An August Lull

It has been quiet on the race in the last week, most reporting being reiterations of the straw poll results, the occasional guess at who voted for whom and where the candidates are traveling on the campaign trail. There is no sign of candidates dropping out, and contrary to the spec just before the straw poll, no new candidates are jumping into the race. Both Surakiart and Dhanapala intend to continue in the race, hoping those “no opinion” votes shift over to the “encourage” column later this month.

Ban Ki Moon will be paying his respects at the funeral of former Japanese Prime Minister Hashimoto Ryutaro this week. Japan, one will recall, is strongly considered the government which “discouraged” Ban in the straw poll. Afterwards, Ban will visit Security Council members Argentina and Peru, followed by a trip to New Zealand and Australia. He does appear to have secured the support of Uruguay, as announced by that government’s ambassador at the reopening of Uruguayan embassy in Seoul.

“We support the candidacy of Minister Ban for the U.N. secretary general,” he said. “We hope he will win.”

Second place candidate Shashi Tharoor, playing catch-up with his fellow Asians on the campaign trail, recently returned from his campaign stop in Singapore during which he reiterated his independence from Indian politics. Described as having “just the right mix of idealism and pragmatism and even a trace of romanticism,” Tharoor nonetheless admitted the UNSG must acknowledge UN realpolitick: 

“A future secretary general who sufficiently antagonises one of the P-5 members could again find himself in the situation of Boutros-Boutros Ghali (…who incurred the wrath of the US and was consequently denied a second term),” he replied when asked how he would handle American pressure and recurrent interventions of the US in UN decision-making.

“No one who is not acceptable to the P-5 can become elected,” he said.

“The practical reason that any UNSC has to cooperate with P-5 is that you can’t achieve results without them,” he added.

Ban is the only candidate who can claim permanent member backing, but a quick & dirty analysis of the straw poll results show at least seven governments marked “encouragements” for both Ban and Tharoor on their ballots. (This raises to either 9 or 10 if leaks about two ballots are accepted.) 

A source at the Thai UN mission though has suggested that Shashi Tharoor’s good showing in the straw poll was more an acknowledgement of India’s growing role on the world stage than genuine support for the Indian candidate. Sour grapes, perhaps? Dr. Surakiart will also be visiting Argentina and Peru, followed by trips to Africa. His perception as a potential leader of the world body suffers from the situation in Burma, and he is routinely dismissed in editorials at homeChapter 15 takes an interesting look at Surakiart, and particularly his pregnant claim to be “an ASEAN candidate…not a candidate of Thailand.”

Chapter 15 also links to an article on Dhanapala’s blog suggesting a breakdown of his vote tally. The reported votes don’t offer any surprises, and even show the P5 split on his candidacy. One Canadian editorialist, however, suggests a not-so-bright future for the UN from which Dhanapala might want to quietly walk away. 

Whether these gentlemen decide to continue their campaigns or serve in other roles, it is important for governments to keep in mind what tasks will be before the next UNSG, as Edgardo B. Espiritu eloquently reminds us:

“…the next UN secretary-general will play a very vital role in the future direction of global affairs. There is much unfinished business in the international stage. The achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, or MDGs—goals and specific targets at improving overall human welfare that the international goals have set for the year 2015—is still at risk. There are huge global problems—terrorism and security issues; the threat of the emergence of widespread and prolonged war in the Middle East; the still widening North-South gaps and global inequality, including the growing digital divide; the problems of accelerated urbanization and the related tremendous pressures on the environment; the need for vital public services to keep up with population growth particularly in the developing world. The new UN secretary-general will have to institute the required reforms in the UN and galvanize the international community to effectively address all these challenges, and at the same time balance the concerns of the global powers and the poor countries.”

Let us hope that governments will look that over again before they cast their next straw vote.

14 Responses to “An August Lull”

  1. sabrina says:

    The write up suggesting that Mr. Tharoor is more a reflection that India has “arrived” than being a serious contender for the post of SG is just too amusing!India has been on the world stage and involved in international diplomacy way before the US was even conceived of as a geographical construct! Any educated reader of history knows that all too well. After all, India’s pluralism must have some intellectual basis.
    Numerous reasons have been cited for Mr. Tharoor’s candidature, and reservations have been expressed that his Indianness would become a problem in the job of the SG. This is another ludicrous suggestion. Of all the candidates, Mr. Tharoor is the only one who has an understanding of pluralism running through his blood stream. He is of it and has engaged in it all his professional life. He could as easily have joined the Indian Foreign Service and served India admirably. But he choose to put global concerns, not just Indian ones, on his plate and tackle them to the best of his ability.Who better than him to serve as the leader of the UN?
    It is not India’s arriving at the global stage which is the issue. The more pertinent question is: Is the world ready for a dynamic thinker from the south, engaged at the world stage at the highest level, who happens to also reflect the world through his writings(albeit his world), and has the vision, charisma and confidence to steer the UN into a new direction? To have done all that he has, away from his roots and support system, and emerged as victorious as he has speaks volumes for Mr. Tharoor. Even if he does not become the UNSG, the world would have known this extraordinary man and understood that he gave all of himself to leave the world a better place.

