Into the Light

The race for UNSG has begun to seep further out into public view in the past week. The news magazine Newsweek belatedly realized the campaign was on last week with an article subtitled “The race to succeed Kofi Annan has begun.” The progressive magazine Mother Jones‘ MoJoBlog tried to catch its readers up to speed, noting for its readers that “the battle to replace him has been raging for months.”

Perhaps the candidates’ recent public appearances finally attracted attention beyond the usual observers. Ban Ki Moon spoke before the Council on Foreign Relations at the end of May about the need for accountability in the UN system. Just two weeks ago, Jayantha Dhanapala spoke before International Peace Academy about the importance of multilaterialism. Both engagements clearly were intended as campaign speechs, and represented a shift in how willing candidates for the top post are approaching the otherwise secretive and politicized selection process.

The three declared candidates, Ban, Dhanapala and Sathirathai, are already making public appearances around the world—effectively campaigning. This has led some U.N. watchers to believe the Security Council’s power has already waned. “They’ll have to be more accountable for their decision because the public knows about [the candidates],” says Ayca Ariyoruk of the United Nations Association of the United States.

A friend at the Canadian mission pointed out how Dhanapala and Ban’s public appearances are implementing, if informally, a key Canadian proposal to open up the selection to greater transparency. The proposal, one of five reforms promoted by the Canadian government, calls for forums which would allow governments an opportunity to meet and learn more about the candidates and their views, more or less a “screening process,” currently absent from the selection process. But, in his view, these candidate-led appearances will demonstrate a level of utility and credibility that will encourage them to be formally incorporated into the selection process the next time around. 

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