Archive for August, 2006

South Korea drops UNSC bid

August 31, 2006

They announced it Thursday, Xinhua has the details:

“We concluded that, realistically, it would be difficult to win two of the most important elections in the United Nations at the same time,” said a foreign ministry official.

“We informed the UN member states of the decision on Aug. 29,” said the official, adding that South Korea will resume its campaign for membership of the council “as early as possible.”

A sign of confidence in Ban Ki-moon’s candidacy?

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What’s up with Ghana?

August 30, 2006

Ban Ki-moon and Surakiart Sathirathai are actively wooing Ghana right now.

A special envoy of the President of South Korea was in Ghana today to deliver a message about the UNSG race:

According to a Ghanaian news agency the content of the message was not disclosed but was believed to be bordering around South Korean Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister Ban Ki- Moon’s campaign bid to head the United Nations.

At the same time, Sathirathai was meeting with the VP of Ghana in Bangkok:

He used his one-and-half-hour meeting with the Deputy Prime Minister, Dr Surakiart Sathirathai in Bangkok to explain why the two developing countries should share expertise in cassava and fish production with emphasis on tuna in Ghana for the economic advantage of the two countries.

What is all the excitement about? Does Ghana want their money?

Shashi getting support from Mittal Steel

August 29, 2006

Times of India has the story. Laxmi Niwas Mittal, the head of Mittal Steel, will use his network to help Shashi Tharoor:

Mittal plans to use his goodwill among policymakers of at least 17 countries across Africa and Europe, particularly eastern Europe, to drum up support for Tharoor. He also wants to be Tharoor’s bridge to 10, Downing Street, and through it, hopefully, the White House.

This also suggests that Shashi is still having trouble with 2 P5 members.

Apparently Mittal has helped the Indian government in Central Asia to get some oil contracts. The article also says that Shashi has been traveling in Latin America:

Last week, the writer-diplomat called up Deora from South America. Deora, in turn, reiterated Mittal’s support for him.

Shashi lays out more ideas

August 28, 2006

Shashi Tharoor published an article in this week’s Newsweek, a US weekly magazine entitled “What the UN Needs”. (incidentally, we believe Newsweek’s description of Shashi as a “Undersecretary General” is totally irresponsible when he is a nominated candidate and this is clearly a campaign piece”) He focuses on 4 areas:

  1. Making Democracy a Priority. This includes Human Rights, democracy, and good governance.
  2. Bolster the Ranks. That is to say, increase the “operational capacity” with more money and more staff.
  3. Prioritize and Streamline. This is simply focus on its competitive advantages.
  4. Heal wounds. Don’t let the East-West divide be replaced by a North-South one.

We are struck that “reform” and similar issues are viewed as cross-cutting categories, a refreshing change from other presentations. He says this nicely, repeating one of his campaign slogans:

We need reform not because the United Nations has failed, but because it has succeeded enough over the years to be worth investing in. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” The United Nations, where I have worked for the last 28 years, is no exception. If we want to change the world, we must change too.

He concludes with a similar point, also quoting one of his stump slogans:

As our great second secretary-general, Dag Hammarskjold, put it, the United Nations was not created to take mankind to heaven, but to save humanity from hell. That it has, so far, but not all the time and not everywhere. We can do better. Indeed, at this time of turbulence and transformation, we must.

We are struck by the degree to which this is not pandering to US or other interests. It sounds like it merely wants to make the UN a more functional version of what it is. This more modest goal strikes us as more realistic.

To make a comment about the race, we believe that this is the kind of discussion that the UN needs right now and that the campaigns need to be engaging in. This clearly distinguishes Surakiart Sathirathai’s human rights problems and Jayantha Dhanapala’s struggle to assert a basis for his own candidacy by demanding that he is the only Sri Lankan candidate (can he say anything else other than “I’m not dropping out?”, but we suppose that is necessary when parties in your own government are undermining your campaign)

Human Rights NGO continues campaign against Sathirathai

August 24, 2006

Last week, we pointed out an open letter sent by the Asian Human Rights Commission to the Foreign Minister of Argentina about Surakiart Sathirathai. The Bangkok Post has reported on the meeting and its follow up:

Argentina understands Thailand’s position on human rights and has no problem with Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai becoming UN secretary-general, said an aide for Mr Surakiart. Sorajak Kasemsuwan said yesterday that Mr Surakiart had met with Argentine Foreign Minister Jorge Taiana, who, he said, had expressed understanding for the human rights situation in Thailand.

We wonder if the Argentinian Foreign Ministry has a statement?

In response to this news story, AHRC issued a statement. Excerpts:

The reason is that like Thailand, Argentina has had a long and terrible history of forced disappearances, killing, torture and other gross abuses of human rights, of which the foreign minister was himself a victim. But unlike Thailand, Argentina has passed through the period of worst abuses and is now working to give redress to the victims and belatedly prosecute alleged perpetrators. While there is still much for the country to do, when compared to anywhere in Asia it is far advanced in addressing and accounting for human rights violations.