  2. MZ says:

    Well said, Sabrina! My only concern was whether Shashi Tharoor, or more likely the Government of India, had left it too late to declare his candidacy for SG. Has there ever been a more qualified candidate for the job, with experience in refugee/humanitarian work, peacekeeping, the SG’s immediate staff — and with a proven record of reform to boot? And who else since Hammarskjold has better articulated the values and principles of the UN than Shashi Tharoor? His address to regional groups (posted in the new “SG race” page on his literary website, is a hugely impressive platform. The question is — is Shashi Tharoor too impressive a candidate for the P-5 to swallow? I would argue that he has been around the UN long enough for the Big Powers to know that he is a true professional, the best of the international civil service, and they need not expect any unpleasant surprises. Dare we hope that the powers that be will have the courage to entrust the UN Secretariat to the best-qualified and most impressive candidate, SHashi Tharoor?

  3. Rights runner says:

    Dear Sabrina, MZ and,

    I have read with interest information on this web site, and your own comments. Sabrina – i think you’re right to note India’s prominence on the international stage for so many years. However, i think the issue should not be the nationality of the applicant but rather the applicant her/himself. MZ – you note with high praise Mr. Tharoor’s experience and principles. Correct me if i’m wrong, but i understand that he has been with the UN since around 1979, and since around 1982 he has been working for the UN in NY. My first thought is that he must know very intimately the functioning of the organisation and the politics surrounding it. My second thought is how can anyone who is committed to the UN’s principles remain working at its headquarters for 25 years without spending some of those years in field positions. The UN’s political role is hugely important, but it must be inspired by personal concern for what is happening out in the world, and not by a sense only of politics and the ability to say the right thing in speeches. My own impression of Mr. Tharoor’s work is that it has a level of self-promotion and self-importance – an impression which i understand is shared by many of his staff. If he does become SG then I hope i am wrong in these impressions and that he would prove a good SG who would carry the organisation and its ideals forward. If my impressions are correct then he should not be SG. There are many others who would be more deserving. I hope that those selecting candidates will look more deeply into a person’s experience than public statements.


  4. Dr.Yashanvitha says:

    Dear Right Runner,
    It is very obvious that u need the correction.Innocence & ignorances are not the excuses.If u r concerned about Tharoor’s postings out of NY,why can’t u study his Singapore boat crisis management ect. ect.Sometimes ignorance is bliss ?Is it so dear Right Runner:)?

    There is a proverb which would suit here.”The sinner,even if he goes to the ocean, he would still find the water level only below his knee.”

    Nationality is not the issue here, from India,Indians or from Mr. Tharoor himself.He has defined his nomination as India’s national offering to the world.When Indians offer flower to God, it means that it belongs to God, no more to the self.People often offer their art & skills, but Tharoor has offered himself to the world,with or without India’s intervention.Then where is the question of Nationality?Yes,it becomes the issue if he is not promoted or given priority among the nominees,just bcos he is an Indian, neglecting his contributions to the people, the world to whom his life had made a positive difference & UNO.Suppose, if he had happened to be US or UK citizen,then US & UK would have promoted him with lots of pride.The question of national identity,self importance, self promotion wouldn’t have rised then?

    {The remainder of this post has been removed by the site administrator because of its inappropriate and off-topic content.}


  5. globalcitizen says:

    Well-said Rights runner! And I am in complete agreement with you.

    I think now it is high time for you Dr.Yashanvitha to stop writing the nonsense you kept on writing so far at this site. The people who read this site would not want read theories and concept of Hinduism and it is certain that India’s candidate has no chance at all wining the race to become the next UNSG. So please do not waste time and energy on a fruitless project.

  6. Dr.Yashanvitha says:

    {The remainder of this post has been removed by the site administrator because of its inappropriate and off-topic content.}

  7. globalcitizen says:

    My Dear Dr.Yashanvitha,

    {The remainder of this post has been removed by the site administrator because of its inappropriate and off-topic content.}


  8. MZ says:

    just on the point of Shashi Tharoor’s UN service as raised by Rights Runner, his extensive field experience is a matter of record — ifonly people would look. Aprt from serving in south-east asia at the peak of the boat people crisis, he has been posted in NY only since late 1989, and spent a lot of time in the Balkans handling peacekeeping there.

  9. Dr.Yashanvitha says:

    {The remainder of this post has been removed by the site administrator because of its inappropriate and off-topic content.}

  10. globalcitizen says:

    Dear Dr.Yashanvitha,

    I think that your reply very well suits your comments since it contained an unprecedented amount of highly irrelevant, off topic and contradictory facts which certainly will not be of any help to Mr. Tharoor.

