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Is Ban Ki-moon a ‘Secretary’ to Big Powers and ‘General’ to Small

Posted by yourpakistan on June 5, 2011


The United Nations, which over the years has proved to be an ineffective but indispensable organization, is in for another five years of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s lackluster leadership as he seek a second term without any challenge so far.

His spokesman’s office has scheduled a press conference on Monday at which Ban, whose mandate expires on December 31, will make his long awaited bid for a second term, from 2012 to 2016.

With its support among peoples around the world waning, it seems no one wants to head the 192-member organization. There are many talented diplomats out there, but — unlike in the past when several candidates vied for the post — no one has thrown his hat in the ring this time around.

Tygve Lie, United Nations’ first secretary-general, described his post to successor, Dag Hammarskjold, in the year 1953 as “The most impossible job on earth”. Time has not made the job any easier.

The framers of the UN Charter gave the secretary general two distinct functions: He or she is the “chief administrative officer of the Organization” and also an independent official whom the General Assembly and Security Council can entrust with certain unspecified (but implicitly political) task.

Ban Ki-moon, a South Korean, has been so low key in his approach and inarticulate that despite over four years as world’s top diplomat, he doesn’t have much name recognition among people around the world. Most of his statements on grave developments in the world are so bland and non-committal that news media, especially in the western world, ignores them. But it seems he is quite happy doing so because he takes pride in calling himself “a slippery eel.”

In a world torn with conflicts and escalating polarization, Ban hasn’t had any spectacular successes over the past four years. But he did speak out in the past couple of months against some Middle East regimes and in support of protesters across the Middle East seeking democracy and human rights.

Obviously, Ban did it because it was safe to do so– he was in sync with major powers. But he has largely been silent when big powers, especially the United states, commit atrocities and human right violations. The massive killing of civilians, especially in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan, drew only feeble protests from him. “I am closely monitoring the situation or I am concerned over …” is Ban’s standard response when big powers commit wrongs. That is why third world diplomats call Ban a “secretary” to big powers and a “general” to the developing countries.

Meanwhile, informed sources say Ban has already received assurances of support from the United States and other key members of the U.N. Security Council, according to informed sources, making his re-election all but certain. He has visited the capitals of all five members of the five permanent Security Council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — in recent months.

Officially, U.N. secretaries-general are elected by the U.N. General Assembly on the recommendation of the Security Council. In reality, it is the big-five that decide who gets the top U.N. job.

The decision by the five permanent members is then approved by the full 15-nation council and the General Assembly. The formal re-election process for Ban should be over by the end of June, diplomats added.

Ban’s understated approach and less-than-perfect English set him apart from his more outspoken predecessor, Kofi Annan, who ran afoul of the administration of then-U.S. President George W. Bush for declaring the 2003 invasion of Iraq “illegal.”

But diplomats praise Ban for his energetic support for the fight against climate change and push for nuclear disarmament.

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