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:
- Making Democracy a Priority. This includes Human Rights, democracy, and good governance.
- Bolster the Ranks. That is to say, increase the “operational capacity” with more money and more staff.
- Prioritize and Streamline. This is simply focus on its competitive advantages.
- 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)