Archive for June, 2006

More names: Malaysia’s Anwar Ibrahim

June 28, 2006

AFP  (and also a Lebanese media outlet) is reporting that Anwar Ibrahim, the former DPM of Malaysia and current opposition leader is being recruited to run.

Anwar said foreign ministers and leaders had asked him in the past three months whether he would vie for the hotly contested post, which is expected to go to an Asian diplomat.

A Malaysian candidacy would indicate the end of Sathirathai. Over the last several years, Malaysia has tried to position itself as a symbol of tolerate, moderate Islam and as a gateway to is the Islamic world for the United States. At the same time, Malaysia has been less close to China than Thailand, so a Malaysian might represent an attempt to have a more balanced approach from ASEAN.

We don’t know how to evaluate the seriousness of this. We suspect that it is not very high. However, it is clear that Shashi’s entrance has blown this race completely open. If Shashi weakens Sathirathai’s candidacy fatally, then ASEAN may be fishing for an alternative, the rationale for a Goh candidacy also.

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Sri Lankan attacks Shashi

June 27, 2006

It had to begin. Most of the analysis of Shashi’s candidacy has started with the assumption that it entered into a void created by weak candidates. But now,a former Sri Lankan Assistant Foreign Secretary attacks Shashi’s candidacy in the press. We believe that this is the first time that a public figure of a country that is supporting one candidate is publicly attacking the candidacy of another.

We also note timing. Shashi is going to Gambia next week for the AU meeting. And Dhanapala was in Canada to meet with government officials there.

The article asks a series of interesting questions about the problems of an Indian candidacy, for example:

Further the Hindu – Muslims riots which have become an everyday feature in India in recent times will also not lend to Islamic countries supporting the Indian nominee. Then there is the unresolved Kashmir issue; a UN Observer Mission is stationed in Kashmir; what would Tharoor’s position be if a fifth war broke out between Pakistan and India over Kashmir?

But then the real viciousness begins. First that Sri Lanka’s pride was challenged by India’s non-endorsement:

When India did not declare its support for our candidate it was perceived here as another unfriendly act; I was under the impression that we not only shared history but also have common norms, shared values and interests and considering her frequent statements regarding the close relations that exist between our two countries, (”our two countries are inseparable, your territorial integrity and ours are one” etc) to have enthusiastically supported our eminent candidate as if he was their own candidate but now we realize that India had her own agenda and the close friendship they profess to is confined to mere words.

Then he goes on to suggest that Shashi should drop out and India should back Dhanapala:

If India wishes us and the world to accept her as an emerging super power and as the regional power then she should act like one

I do hope that India would test the waters and then gracefully withdraw her candidate if there is even the smallest possibility that he would not make it. She should save herself the embarrassment of rejection by the international community.India should then support Dhanapala as a consensus South Asian candidate or is this too much to expect?

Our sense is still that Dhanapala is a failed candidate, for reasons which we have described here. But interesting nonetheless. This campaign is really entering a new stage.

Bolton: No progress on reforms, but cap lifted

June 27, 2006

From Reuters:

“While the expenditure cap is going to come off this week one way or another, it would not be right to conclude from that that we made substantial progress or any progress at all on management reform,” Bolton told reporters.

But “the question is whether Congress shares that perspective,” Bolton said. “The measure we think for Congress will be the extent of real reform. As of this point there is not much reform to talk about.”

The US House of Representatives will consider the bill in which UN funding is provided today and tomorrow. Today’s NY Sun reports similar statements:

“If asked, as I was before the Senate subcommittee last week, how much reform has taken place, I will answer honestly: not much,” Mr. Bolton said. He also discussed a hearing conducted under Mr. Coburn’s leadership about America’s share of the funds needed to refurbish the U.N. headquarters.

“Now there is pressure building again in Congress to withhold contributions,” Mr. Bolton said.

“While the expenditure cap is going to come off this week one way or the other,” Mr. Bolton said, “it will not be right to conclude from that, necessarily, that we made any progress” on reform. But he said, “The struggle will continue.”

