Archive for the ‘speeches’ Category

Ban Ki-moon’s reform seminar

June 8, 2006

As we have previously reported, the South Korean Foreign Ministry is hosting a seminar on UN reform, co-sponsored by the UN Association.

Ban gave the keynote address of the workshop. In his keynote, he identified "dialogue" as the key to solving the problems of the UN, according to the Korea Herald:

"The key, I believe, is genuine dialogue among all the stakeholders. …

"The United Nations, always accused of too much talk, is in short supply when it comes to genuine dialogue and understanding."

"The current mistrust over the secretariat management reform, I believe, is also due as much to the lack of honest discussion among member states with different views."

This is very similar to what he said last week at CFR, which we also discussed. As we indicated there, we find this unsatisfactory. Something programmatic must be done to address the divisions in the UN.

Next on Ban's schedule: wooing the third African UNSC member.


Ban’s CFR statements

June 7, 2006

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.

Latvian candidate speaks to US Congress

June 7, 2006

Today the President of Latvia, Dr.Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, spoke to a joint session of the US Congress. We don't take her seriously as a candidate. The Russians would veto her, no doubt. Just consider this part of her statement:

Fifteen years ago Latvia, along with neighboring Estonia and Lithuania, regained its independence after fifty years of Soviet occupation. The Baltic Singing Revolution achieved this by non-violent means, and the sheer courage and determination of the peoples of these countries. They were ready to face Soviet guns and tanks with nothing but their unarmed bodies and the deep conviction of their rights, knowing full well that, at any moment, these guns and tanks might crush them as they had crushed so many others before.

Putin would veto for this alone. But this is still quite an interesting speech. First, this is the first candidate to speak to Congress in a format that is reserved only for the highest level dignitaries. The new Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Olmert, Tony Blair, Jose Maria Aznar, etc. Those are the kinds of people that speak to Congress.

After a long passage on Europe, she spoke on the United Nations. I think that we can assume thather statements on the UN to represent a position that the US is maximally comfortable with. This sounds like an American or someone who is self-consciously being a "friend of America". We have excerpted below the passage related to the UN:

I was pleased that the General Assembly managed to agree in principle on the necessity for sweeping and fundamental reforms. The new Peace-building Commission was created, which we need for diffusing long-lasting conflicts. Too often in the past, the UN has been unable to prevent genocide and lasting bloodshed: in the Congo, in Rwanda, in the former Yugoslavia and in the Darfur region of Sudan.


One of the UN’s fundamental roles lies in the defense of human rights. The newly created Human Rights Council must become more credible and more effective than the Commission that preceded it. Its best way to gain credibility would be by starting with a thorough and unbiased evaluation of the human rights record of its own newly elected Council members.

She comes out swinging.

Most dangerous [challenge] of all is the continuing and growing gap between the developing and developed nations. The great divide between North and South, between haves and have-nots is as dangerous as the divide between Eastern and Western blocs ever was during the Cold War. We have to do our utmost to reach the UN’s Millennium Goals of reducing poverty in the developing world.

Unlike Ban, she makes a link between security and development.

Brutal and unremitting poverty is a scourge, unsolved in spite of decades of massive international aid and countless well-meant programs. Clearly, the quality of governance in aid-receiving countries has a crucial role to play, as well as their readiness to foster reforms and progress. But the quality of aid-providing efforts also needs to be improved. We need better international coordination of results-oriented programs, which should be constantly monitored for their effectiveness.

Note that this ignores a significant criticism of so much American aid: it is tied.

The world-wide spread of terrorism as well as the growing signs of intolerance and xenophobia in many countries underscore the urgent world-wide need for a meaningful and sustained Dialogue between Civilizations. As already recognized at the Millennium General Assembly of the United Nations, our common goal is to overcome the prejudice, misperceptions and polarization that stand as barriers to better understanding and consensus among members of different races, religions and cultures.

Terrorism is the closest we have to security issues, other than non-proliferation, which comes below.

Due to the enormous importance of nuclear non-proliferation, the world’s democracies should maintain a coherent position regarding the nuclear program of Iran. We welcome the recent joint initiatives by the United States, the UN Security Council and the European Union to offer a constructive solution to the Iranian nuclear issue, and hope that the Iranian leadership will respond in kind.

Again, we don't consider her to be a serious candidate, as such. Merely an expression of the ideal type of the United States.