Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, October 06, 2006

  Despair at the UN over selection of new Secretary General

More than ever, the UN desperately needs the leadership of a dynamic Secretary General. Instead, what it is likely to get when Kofi Annan retires is a virtual non-entity, Ban Ki-moon. Mr. Ban has been promoted by the Bush administration, John Bolton in particular, because he's non-threatening and appears to have no ideas.

US Ambassador John Bolton was wearing an uncharacteristic smile when he came to the microphone outside the Council chamber to give his spin on the almost certain confirmation of Ban. Some observers saw joy at the election of Bolton's favored candidate, others the smile of an assassin wiping his blade and contemplating his handiwork, scuppering other candidates with a discreet and anonymous veto.


The Security Council is set to endorse Mr. Ban next week mainly because he's inoffensive. The Guardian explores the fields of gloom at the UN.

Officials, who requested anonymity on the grounds that they would be working for Mr Ban, portray him as more secretary than general, happier with the minutiae of administrative detail than broad strategy, and a man given to platitudes....

UN officials are convinced that the Bush administration, ideologically hostile to the UN and still smarting from Mr Annan's opposition to the Iraq war, wanted the weakest candidate possible....

Ban Ki-moon has been South Korea's foreign minister for almost three years. In that time he has reformed the ministry but at the same time the country's foreign policy has been been thrown into disarray, mainly because of divisions over how to tackle North Korea's nuclear weapons ambitions.


Mr. Ban has shown no ability to solve large international problems, then.

Mr Ban will confront a range of problems on taking office, ranging from conflicts worldwide to long-overdue UN internal reforms. "It is going to be a nightmare," an official said. "There is no time to learn."


But on the other hand, during the past year Mr. Ban has put together a splendid little campaign for the post of Secretary General.

The Times [of London] reported last week that South Korea, as part of a campaign to help Mr Ban, had pledged millions of dollars in aid to countries with seats on the security council, from an $18m (£9.6m) education grant to Tanzania to the gift of a grand piano to Peru.


As the The Times remarked:

Mr Ban announced his bid in February and has since been criss-crossing the globe trying to win support. A month later South Korea announced that it would treble its aid budget to Africa to $100 million (£53 million) by 2008. Seoul then contributed tens of thousands of pounds to sponsor this year’s African Union summit in the Gambia in July, when Mr Ban declared 2006 to be “the Year of Africa” for South Korea.

One fortunate recipient was Tanzania, which currently has a seat on the Security Council. When Mr Ban arrived in May he pledged $18 million for an educational programme and also promised to carry out a road and bridge project in western Tanzania. Between 1991 and 2003 South Korean grants to Tanzania totalled $4.7 million. Seoul’s generosity seems to have worked. Yesterday Elly Matango, the Tanzanian Ambassador to Tokyo and Seoul, said that his Government had decided to support Mr Ban.


Various members of the UN are hurriedly offering policy suggestions to Mr. Ban, since he appears to have none of his own. I'd like to make a suggestion as well: That when he takes over as Secretary General of the UN, Mr. Ban might work on the problem of bribery and corruption.

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