Dhanapala campaigns on Sri Lankan Peace in Canada

June 27, 2006

Dhanapala was campaigning earlier this week in Canada. He met with Foreign Ministry officials, and made a point of playing up his experience in the Peace Process, Canadian Press reports:

Canada has done the right thing by banning the Tamil Tigers and must follow up by making sure there is no more fundraising, a former Sri Lankan peace negotiator said yesterday.

“The financing must stop,” said Jayantha Dhanapala, the former secretary-general of the Sri Lankan peace process that negotiated with the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).

Dhanapala left his position as Secretary-General of the Peace Process to run for Secretary-General of the UN. We wonder whether the recent collapse of the peace process in Sri Lanka is going to negatively impact Dhanapala’s candidacy. The next paragraph is direct about the problems not yet being solved:

Yesterday morning, a suicide bomber in the Sri Lankan capital Colombo killed the deputy-chief of the Sri Lankan Army, Maj.-Gen. Parami Kulatunga.

UNSG Race: Where are we?

June 27, 2006

We thought that, rather than cover all the exciting news going on, we would step back and take a look at the process.

In July, the French tak the Presidency of the Security Council. The UNSC has committed to start discussing names. There are a serious of important questions about what will happen next:

  1. What names will be submitted on July 3rd? In other words, will more candidates emerge before then? Our prediction is “no”. If you believe that the current list of candidates does not contain an acceptable nominee — our position –, then the time for more names will come. If that list does contain a name that is acceptable, then that person will be the next UNSG, and the only entrance that could make a difference is “someone better”.
  2. When will the French start the straw polls? One option is that the French could begin straw polls to measure the support for the candidates in the UNSC. This will remove the non-serious candidates immediately, and leave the haggling to the serious ones. Or they could simply wait and let the candidates campaign. The UNSC has plenty of work to do.
  3. What will the candidates still in consideration do? There has been discussion that candidates will make public appearances, speak to the regional groupings, etc. Will they continue to do this during the consideration?
  4. When will new candidates throw in their names? Imagine that two non-serious candidates are knocked out in the first couple of straw poll ballots. Do more candidates throw their names in at that point?
  5. Who does the UNSC ask for new names if the initially proposed batch is unacceptable? This is actually quite an interesting question. In Kofi Annan’s selection, they went to the Organization for African Unity, which was almost the same group as the African Grouping. There is no similar regional grouping outside of the UN. Do they ask the Asian group to caucus? Or do they ask the regional groups within Asia — SAARC, SCO, ASEAN (how do you account for the Asian Arab countries?) — to submit names? Who would these nominate?

And we have not even asked questions about the General Assembly. UN watchers should be looking forward to a quite exciting July.

US Diplomats on Shashi: “Are you serious?”

June 26, 2006

The shine is coming off the hometown boy in the Indian press:

Tharoor himself was in Beijing recently and sources said, came away satisfied. But several American diplomats have called up their Indian counterparts and said, "Are you serious?" And sources here say China will be a harder nut to crack than others imagine.

Shashi: India to “make the 21st century her own”

June 26, 2006

We spent the weekend doing some research on Shashi. He is, indeed, an excellent writer. However, something struck us. However, a theme has emerged. He believes that the 21st century will be India's. A New York Times review of "Midnight to the Millenium" quoted him saying that India would "make the 21st century her own".

The Toronto Star once used him as a demonstration of the opinion of many Indians that the "21st century will belong to them…"

Now Shashi is not the first person to say this. As is well known, Lee Kwan Yu has made a similar statement. And, of course, many Indians have made this point.

Indeed, IHT characterizes Shashi's candidacy as:

With its economy blossoming and its influence spreading, India has launched a bid for even more clout: It wants to be the first nuclear-weapons state to produce a UN secretary general.

So, perhaps, the interesting question is, how will Shashi sell this perspective to the world and to China, which may have its own plays for the 21st centurty. This week he travels to Gambia to campaign amongst the African Union. At the same time, rumors continue to swirl in the Indian press about other candidates:

There are rumours that the US is scouting for a Muslim-Asian face to head the world body and, in this context, a yet-unrevealed Jordanian is doing the rounds.

