Archive for April, 2006

How reform could become a major UNSG race issue

April 17, 2006

One of the questions that we raised in our initial posting was how the current challenges facing the UN could emerge in the UNSG race. One of the major issues has been reform.

We thought we would give one example of reform and how it could play out in this race.

The South-North Development Monitor has a story about developed country concerns about reform. Apparently a number of European countries are pushing a reform agenda:

Up to now the proposals are being championed mainly by European countries. On 23 February, the UN Ambassadors of 13 countries, calling themselves a group of 13 donor countries (or the G13) presented a letter to the Prime Minister of Norway in his capacity as Co-Chair of the Panel on UN system-wide coherence. The letter includes an Annex listing 8 “key issues for strengthening the UN operational system.” The G13 comprises Canada and twelve European countries – Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and United Kingdom.

This list includes Denmark, France, and the United Kingdom, all Security Council members. Throw in the United States, which regularly expresses strong interest in reform, and you have 3 vetos and 4 votes. With 3 more votes abstaining, these countries could block a candidate who did not take reform seriously.

Of the candidates, only Dhanapala and Deva have taken a strong stance on the issue. One wonders what Ban’s reception in Denmark was and how closely the signatories of this letter are following this issue with the UNSG candidates

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Welcome to Korean and Global Voices readers

April 14, 2006

Global Voices and Korea Liberator have now linked to us. We are glad that there is a critical interest in Ban Ki-moon's UNSG campaign in Korea.

All of our posts on Ban Ki-moon can be read here.

We would like to point out that there has been some NGO opposition to the UNSG election process. They have formed a coalition of NGOs to advocate for a more transparent process. We hope that our work here contributes to that objective.

Sathirathai’s party pushes defamation lawsuits against opposition

April 14, 2006

The UN Secretary General candidacy of Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakaiart Sathirathai has been stalled due to political problems in his home country. Another one of the problems is that former Thai representative to the UN, Asda Jayanama, has declared his candidacy unsuitable.

So what do they do? They file a defamation lawsuit:

Mr Wichit said the team is reviewing the speech of Asda Jayanama, former permanent Thai representative to the United Nations, against caretaker Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai during an anti-Thaksin protest. He said Mr Asda's remarks were defamatory.

During the rally on Ratchadamnoen avenue, Mr Asda questioned Mr Surakiart's ability to compete for the UN secretary-general post.

As the rest of this article indicates, his party is pursuing similar suits against critics of other government officials.

Ban in Slovakia

April 14, 2006

AFP reports that Ban is visiting Slovakia, another Security Council member:

South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon said on April 12 he hoped to see stronger economic ties and further investments in Slovakia, where Hyundai subsidiary, Kia, and Samsung are already implanted.

"I am very happy to see increased trade relations as well as investments by many big companies like Hyundai/Kia and Samsung and many others," he said during a joint news conference with Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan.  "While I expect that the number of investments and the opportunities for bigger cooperation will grow, it would also be necessary for the Slovak government to create favorable conditions for more investment," he added.

Fortunately, it was leavened with a request for more favorable conditions. He did no such thing in Uzbekistan where he offered a $30m loan.

US getting isolated in UNSG race?

April 13, 2006

This post doesn’t focus on any particular recent event. Instead, we are focusing on a question: Will the US get isolated by the UNSG race?

To explore the question and answer it, consider Ban Ki-moon’s candidacy. We consider him the frontrunner. Sathirathai is stalled by domestic political issues. And Dhanapala was recently in the US, but it was on the tails of Nirj Deva his fellow Sri Lankan. See UNSG’s comprehensive summary of travel, as ours is scattered throughout too many posts.

It is not clear that Ban has any committment to reform. He has not made many public statements on the issue. And he has a shaky record on human rights. These are the US’s signature issues at the United Nations. Can the US support a candidate who is bad on the issues? Not easily.

