Ban’s CFR statements

Sorry for the delay. We were overcome by events.

As you may recall, South Korean Foreign and Trade Minister Ban Ki-moon spoke at CFR in NYC last week. Our general impression is that it was competent but unimpressive. We will excerpt some of the interesting parts.

First he identifies that there are problems at the UN and that there are important reform proposals, pushed by Annan, that would address some of these problems:

The organization is overstretched and fatigued. It must find new vigor to effectively meet the growing expectations of the international organizations. Indeed, I think the United Nations has been engaged in a most comprehensive reform process in the history of the United Nations. … Good examples are the creation of Human Rights Council and Peacebuilding commissions, and steps are under consideration to strengthen the accountability of the United Nations systems.

However, he indicates that there are deeper problems and follows up on his theme as the "harmonizer":

However, the reform process has also brought to the fore an ailment that needs to be cured if the vitality of the organization is to be restored. By this I refer to the deep political fault lines that have hardened over the years. This was demonstrated by the divisive debate in the Fifth Committee, and later by the General Assembly Plenary over secretary-general's proposals for reform and management. Indeed, many assert that this is a crisis of confidence enveloping the United Nations between large and small powers, rich and poor countries, and between member states and secretariat, and the governments and civil societies. … pessimistic. But I would join fully the voices calling for a greater sense of trust and common purpose. For this, each and every stakeholders, players, must stop blaming each other and start taking responsibility. We must all share the blame. We must all be accountable — to ourselves and to others, and to our future generations.

This is a standard analysis requiring that everyone comes together and support the UN. Interestingly, he does not hint that it's in the interests of countries to do this but that it's a responsibility. However he does invoke the notion of passing on a viable international system to future generations.

Next he advances to what would be his program. We find this the most disappointing section of his presentation.

Ladies and gentlemen, beyond the reforms the coming era should be a time of consolidation and coordination and implementation for the United Nations. The U.N. under past secretaries-general reflected their times, as well as their personalities and preferences. The incumbent, Mr. Kofi Annan, has certainly embodied the organization's ideas and values, reflecting the tenor of the Cold War times. Fulfilling the commitments of the World Summit last year will be a tall order in itself. The next secretary-general must firmly commit the organization to delivering results in the hundreds of pressing (times ?) already on his agenda. The strategic focus should be more on achieving the goals already set rather than identifying new frontiers to conquer. Indeed, for each of the three pillars of the United Nations — namely, the peace and security, development, human rights — there are pressing measures to undertake. Let me just take a few.

This is really the meat of what Ban Ki-moon is saying. This seems to be a status quo message. Let's just implement the mission and objectives of the UN. We believe that this is clearly insufficient. The building is crumbling. Its sister institution, the WTO, may be failing. The most indispensible member, the US, has now bypassed the organization in a number of contacts where it perceived its vital interests to be at stake. (Indeed, we are more pessimistic than Malloch-Brown on this issue)

We also think that it's interesting how he defines the pillars of the UN: "peace and security, development, human rights". We don't know what to think of this. It seems both incomplete and unholistic. MDG, Peacebuilding Commission, and a Human Rights Council. Are those the only solutions? More?

But how do you resolve the "deep political fault lines" between "large and small powers, rich and poor countries, and between member states and secretariat?" Isn't that the question? He offers a new style of leadership:

Ladies and gentlemen, different times and circumstances call for a different style of leadership. At this point the secretariat I believe is in need of hands-on guidance from the secretary-general, who leads by examples, who demonstrates leadership by example. He thought our presence should be felt by always — by all members at all levels, in the field as well as the headquarters. The staff needs a clear sense of mission. Reassurances should be given that their work matters and their professionalism is valued

Is his contention that Annan didn't provide these? How is he better? He is, as he indicated, an announced candidate for UNSG.

He does address the issue of political will, but, interestingly, only in the context of the United States:

It [UNSG's leadership] is also the catalyst in rallying the political will of the member states. In particular the commitment of the United States is vital. It is the host country, it is the most important country in the world at this time. Also, in our times now, global challenges call for global responses. The United States cannot do it alone. The United States needs the United Nations, and vice versa.

Any candidate must, of course say this. Although, as we point out, why is this the only country with political will problems? The EU-3 + the US would probably identify other countries as having legitimate political will issues.

As we said, uninspiring but competent.

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