Human rights begin at home. Anybody holding a high government office that has done nothing to address rampant injustices and abuses in his own country cannot seriously be expected to do the same for anyone else. Anybody holding a high government office who responds to legitimate and studied criticism with evasion and denial cannot seriously be expected to consider and address the causes for that criticism. The Asian Human Rights Commission is sad to say that the deputy prime minister of Thailand has still done nothing to answer the question, “What are your qualifications to be UN secretary general?”

Sri Lankan leader suggests Dhanapala should drop out; Supports Deva

August 19, 2006

From an interview with the leader of Jathika Hela Urumaya, a Buddhist coalition party in the Sri Lankan’s government:

Q.: Moving onto a different matter, you may be knowing that Niranjan Deva-Aditya who is a member of the European Parliament is presenting himself as a contender for the UN Secretary General post after the failure of Jayantha Dhanapala to secure the necessary support of the Security Council. It is learnt that the JHU had earlier presented Deva-Aditya honours. Would you like the government to nominate him now?

A: The thing is Jayantha Dhanapala had come last in the Security Council vote. Also his age is against him as well. Niranjan Deva-Aditya has a better chance of going through. Niranjan Deva-Aditya is a good patriot and if the necessity arises the government should support him.

Like Sathirathai, the domestic press has totally lost support for Dhanapala. And now a leading coalition party is pushing Deva. Note Deva is a Catholic, not a Buddhist. Fireworks!

In Shashi’s SAJA Forum Skypecast (covered by UNSG here), he predicted that candidates (plural almost certainly meaning Dhanapala and Sathirathai) would drop out after the September straw polls. He predicted that other candidates wouldn’t have the support to enter. However, Deva has claimed to have the support of other countries.

Tharoor on Transparency

August 18, 2006

Shashi Tharoor gave an interview to the South Asian Journalist Association yesterday on Skype. UNSG.org has the link and details (also, SAJAForum). One of the things that has struck us about his interview was his statements on transparency, a subject that is near and dear to our heart and that we’ve written a fair amount on recently. He pointed out that this has been the most transparent UNSG selection process in quite a while. In particular he points out:

  1. The public criteria for nomination.
  2. The open (and notorious?) campaigning across the world. (We have highlighted the trips and actions of Surakiart Sathirathai and Ban Ki-moon in particular. Details here)
  3. Discussion in public fora and private conversations.
  4. An informal, but perhaps solid, timetable.

As the world considers over the next several months how this will continue, we encourage NGOs and the academic community, especially in NYC, to consider these questions.

Power of NGOs: Dhanapala and Shashi respond to UNSG questionnaire

August 16, 2006

A number of people have recently expressed frustration with the transparency of the UNSG selection process. For example:

We agree. Fortunately three NGOs have stood up to demand more information. Recently the attacks on Surakiart Sathirathai for his human rights record by the Asian Human Rights Commission (we covered it here, here, here, and here).

Similarly, the Security Council Report has used their insider information to provide analyses of UNSC actions.

But today, a new level has been reached. The Asian Tribune reports that Jayantha Dhanapala and Shashi Tharoor have answered a questionnaire by an NGO, UNSGSelection.org. We urge them to continue their coverage of the race and, indeed, oversite of the UNSC’s process. We look forward to more, much more, of this.

Human Rights dogs Sathirathai in Latin America

August 15, 2006

This week, Sathirathai goes to Argentina and Peru. The same human rights group that has attacked Sathirathai for his human rights record (here, here, and here) is now publicly asking the Foreign Minister of Argentina to raise this issue:

The Hong Kong-based Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) called on the Argentine Foreign Minister, Jorge Taiana, to raise the issue following the South American nation’s jailing this month of police officers for forced disappearances there.

In an open letter to Taiana, AHRC urged the Argentine government to seek commitments from Surakiart – who is visiting the country to seek support for his bid to become United Nations secretary-general – that Thailand would end abductions and killings by police and soldiers, particularly in the restive southern border provinces.

In addition to the campaign aspect of this, we do believe that this is the first time that an NGO has openly campaigned against a candidate for UNSG. This marks an important change in UN politics. As a sidenote, we wonder if other NGOs and NGO groups (like UNSGSelection.org) will take such a high profile on other issues.

Deva campaign continues

August 14, 2006

Niranjan Deva-Aditya told the press in Sri Lanka last week that he has 5 nominations:

received Asian, Pacific, Caribbean and European assistance to nominate him as the UN Secretary General post.

Speaking to media Mr.Deva Adithya declined to disclose countries, which backed to him, but assured to disclose all details in an International press conference, which is to be held shortly in UK or EU‘s …
However I have not forwarded my nomination papers in yet. I have direct links with 103 countries, which come under the UN flag. On a daily basis I deal with them.”

Deva also reported, “I have special connection with the Chinese government.” This is probably a reference to his recent trip to China.

Note that this was done in Sri Lanka. It is clear that his entrance is dependent on Dhanapala’s backing out, and it may be that his public statements hurt Dhanapala. As we have pointed out, this is also Goh’s strategy to a viable candidacy.