The Battle for NAM

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) represents the largest bloc in the international community – 114 out of 191 UN member states. So it’s no surprise that both Jayantha Dhanapala and Surakiart Sathirathai are pursuing an endorsement by the group. (Ban Ki Moon cannot be endorsed, as the NAM’s rules require it to endorse only nationals from its member governments – and South Korea is far from “non-aligned.”)

By some accounts, Dhanapala reportedly “wooed” the member governments during their recent two-day ministerial summit in Putrajaya, Malaysia, playing up his credentials as both an “insider” and an “outsider.”

“I have seen the UN from the outside, and from within. That combination of being an outsider and an insider, equips me with the capability of implementing the reform more successfully,” he said. “One may step on landmines and find that reforms may backfire unless they understand the UN is a complex inter-governmental body with diverse cultures and diverse ethnic groups. You have to proceed with firmness but also tact.”

In response to criticisms, he has suggested that the renewed strife in Sri Lanka, which as Secretary General of the Peace Process Secretariat he was tasked with resolving, as giving him a unique expertise to bring to the office.

“[He] thinks that the domestic conflict would give him an edge to help handle conflicts, especially terrorism, a raging hot debate now. “There are many countries which have conflicts affecting them. We have Northern Ireland that is unresolved, we have the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is unresolved, and in Spain we have Basques (separatist) problems. “That does not disqualify a diplomat from that country from assuming responsibility in international organizations because the experience in dealing with terrorism in your own country gives you the necessary lessons which you can learn from and use for the future in conflict resolutions,” he said.

As to who’s supporting him at this point, he’s not keeping count, he says.

“We’re not keeping a scorecard of who’s for us and who is against us,” he said. “International diplomacy doesn’t operate in that crude manner, we pay the highest respect to governments whom we canvass, we place our credentials and allow them the courtesy of taking decisions at their own time, without pressing to let us know what their views are.”

Surakiart’s colleague, Foreign Minister Kantathi Suphamongkhon, who was also in Putrajaya, was a bit more confident, suggesting several NAM governments “have shown a positive attitude towards supporting” Surakiart.

“…he asked all 114 NAM member countries to consider Surakiart as a candidate for the role of UN post. He said the members had agreed in principle and issued a statement saying that that the next UN secretary-general should come from Asia.”

No surprise there. NAM members are mostly African, Asian and Latin American countries, regions which have already endorsed an Asian national for the post, even discounting the handful of “aligned” governments in those regions.  

Surakiart’s boss, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, may have another chance to lobby for his candidate, having been invited to the bloc’s September meeting in Cuba.

One Response to “The Battle for NAM”

  1. […] A nomination with the backing of the G-77 – which now includes 133 member governments, including all 10 members of ASEAN – is not likely. The organization will tread softly, perhaps taking the same path as the Non-Aligned Movement in firmly committing to an Asian nominee but not restricting its members to vote for a particular candidate. However, if a significant number of G-77 members merely encourage Goh to enter the race, Surakiart’s chances would be furthered strained than they are now. […]

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