This is the last week before discussions really begin at the UNSC on names. It could be quite exciting. Several more candidates may yet emerge.

Goh exploring candidacy?

June 22, 2006

The Indian press is reporting that Singapore's former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong is considering running for UNSG:

MEA Sources told TIMES NOW that Tong is very keen to contest, but will not do so till he is assured of the support of at least 3 of 5 UNSC permanent members.

Hectic lobbying is on in Singapore to see that Tong wins the support he will need to propel him through. If Tong does enter the fray, it could spell big trouble for Tharoor's candidature.

This strikes us as further evidence that Sathirathai and Ban Ki-moon have hit a brick wall. In addition Mumbai's Daily News and Analysis reports that Goh may be backed by the UK:

Goh’s name has started cropping up after India announced Tharoor’s candidature, and his backers here see it as an attempt to block India’s nominee. They are particularly disturbed by reports that suggest the UK is actively backing Goh. China, which could be the spoiler for Tharoor, has maintained a strategic silence so far, saying only that the secretary general’s post should go to an Asian this time. The MEA feels that if China sees an Asian consensus emerging on Goh, it would back him. Certainly, China would prefer to see a Singaporean in the secretary general’s post, rather than an Indian.

There are also a number of very interesting comments in that article:

The Thai nominee, deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, has ASEAN backing but the permanent five nations are reluctant to support him as UN secretary general because a Thai already holds a top UN post. Supachai Panitchpakdi is secretary general of UNCTAD. The P-5 also has reservations about the other candidates, Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala and South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon.

China, for instance, is opposed to a South Korean, because of its proximity to North Korea while the US and European members of the P-5 feel that a Sri Lankan would be vulnerable because of the ongoing ethnic conflict in the island. It’s against this backdrop that India decided to field Tharoor but the backdrop seems to be shifting. These are early days yet with the contest field still unclear, so it’s unwise to come to any conclusions at this point.

More Speculation on a Pakistani Candidate

June 22, 2006

We have heard further speculation in the last several days that Pakistan would be fielding a candidate. Initially, this speculation appeared to be simply a response to India's nomination of Shashi Tharoor. However, we have heard from several sources that a rationale may be emerging to support a Pakistani candidate: putting a face on the world's acceptance of moderate Islam.

The reasoning here is that a moderate Muslim could try to build bridges in the "conflict of civilizations" between the Muslim world and the West. This would be a shift of emphasis that the United States, especially, might appreciate.

The choice of Nafis Sadik would be a particularly interesting, being a woman, a UN insider with an excellent reputation, and a Muslim. This would build a coalition across several constituencies. Other candidates are also possible. On the other hand, a woman might be too hard a sell to the Muslim world.

Will this go anywhere? We don't know yet. But the chatter is getting louder…

UNSG race as North versus South

June 22, 2006

Bloomberg has an interesting article on the UNSG race today. It seems to argue that this race is simply North versus South or P5 versus GA. The Egyptian Ambassador says that the GA may reject the UNSC's pick:

We want a greater say. The General Assembly made a mistake by never turning down a candidate from the Security Council. It might happen this year.

The Indian Ambassador says:

"Things have to be different … This is a year of reform. The world has changed. The Cold War has ended and democracy is expanding. This should be reflected in the selection process.

This is interesting from Shashi's campaign manager. Of course, Shashi is running an incredibly public campaign. While still primarily in India, he is speaking to the press about his candidacy, something that other candidates simply are not doing in the same way. He is making policy statements to the microphone, not in papers or meetings.

The article also points out the management fights:

The U.S., EU and Japan, which together contribute 80 percent of the UN's budget, have threatened to cut their support unless the General Assembly — which consists of the world body's 191 members — cedes more control to the secretary- general over spending and the hiring and firing of employees.

In this context, Shashi is talking about his own management at the UN:

I am absolutely convinced that reforms are essential. I set about reforming my own department, which was in a bad shape and even shut down eight offices in the West. It's a model for the rest of the secretariat

Perhaps Pakistan is saying it best now:

it will be critical that the new guy come in and put the building back together.