Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Next UNSG: Ghani Out, Ban In; India Wins Most

Ban emerges as the next UNSG it is clear from last night's straw poll at the UN in New York. Ghani pulled four 'encourage' and no less than 11 'discourage' votes (including three vetos), making him the sole candidate without a 'no opinion' vote. Ghani's candidature, it appears, suffered from entering the race at a late date, little time before the US called for the process to be sped up. The campaign nevertheless had quite impressive press coverage in the run up to the rushed straw poll. This includes a piece by Op-Ed contributor Bret Stephens in today's WSJ (hopefully I'll get the full version later today: email with a copy is welcome!), with this intro:
Few people are better qualified to run the United Nations than Ashraf Ghani. So it goes without saying that the former Afghan finance minister and current chancellor of Kabul University stands almost no chance of getting the job. Instead, Kofi Annan's successor as secretary-general is likely to be South Korea's colorless foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon, who has the backing of the Bush administration and continues to run well ahead of other candidates in several Security Council straw polls. An Asian peer of Mr. Ban recently quipped that he'll be "more secretary than general"; his one recommendation is that he's probably ...
Other coverage included a live appearance last night on BBC World's unforgiving but high standard interview show "Hard Talk", and this agenda presenting interview with the AP. The interview demonstrates Ghani's insight into the challenges lying ahead for the UN, especially the necessity of focusing on the reform process in order to safeguard and ameliorate the organization's operational effectiveness and general standing. Today's quote is from the WSJ whose Op-Ed page asked the candidates "to two questions. First, we asked them to discuss an avoidable mistake the United Nations had made within the last five years. Second, we asked them what major reform they would undertake as secretary general. Five candidates gave us their answers." This is Ghani's answer:
IN his March report on reform, Secretary General Kofi Annan said that the United Nations ''lacks the capacity, controls, flexibility, robustness and indeed transparency to handle multibillion-dollar global operations.'' Describing the organizational culture as ''damaged,'' he acknowledges that a recent audit points ''to both mismanagement and possible fraud'' in peacekeeping operations. He concludes that reform efforts have addressed the ''symptoms and not the causes of our underlying weaknesses.''

These internal problems have undermined the moral authority and effectiveness of the United Nations, which ought to be the trusted global forum for reaching consensus and taking action on vital challenges. This loss is most directly felt in the poorest countries of the world. Yet distrust among member nations has slowed the momentum of reform.

The United Nations should foster global stability by investing in effective states and legitimate institutions. But doing so requires us to renew an organization designed for a different era. Through consultation with member states, I will seek an agreement on the key tasks that the United Nations must perform. I will lead a process of reform that will allow the United Nations to set the gold standard for transparency and accountability, and which will inspire talented women and men from around the world to work at the United Nations. Only by establishing trust in the organization can we make the United Nations the instrument of global choice for addressing the problems of our time.
The P5 have decided to choose a candidate who will leave the reform process to underlings. Perhaps this is an expression of a hope that a weak or at least loose management UNSG makes for an easier outside imprint on UN reform. If so, that would be a perverted logic: without strong internal leadership, UN reform risks being voted and analysed, but not implemented whole-heartedly. Furthermore, even if Ban still has the chance to transform his bland aura in practice, the choice of a bureaucrat for UNSG may seem a safe bet to some governments. But they may come to dearly regret this if Ban shows himself unable to be more than the "world's top diplomate", namely someone who can redefine the given crisis agenda through intellect and charisma.

It will be interesting to follow the after-math stories to the selection of Ban -- especially which P5 members vetoed who and for which reasons, including Mr. Ghani.

The major winner, however, seems to be India. India's support for the Tharoor candidature looks like a smart ploy. By backing him in spite of breaking the 'no large country UNSG rule', the Indian government created a defeat for India, which adds to the argument that India should get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.

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