions that he simply lacks the skills to carry out the management reforms most see the next UNSG needing to implement. But the criticism doesn’t stop there. Despite his resume, when the suggestion is made that Tharoor is “more style than substance,” the typical response is a regretful nod of the head. Reportedly, that view is not uncommon among civil society, the press or even inside the UN. One reputable observer suggested that it would not surprise her if Tharoor had sought out the nomination, understanding that even if he were not appointed, he would nonetheless leave the UN on a high note having been a candidate.

The criticism is not reserved only for the candidate. From the beginning, a nomination by India has been questioned. Beyond the usual reasons, more than one prominent observer has suggested that India is “smarting” from not winning a permanent Security Council seat and recognizes the issue is off the table for the foreseeable future. Angry and determined to have affirmed its position as a global power, the government decided to shake up the campaigns by going after the top UN office. The nomination was not a move welcomed by the entire Indian government as the most strategic decision. The choice of Tharoor, though a separate issue, apparently also raised some eyebrows.

A prominent observer noted the principal impact Tharoor’s nomination has had is hurting the otherwise viable campaign of Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala, who was recently called the race’s front runner by Foreign Policy magazine. Another suggested that India’s move will only result in a ripple effect, provoking Pakistan, Bangladesh and Singapore to nominate their own candidates. (Goh’s entry into the race of course would negate ASEAN’s unity in backing Surakiart.) The overall perception is that India is not seen as acting in the regional interest of securing the post.

The criticism may appear harsh. If it was not shared by or readily agreed with by several sources, it could be chalked up to individual perceptions. That it was not an isolated view prompts closer inspection.

New Security Council Report Paper

Thursday, June 22nd, 2006

Security Council Report has issued a second paper on the selection process of the next UNSG, following on their review of the appointment processes used in past selections. This new report discusses the reform proposals that have been put forward and banted about this year. The report looks substatively at the commonalities between the Canadian proposals and commitments made in Resolution 51/241, as well as the meetings and consultations provoked by the Canadian initiative.  

More interesting, it suggests that a formal job description for the UNSG - for many, the holy grail of reforming the selection process - already exists to a large degree, issued in a report by the United Nations Preparatory Commission in December 1945.

The Preparatory Commission identified the following qualities that would be required for appointment of a Secretary-General.

  • Administrative and executive qualities to integrate the activity of the whole complex of United Nations organs. (para 12)
  • Leadership qualities to determine the character and efficiency of the Secretariat. (para 15)
  • Skills to lead a team recruited from many different countries and build the necessary team spirit. (para 15)
  • Moral authority to model the independent role required by article 100 of the Charter. (para 15)
  • Ability to play a role as a mediator. (para 16)
  • Capacity to act as an informal adviser-or confidant-to many governments. (para 16) and (para 19)
  • The highest qualities of political judgment, tact and integrity because of the need at times “…to take decisions which may justly be called political”, not only because of the political role that is expected, but also because of the power “to bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter (not merely any dispute or situation) which in his opinion may threaten international peace and security.”(para 16)
  • Communications and representation skills to represent the United Nations to the public at large and secure the “active and steadfast support of the peoples of the world” without which “the United Nations cannot prosper nor its aims be realised.” (para 17)
  • Overall qualities which demonstrate to the world at large that personally the candidate “embodies the principles and ideals of the Charter to which the Organisation seeks to give effect.” (para 17)

Compare this with UNSGselection.org’s recommended qualifications:

  1. Comprehensive understanding of and demonstrated commitment to the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, including, but not limited to, international law and multilateralism.
  2. Comprehensive understanding of and demonstrated commitment to the three pillars of UN system: peace and security, development and human rights
  3. Extensive experience with the UN system or other complex international organizations
  4. Diplomatic skills and demonstrated vision and leadership, in accordance with the principles of independence, fairness, and impartiality
  5. Multicultural understanding and gender sensitivity
  6. Strong communication skills and fluency in at least one official UN language
  7. Proven openness to working with civil society and other relevant stakeholders

The earlier “job description” reflected the period’s sense of hope enshrined in the “Organization” and the “Charter” by governments and seeks a UNSG similarly embodying that optimism. Today’s version appeals for skills necessary in an international environment driven more by political divisions and anticipated disagreement.  

 

The SCR paper goes on to discuss the Indian proposal that the 1946 Resolution 11/1 be repealed, and notes procedural changes over the past 60 years which proponents suggest make it ”obsolete” for selecting the next UNSG. 

SCR discusses in detail the proposal for the Security Council to proffer three nominees for consideration by the General Assembly. But insiders are reporting that this idea, strongly pushed by India prior to Tharoor’s nomination, is now being allowed to die a quiet death. It is also reportedly opposed by the Asian regional group, which recognizes the very real possibility of multiple Asian names coming forward and splitting its membership. (A worse scenario could arise if two Asians were forced to compete for those regional votes against a nominee from another region.) 

SCR is not optimistic about any of the suggested reforms thus offered being implemented this year, particularly after the letter of June 2nd from Security Council President Ellen Margrethe Løj, informing Jan Eliasson that the Council was starting the process (unchanged) of discussing possible nominees. 

As for where they are in that discussion, insiders are reporting that nominations will be taken until the end of June, with discussions in July aimed at reducing the possible nominees to a “short list” by the end of the month.