Archive for July, 2006

Ramos-Horta for UNSG…in 2012

Saturday, July 8th, 2006

Unless the political winds turn sharply against him at home, it appears that Jose Ramos-Horta has dropped out of the race for UNSG this year. But that does not mean he doesn’t see himself in the post eventually.

Ramos-Horta’s political capital is still quite high following the shake-up of the Timor-Leste government, prompting the ruling Fretilin Party to include him on the “short list” of candidates for Prime Minister.

Mr Ramos Horta said he would be prepared to serve beyond 2007 – potentially running for president – but ruled himself out of the race to become the next United Nations secretary-general for which he has been mentioned.

“I can wait five years if I am really interested in the job in 2012. I would be interested in that,” he said.

“What notice would be taken of the secretary-general if I abandoned my own country in its time of need?”

Presuming a continuation of the regional rotation practice and the UNSG’s traditional two terms, it will still be “Asia’s turn” in 2012. But, as in 1996, the region’s turn does not necessarily correspond with the officerholder’s period of service. If Ramos-Horta, who was reportedly on the U.S. shortlist this year, does decide to challenge the Asian incumbent in five years, the intra-regional rivalies this year may be only a preview of the race in 2011.

Update: Ramos-Horta has been chosen as the new Prime Minister of Timor-Leste. He will serve until parliamentary elections are held in 2007.

White Votes

Thursday, July 6th, 2006

Ambassador de La Sablière described to the press yesterday the approach which the Security Council will follow in narrowing the list of candidates for UNSG.

As in previous selections, the use of “white votes” or, in English, “straw votes”, will be used to identify the general level of support various candidates have at this point.

“…the white votes are not eliminatory; they have simply an indicative value. This is why each delegation will be asked to say if it encourages, if it discourages or possibly if it does not wish to express an opinion on a candidate.   

The white votes meet two aims. It is necessary that the candidates can measure the support which they have. The results are communicated to them and they can, possibly, infer some of the consequences; [and] it is necessary to facilitate the formation of an agreement within the Security Council. It is a question of avoiding situations of blocking [of candidates later].” 

It is appropriate to review in this context some of the factors that make this year’s selection unprecedented.

  1. We have an actual “field” of viable candidates, publicly announcing their interest in the position and actively campaigning for it.
  2. The Security Council has formally limited itself to considering candidates formally (i.e. publicly) nominated by governments. While this may not prevent a November surprise entirely, it makes it much less likely.
  3. That the candidates will be formally notified of the straw vote’s results seems to me unprecedented, but perhaps only in context of the previous two points. Despite Ambassador de La Sablière’s emphasis on the non-elimination role of the vote(s), no doubt the candidates will have a more firm sense of their competitors’ support, and react accordingly. 

As noted here last week, all of this will not take place however until later in the month. No official date has been set, and the vote may very well not be announced until after it occurs. A critical look at the candidates’ campaign trips will be telling, and will be the subject of a new initiative on this site in the coming week.

And then there were nine…

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

For a few months, another Asian name – Ashraf Ghani, chancellor of Kabul University and former finance minister of Afghanistan – has been among those contemplated as a possible candidate, but with little discussion in the media or among many close observers. However, with the list of Asian candidates growing daily it seems, he may find himself being discussed as one of several “sleeper candidates” yet to announce.

One report from March cites an official of Kabul University suggesting that Ghani had been “told informally by the UN secretary-general’s office that he is a contender to succeed Annan.” In all likelihood, such a comment (if it were made at all!) was simply reflecting media reports and speculation. 

Scandavanian blogger Draco considers Ghani “the best looking” of the Asian nominees out there, pointing out Ghani’s grasp of development and security issues as key to his possible selection.

Understanding the challenge of the convergence of security and development will be essential for any coming UN Secretary General. Without knowledge of both development and security in practice (and, as Ghani has, also preferrably in theory) there is less of a chance that the UNSG will succeed. The next UNSG will have to deal with development as much as geopolitics — and the other way around. Since most stakeholders seem to focus on either side of the coin diplomatic skills and a sense of urgency for either agenda, and their converging trend, is utterly important.

Ghani, if he could secure a nomination, would be one more on the list of nominees and possible nominees from Sri Lanka, Thailand, South Korea, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Singapore and Malaysia (whew!). Whether Ghani, a celebrity at the World Bank and lauded for his economic leadership in post-Taliban Afghanistan, can secure a nomination from the Afghan government from which he was reportedly oustered for political reasons, remains to be seen.

Into the Light

Monday, July 3rd, 2006

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.