There is no way that, from the US point of view, Ban could be considered reliable. His party, the Uri Party, campaigned on anti-Americanism in 2004 to win their election. They did try to adjust after coming into power, but their strategic vision for the region is fundamentally different than the strongly pro-American GNP. And their electoral base is from the post-Korean War generation.

But there is no way that the US could block Ban if the other 4 P5 members supported him. That would end the alliance and create problems in the Six Party talks.

So it could very well be the case that Ban may not be acceptable to the US, but if he builds his coalition quickly enough, he may well be unbeatable, because the US cannot beat him. And it appears that he is doing it. There are several kinds of significances to the Greek endorsement. First, it raises the question of whether other European Peoples’ Party member parties are going to line up. These parties and ministers collaborate. Are others going to fall? France, Denmark, and Slovakia all are governed by EPP members.

So who does the US support? And does anyone believe that they are capable of making France advocate for their candidate? (In today’s environment, a US-sponsored candidate would be almost impossible) So it is the UK who has to advocate for the candidate?

What is the US solution to this problem?

Russia weighs in

April 10, 2006

Just days before Ban Ki-moon visits Russia, it appears that Russia is making its ideas known. There are two important parts of this. First, this article reports that Russia is actively attacking the Eastern European candidates for Secretary General. Second, this article reaffirms that they are backing an Asian.

First, the attacks:

Russian diplomats and secret servicemen started actively diffusing information that tars Latvian President's reputation, in order not to allow her appointment as the UN Secretary General. Another target of the Russian discrediting campaign in the former President of Poland

Moscow elaborated and started realizing a secret plan of discrediting the Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga, reliable sources told AIA. The Kremlin shows a growing discontent with regard of Washington's alleged intention to suggest Vike-Freiberga for the UN Secretary General at the end of this year. As a permanent member of the UN Security Council, Russia has a right to veto any inconvenient candidature for that position. The Russian administration, however, decided not to bring the case up to the necessity of using this right, caring of its image in the eyes of the other members of the UN General Assembly (it is enough to recall the negative attitude of the UN members to the regular usage of veto by the USA in what concerns the resolutions condemning Israel). The Kremlin has elaborated another scenario. According to a special plan which was approved at the highest level, the Russian official institutions having contact with foreigners, and first of all the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Intelligence Service, are now deploying a propaganda campaign aimed at slandering the Latvian President.

In addition, the article says that the Russians are leaning towards Sathirathi:

Russia has already announced, through its representative in the UN Andrey Denisov, that it will support the candidate from the Asian continent. Most probably it will be the abovementioned Thai politician, whom Beijing openly favors. As for Vike-Freiberga's candidature, it is unacceptable for Moscow not just because of highly strained relations with Riga in such issues as the state border and the Russian minority in Latvia. The Kremlin was extremely negative concerning Vike-Freiberga's recent speech during the Davos World Economic Forum, when she announced the necessity to reduce the authorities of the five UN Security Council permanent members, and called to view a possibility of changing the composition of this body.

It strikes me that a position of weaking the P5 would be a difficult campaign strategy. And unlikely that that position would make her a viable American candidate.

Where is Ban on Human Rights?

April 7, 2006

We just posted on an European Parliament hearing on North Korean Human Rights, but we thought we'd break out the important question into a different post. Here is the important question:

Where is Ban Ki-moon on Human Rights?

He has been endorsed by Uzbekistan and North Korea, two of the worst Human Rights abusers in the world. Human Rights Watch has summaries of Human Rights issues in North Korea and Uzbekistan. (before Ban's recent visit to Uzbekistan to provide aid and collect endorsements, it turns out that Uzbekistan forceably closed the UNHCR office there. One suspects that Ban did not raise the issue)

So our questions:

  1. Would Ban be a spokesman on Human Rights?
  2. Would Ban work to get countries to change their policies to come into compliance with international norms?

We imagine that with issues like Iran, Darfur, North Korea, etc., the UN's chief diplomat must stand for the values in the UN Charter and other international law.

Does Ban agree?

