Archive for September, 2006

Dhanapala Withdraws: Now it is 6

September 29, 2006

From ColomboPage.com:

Following the results of the third ‘straw poll’ in the election of the Secretary-General conducted by the members of the Security Council on Thursday 28 September 2006, the Government of Sri Lanka – with the total agreement of its candidate – has now decided not to further pursue the candidature of Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala in the interest of ensuring a consensus in electing an Asian candidate.

Ban’s trips and aid: A summary

September 29, 2006

The following posts describe BanKi-moon’s travel and aid as we have covered them:

Other people have reported:

  • A maritime agreement with Greece.
  • A piano for Peru.

We have heard of others but have no documentation. We do not want to make suggestions about the integrity of heads of state without at least documentary evidence.

Times of London reports on Ban’s vote buying

September 29, 2006

Update: The Indian press has picked up on this too and going into their typical feeding frenzy.

We have said that this is an extremely important issue and deserves a higher level of scrutiny. Now a mainstream newspaper has documented the charges. The basic framing is:

Mr Ban announced his bid in February and has since been criss-crossing the globe trying to win support. A month later South Korea announced that it would treble its aid budget to Africa to $100 million (£53 million) by 2008. Seoul then contributed tens of thousands of pounds to sponsor this year’s African Union summit in the Gambia in July, when Mr Ban declared 2006 to be “the Year of Africa” for South Korea.

Then the article discusses Tanzania. This is one of the clearest cases that we have discussed:

One fortunate recipient was Tanzania, which currently has a seat on the Security Council. When Mr Ban arrived in May he pledged $18 million for an educational programme and also promised to carry out a road and bridge project in western Tanzania. Between 1991 and 2003 South Korean grants to Tanzania totalled $4.7 million. Seoul’s generosity seems to have worked. Yesterday Elly Matango, the Tanzanian Ambassador to Tokyo and Seoul, said that his Government had decided to support Mr Ban

Next stop Greece:

This month President Roh and Mr Ban headed the most senior South Korean delegation since 1961 to visit Greece, another Security Council member. Overseen by hundreds of South Korean businessmen, the countries signed agreements on trade, tourism and maritime transport.

It is about time that the media gives this race proper scrutiny. We believe that more examples are out there and need to be properly discussed and identified. In many countries, this kind of behavior would disqualify a candidate for public office and open them to criminal prosecution. We have trouble seeing how a candidate that acts like this has any credibility leading the UN.

This is important because it provides the US and UK a reason to veto Ban while also undermining the credibility of the UN. Conservatives in the US especially will use this as another reason to distrust the UN.

Thoughts on Straw Poll Results

September 28, 2006

UNSG has the results. We will compare with the results of the 2nd round. Some observations

  • Ban did lose one encouragement to a “no opinion”. We assume that this is either the US or the UK, given their current statements.
  • Shashi Tharoor lost two encouragements to “no opinion”. Who is softening.
  • The Latvian did well. We can assume that her support is the 5 Europeans and the US. One more could include Japan. This is a strong performance but completely explicable. Indeed, the real question for her is how to increase her support. We do not believe it is possible without a fundamental restructuring of the race. In any case, what is she after?
  • Zeid, Surakiart Sathirathai, and Dhanapala have failed as candidates. They should get out and stop wasting their countries’ time and money. Sathirathai or Dhanapala exits might open the possibility of other entrances.
  • It is too early to tell about Ghani, but we have trouble imagining him go anywhere.

The real questions to be answered at this point are:

  1. Can Ban be stopped? There are two scenarios where he would not be selected. Ultimately, they both probably must occur.
    • A better candidate emerges. A new ASEAN candidate could introduce this scenario.
    • A fault emerges that gives the US and UK (probably need both) to sustain the diplomatic pressure associated with vetoes. We believe that evidence of vote buying could, under some circumstances, be this issue.
  2. What is Shashi Tharoor trying to get out of this? We have recently heard the theory that he is really running for Foreign Minister of India, where the UNSG race is a gambit to increase Indian leverage for a UNSC permanent seat. In essence, they would stop pushing Tharoor to in exchange for Chinese (and Russian?) commitments to support India’s seat.
  3. What is the Latvian trying to get out of this? We do not have a theory for this yet.

We look forward to seeing how this evolves.

Washington Post Columnist Questions Ban for US

September 28, 2006

The Washington Post’s columnist Jim Hoagland:

That warning of the dangers of answered prayers applies particularly to President Bush and his support for Ban Ki Moon, South Korea’s reliably stolid foreign minister, in the highly competitive race to succeed Kofi Annan at year’s end. Bush — pilloried by Third World radicals at last week’s General Assembly opening — may be picking up a lightning rod instead of a shield.

Hoagland reports that the US has committed, at some point, to withdraw its support for Shashi Tharoor:

A shift to voting only for Ban — a move that Bush indicated he would make to South Korean President Roh Moo Hyun at a White House meeting this month — would probably doom the hopes of Tharoor and the other candidates.

Hoagland also mentions our concerns about foreign aid:

South Korea’s generosity in foreign aid and investment decisions may work in Ban’s favor with some nations, it is said in diplomatic understatement in the corridors of the United Nations.

This article suggests that the deal is done. The UK could not sustain a veto unless there was a substantially better candidate.

South Korea to increase development assistance

September 25, 2006

The government of South Korea has announced that it will increase its foreign aid, according to AsiaNews:

Korea spent 0.06 per cent of its Gross National Income (GNI) in development assistance in 2004, which some say is too small for the size of its economy, the 12th largest in the world.

Although South Korea’s spending in development assistance rose to 0.09 percent of GNI last year, it is still far from the United Nations recommendation of 0.7 per cent of the economy.

After Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ban Ki-moon announced his run for the UN secretary-general’s position, it was pointed out that Korea should raise its development spending to improve its voice in the global community.

So a country has advanced their foreign minister to be UNSG and yet they barely participate in one of the most important parts of the UN agenda, development. And then the year before running for UNSG, they increase their aid by about 50%.

Now in March, South Korea announced that they were increasing aid to Africa by $100m:

South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun announced during his trip to Nigeria in March that his country will triple its Official Development Assistance budget for Africa to approximately US$100 million by 2008.

So what countries will receive this money? We know some. $18m was promised to Tanzania, a UNSC member. We know that more was promised to Ghana, another UNSC member. We have heard that substantial aid has been offered to other countries, but we have not been able to document this.

Note that this is not unheard of. A recent study out of Harvard University found that, “on average, a non-permanent member of the council enjoys a 59- per-cent increase in total aid from the United States and an 8-per- cent increase in total development aid from the United Nations.”

It would be interesting to know the country-by-country breakdown of recent increases in South Korean development assistance.

Coup in Thailand

September 19, 2006

This evening, the Royal Thai military launched a coup against Thaksin Shinawatra’s Thai Rak Thai government. According to the AP, they have seized Bangkok and all its media stations and formed a government with King Bhumibol as head of state. This is a sad blow for the Thais, and must fatally ruin Surakiart Sathirathai’s chances to assume the post of UNSG.

Update: The Defense Minister and Deputy Prime Minister for National Security have been arrested. There is an excellent blog with details here.

Ashraf Ghani joins the race

September 17, 2006

FT has the story:

Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan finance minister, is expected to make a late entry into the race to succeed Kofi Annan as secretary-general of the United Nations, taking the number of formally declared candidates to seven.

Mr Ghani, 57, will declare his candidacy this afternoon in a meeting with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, who is visiting the US.

I hope to win, through ideas,” Mr Ghani told the Financial Times in New York. “In the public debate so far, I have yet to see a clear articulation of vision, an analysis of the central issues and a programme for change.”

We have heard Ghani speak. He has the ideas. He is all management expertise and ideas and little politics. Indeed, FT quotes one of his acquaintences on this point:

“Ashraf wants to reform the whole international aid system and has some fantastic ideas,” said an acquaintance. “But given that he blows up at even his closest friends, I can’t see him as the world’s leading peace-maker.”

As Karzai’s Finance Minister, he did a number of tremendous things, but we wonder if his record is too “neo-liberal”. Indeed, FT quotes Hernando de Soto, a favorite economist of the right:

“The UN would be very lucky indeed to get him,” said Hernando de Soto, economist and founder of the Institute for Liberty and Democracy in Lima.

US says consensus candidate needed

September 16, 2006

In a press briefing, US Assistant Secretary of State for International Organizations Kristen Silverberg said:

“There is not a consensus Asian candidate right now and I don’t see signs of one emerging, honestly, right now. There are five Asian candidates and they all enjoy some support, so we don’t expect a consensus.

But if there’s an Asian candidate who’s the strongest candidate and meets our criteria, then we are obviously prepared to support that person.”

Silverberg is responsible for vetting UNSG candidates. She also rejected the rotation as necessary. She continued:

The UN isn’t a talk-shop anymore. It’s not just a political organisation in New York. It’s an organisation that has more than 70,000 peacekeepers deployed. It has development and humanitarian programmes all over the world.

So we want somebody who’s going to be a good manager and committed to continued reform of the United Nations. We also want somebody who’s going to share our values – the importance of promoting democracy around the world and a commitment to human rights.

Obviously, this can be seen as boosting the candidacy of Vīķe-Freiberga. However given the Chinese insistence — and the widespread support — of the rotation, this may be instead threatening a veto of Ban. And, again, inviting more candidates into the race.

The Straw Polls have spoken

September 15, 2006

At UNSG.org, Tony Fleming has the results of the straw poll.

We would like to make some observations:

  1. Ban Ki-moon clearly advanced. Unless his “discourage” is from a P5 member, he is the next Secretary General.
  2. Shashi Tharoor has made no progress since the last straw poll. He has moved one member state from “undecided” to “discourage”.
  3. Sathirathai has made real progress, however, he has not caught up with either of the frontrunners.
  4. Dhanapala has lost ground.

The President of the Security Council has made the consequences clear:

For the Sri Lankan it’s not worth it to continue and the others have too many discouragements in order to go ahead. I believe that whoever is coming in now, it’s too late.

He thinks it is over. And he probably thinks that Ban is the winner.

It is time for the candidates to listen to the straw poll. Shashi Tharoor and Sathirathai have a legitimate claim to stay in, although it seems clear from the Greek’s statement that they will not win. But Dhanapala needs to take the advice of the President of the Security Council and remove himself from this competition.

One of the things that has been striking to us throughout this race is the level of national pride and identity associated with the candidates in this race. The South Korean, Indian, and Sri Lankan press, especially, has fallen in love with the candidates. And, to a substantial extent, their publics have also. The low esteem that the Thai government is in with both its public and its media explains Sathirathai’s support.

Unfortunately, this close identification with candidates has resulted in publics’ mood following the fortunes of the candidates. For Dhanapala and the Sri Lankans, this is quite serious. The country is at a very serious point, with the peace process — Dhanapala’s peace process — collapsing. The mood of Sri Lankans that we encounter has been deeply impacted by this.

Furthermore, it is important for the publics to realize that this is not an indictment of their countries. If Shashi Tharoor loses, as it seems he will, this is not an indictment of India. Indeed, the question of whether Singh’s nomination of Tharoor is a blunder will likely be revisited. For the Sri Lankans, they need to understand that Dhanapala’s failings are not their own. They nominated an old man who did not impress people. This is not a statement about Sri Lanka.