Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ban Ki-Moon - The Next UN Secretary General?

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon, a soft-spoken career diplomat, is on the verge of being elected the eighth secretary-general of the United Nations when he won Monday's crucial informal poll with no opposition from any of the five veto-bearing council members.

The Security Council will hold a formal vote on Oct. 9, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said. The winner's name will then be sent to the General Assembly for ratification. That body, consisting of all 192 UN members, is scheduled to make Ban's election official within a month. He would take office Jan. 1.

The 15 Security Council ambassadors conducted an unofficial vote on seven candidates vying for the job to replace Kofi Annan, who leaves office on December 31. It was the fourth informal poll and the first time ballots distinguished between the five veto-bearing nations and the other 10 elected members.

Ban defeated six other candidates in the four straw polls, including UN Undersecretary-General Shashi Tharoor, 50, of India; Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, 47; Prince Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, Jordan's 42-year-old ambassador to the UN; Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, 69; and, former Afghan finance minister Ashraf Ghani, 57.

It is quite clear from Monday's straw poll that minister Ban Ki-Moon is the candidate that the Security Council will recommend" to the General Assembly, China's UN envoy Wang Guangya told reporters. Qatari Ambassador Nasser al-Nasser said 14 of the Council's 15 members voted in favor of the South Korean foreign minister, while the 15th member cast a "no opinion" vote.

A new candidate can still come forward. But nobody expects such a move. United States Ambassador John Bolton noted that new candidates could still come forward but said he would be surprised if any did before Monday. Once the Security Council decides on the secretary general, the General Assembly has to make the final choice. But it is considered only a formality.

The one thing everyone seems to agree on about Moon, is that he is very pleasant. “He's a nice man. But some wonder if he is anything else. Can he stand up to the real heat with the United States shouting in one ear and the Third World in the other?” said a senior diplomat in Seoul.

As Kofi Annan's successor, Ban would inherit an institution with 9,000 workers, $5 billion in annual spending, 16 peacekeeping missions and a public image dented by a series of corruption scandals.

Born to a farming family in 1944 -- toward the end of the Japanese occupation of the Korean peninsula -- he has moved inexorably up the ranks of the foreign ministry, which he joined in 1970 straight after university where he graduated top of his class in international relations.

An English speaker -- he took a master's degree in public administration at Harvard University -- Ban has held a number of posts focusing on UN issues and became South Korea's ambassador to the United Nations in 2001. His office says he also speaks French as well as some German and Japanese.

Ban said his experience with divided Korean peninsula and the issue of North Korea's nuclear program would help him mediate issues such as the Arab-Israel conflict.

In its aggressive campaign on behalf of Moon, South Korea has offered "inducements ranging from tens of millions of pounds of extra funding for African countries to lucrative trade agreements in Europe -- and even the gift of a grand piano to Peru", The Times newspaper of London had earlier reported.

Related read: Malaysia: High time UN is revitalised


Anonymous Anonymous said...

'Victory at any cost!', that's the mantra everyone os following, even if it means gifting a piano!

8:07 PM GMT+8  
Blogger The Malaysian. said...

anonymous, agree with you on that. I wonder which Peruvian got the piano!

8:35 PM GMT+8  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And what could the Indian geezer gift ? Nothing. Either Indians are still poor or did not put any thought into this election or are still plain lazy. Rich countries who can bribe will always get away with top jobs. Anyway its a good thing Ban is winning, India would have always been opposed by some country or the other - Wonderful neighbours that it has.

4:37 PM GMT+8  
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