European Parliament on North Korean Human Rights

April 7, 2006

Yesterday in Brussels, the European Parliament held a a public hearing on North Korea and Human Rights. This debate occurs while Ban Ki-moon, the South Korean candidate for UN Secretary General is in Europe visiting UN Security Council members. The South Korean paper JoongAng Daily reports that this was scheduled in February.

We'll let some quotes from the article speak for themselves:

Szent-Ivany, vice chairman of the Korean peninsula affairs committee of the European Parliament, recalled, "I was engaged in dissident activities against the Hungarian communist regime. From that experience, I have no choice but to pay attention to the North Korean human rights issue."

The article also points out that North Korea rejects the human rights movements as outside intervention:

North Korea's Ministry of Foreign Affairs insists, "human rights are a national right," and rejects outside pressure as "interference in their internal affairs."

It appears that a number of South Korean citizens made some atmospherics surrounding the hearing. They protested it:

Some puzzled members of the European Parliament who attended the hearing asked, "Why do South Koreans oppose the hearing, rather than criticizing North Koreans for committing human rights violations?" Professor Yoo Sae Hee, who attended the hearing as a South Korean representative said, "I feel ashamed as a South Korean. Those who are demonstrating against the hearing are not representatives of South Korea."

And the article refers to a South Korean newspaper's criticism of Ban Ki-moon, South Korea's Foreign Minister:

The South Korean paper JoongAng Daily sarcastically criticized the Seoul government's policy toward North Korea in an editorial dated February 19 and entitled, "The nation of the U.N. Secretary General candidate who declines to take up the issue of North Korean human rights." The paper was referring to South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon, who is campaigning for the U.N. post. According to the editorial, the Seoul government's stance on North Korean human rights issues is not well received in Europe.

We thought that this was pretty strong language, so we looked up the editorial, which was titled, "Shameful Stance on Rights." It said, among other things:

With the country presenting a candidate for the next United Nations secretary general, the time has come to change its position.

Bolton on Rotation and Women

April 6, 2006

Bolton testified today to the US House of Representatives. He spoke on the rotation and women. A Japanese paper summarizes:

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton said Wednesday that a woman should be considered to succeed U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, whose term expires at the end of the year.

Talking about U.N. reform before a U.S. House of Representatives committee, Bolton said that many countries proposed electing the next U.N. secretary general from an Asian country based on the regional rotation system, but no woman has ever been considered as a candidate.

There are many Asian candidates, but none are women, Bolton said.

We discussed this yesterday.

Human Rights and the UNSG

April 6, 2006

So far our posts have focused on horse-race aspects of the UNSG race. Elections among small groups can be very clubby and personality oriented. However, as we indicated in our first post, there are many important issues in this race.

One of them is Human Rights and the new Human Rights Council. TPM's Bolton Watch has an excellent account on the current state of the Human Rights Council (HRC) race:

It’s official: the US will not seek a seat on the new Human Rights Council. The decision was reportedly made last night when Ambassador Bolton visited Foggy Bottom. I suppose the bright side here is that should the US have ran for a seat, but failed to garner the requisite 96 votes, the relationship between the new council and the US would be even more strained than it is now. Bolton won this round, but I do hope that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee grills him on this decision.

 As far as I can tell, the only countries here not deserving a seat are Pakistan, Cuba, and to a lesser extent Algeria–(they are trying, but lord knows it's hard.)  Pakistan and Cuba played spoilers throughout the entire UN reform process, and sought to water down the council's power as best they could.  The only reason they seek membership is to protect themselves from criticism.  It will be a test of the new voting mechanisms to see if these two countries make it.   

Human Rights will be a major issue for the next Secretary-General. And one is left to wonder how the candidates are likely to do on this. So far, of the endorsing countries, there are some serial human rights violators. In particular, China (Sathirathai), North Korea, Uzbekistan, and Egypt (Ban) raise real questions. (For that matter, The Committee to Protect Bloggers has a great article on the crackdown on bloggers in Singapore)

How can these new candidates have credibility on Human Rights and other issues? This raises the important question: What is the UN for?