  11. World Light says:

    If there were any meaningful, visionary, sensefilled responses to the articles of since past two month’s, it was Dr. Yashanvitha’s.But if any one cannot digest the humorous way of presenting certain subtle deeper truths,that need to be reaffirmed at this stage of UN & world, to bring new awareness,they can utilise their rights to be in the darkness & ignorances without reading it, rather than branding as nonsense.If it was nonsense, it would have been removed on the day it was posted.It was removed bcos some have allergy to the deeper true meanings & alternative wise interpretations of the word SELF,INDIA ect.

    Salim Lone’s article & Dr.Yashanvith’s responses were truly eye opener in upholding the humanity & future welfare of the globe to whomever Shashi Tharoor’s candidacy seem to be a reason to humiliate India.I think Dr. Yashanvitha was trying to tell from the beginning that Dr.Tharoor’s exrtaordinary eligibility & dedication to UN should be kept in mind,although being an Indian,Hindu,Insider,not involved in his national politics are supposed to be positive, additional plus points to effectively execute justice to the post.Any wellwisher of this world, would have supported Mr. Tharoor even if he was a citizen of Shri Lanka, Korea,Pakisthan,Afghanisthan or any other nations,for all the commitment & dedication he had already proved for the post of unsg.Hope gives the glimpses on Salim Lone’s comment on Shashi Tharoor’s candidacy.

    But looking at the present situation of unsg selection process,it seems, it is better for Mr. Tharoor to dedicate & focus on something more worthy organisations like One World Family,We The People,than United Nation’s Organisation in future.Whether he wins or loses,it is the victory for him, bcos world has discovered the humble, diplomatic,global leader who has diamond ideas for the 21st century of this world.UN may not need his mind, but world needs his mind.Bcos,we the people,know the value of the world transformation his mere presence would bring, by acting as adhesive tape to keep the Nations united.

    Shashi Tharoor’s words,Salim Lone’s article,Dr.Yashanvitha’s responses reminds me about Naustadamus predictions about Shri Aurobindo Ghosh’s Prophetic intutions about 21st century’s united world.We look forward to hear their voices & words echoed in the world.

  12. Tony Fleming says:

    To clarify for World Light and other readers,

    Your suggestion about recent posts that “If it was nonsense, it would have been removed on the day it was posted” is not accurate. Some recent posts were deleted as they devolved into personal attacks, and did not address the qualifications of candidates. Even non-sensical comments that remain on topic are posted. But insults will not be tolerated. Claims of enlightened wisdom or “visionary” awareness of the universe’s workings that fail to address candidates’ more mundane Earthly qualifications do not contribute to this discussion and are strongly discouraged.

  13. World Light says:

    To dispell all the misunderstandings to readers,

    I think insult was triggered,when Mr. Shashi Tharoor’s self esteem & self respect was attacked.Abusing words like’nonsense’ to any reader’s individual opinions in their own rights was not appropriate.Earthly qualifications can be realised only if anyone is having the enlighned visions at U.N.O.Otherwise it would be like taking the humanity to the hell rather than saving from it.

  14. Rights runner says:

    I respond, somewhat late, to MZ. Thank you for sharing more information on Mr. Tharoor’s experience outside of headquarters. I had read some weeks ago his CV on this site several times and there is indeed ref to Bosnia vut it was not clear (at least to me) that he was based in the region. Thank you for the clarification. Do you know how many years of his total 28 years with the UN have been spent in field posts, and which ones they were?

    On my other points – that Mr. Tharoor has something of a reputation for being self-serving and even arrogant: these are very subjective comments and based on a personal impression of my own and impressions of a small number of other people i have spoken with and who have worked with him. I note that there must also be many people, like MZ, who like and respect him, and that may own impressions may well be wrong. His Cv suggests that he is exceptinally bright and has huge capacity for work – in terms at least of output. I hear his novels are good. My impression, nevertheless, in comparing his CV with that of a number of others in the race or on its margins, is of someone who has not been driven by a burning desire to improve the world about him, but has rather followed a track that was smooth and fast rising. I have little doubt that he is competent in terms of doing things and understanding things. But i personally would like the world to have a Secretary-General who we admire and for whom we have deep respect, whose principles have been unquestioningly demonstrated by his/her life actions.The UN cannot rely on great power to shape events, but must instead rely on great statesmanship and the esteem in which the Secretary-General and the Organisation are held. I can think of, for example, three Pakistani ladies who have had prominent UN roles – a former head of the UNFPA (who has now ruled herself out of the SG race), and Ms. Hina Jilani and Ms. Asma Jahangir. I give these three just as examples of people from the region, who are women (as many have noted here, it is high time the post was held by a woman), who are eminently capable and very experienced politically and intellectually, and whose life work has shown their commitment to the issues at the heart of the UN Charter – including commitments to equality, to non-discrimination andtolerance, to inclusion, to the rights to life and … The latter two have both been imprisoned on many occasions for their work and are internationally respected. Ms. Jilani. for example, has, I read, received awards and recognition from the Blegium, German and French Parliaments, and from President Clinton, among many others. There are many other Asian men and women whose CVs suggest they are far far more deserving than Mr. Tharoor of this post and would, i believe, both inspire the world and steer the UN forward in a way that he might not be able to.

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