UN Reform/2

Written by  //  April 25, 2017  //  United Nations  //  2 Comments

Jeffrey Sachs: The UN at 70
UN Reform
UN Watch

Nearly Every Living Former US Ambassador to the UN Just Signed This Letter to Congress
(UN Dispatch) Nine former United States Ambassadors to the United Nations, who served under both Republican and Democratic presidents, wrote to key members of Congress today urging them to maintain American financial support for the United Nations and its agencies. In the letter, addressed to Speaker Paul Ryan, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnel and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, the diplomats pressed Congress to “support U.S. leadership at the UN, including through continued payment of our assessed and voluntary financial contributions to the Organization.”
The letter comes at a key time. The White House released a budget request that would substantially reduce American support for diplomacy and development, including programs at the United Nations. That budget is now being debated in Congress and this letter sends a (bi-partisan) message that the United Nations, despite its flaws, deserves American support.

22 April
No Joke: U.N. Elects Saudi Arabia to Women’s Rights Commission, For 2018-2022 Term
(UN Watch) The Geneva-based human rights group UN Watch condemned the U.N.’s election of Saudi Arabia, “the world’s most misogynistic regime,” to a 2018-2022 term on its Commission on the Status of Women, the U.N. agency “exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
Yet the fundamentalist monarchy is now one of 45 countries that, according to the U.N., will play an instrumental role in “promoting women’s rights, documenting the reality of women’s lives throughout the world, and shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women.”
Saudi Arabia was elected by a secret ballot last week of the U.N.’s 54-nation Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). Usually ECOSOC rubber-stamps nominations arranged behind closed doors by regional groups, however this time the U.S. forced an election, to China’s chagrin.

 “The UN doesn’t elect anyone, to anything. The UN is a bureaucracy supporting how sovereign States cooperate in support of a variety of international conventions and the committees those spawn. It is world government reps/ambassadors who nominate and elect these people, just as its world governments who supply troops as peacekeepers, including their command and control and reporting apparatus in situ.” – A.P.

7 April
What does the U.S. strike in Syria mean, besides the end of the Putin-Trump bromance?
(Globe & Mail) Former Canadian ambassador to the UN Paul Heinbecker:
“The UN itself will be negatively affected. Russia’s repeated use of its veto to shield Mr. al-Assad from war crimes has undoubtedly damaged the UN’s utility and its brand. Mr. Trump’s by-passing of the Security Council, regrettable though understandable, will diminish the UN’s standing even more. At the same time, the UN Charter remains the rules of the road for international diplomacy, and most countries see it in their interest to respect it, most of the time. The 24/7 diplomacy that the UN hosts, along with its many arms control agreements and conflict prevention efforts, has helped to prevent a war among the major powers for 75 years. The social functions of the UN, from harbouring refugees to responding to climate change, are likewise indispensable. The UN will continue to limp along.”

22 March
A Famine is Never Just a Famine — It’s Political Violence By Starvation.
(UN Dispatch) The bottom line here is that humanitarian crises cannot be separated from their political contexts. As Sadako Ogata, former UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in 2005, “There are no humanitarian solutions to humanitarian problems.”
Given the pressure on the UN to act in the face of escalation of violent conflict, any UN famine relief response will have to at least consider the political implications of their interventions. But humanitarian aid, even if you have all the funding you need, is always only a stopgap – the real solution to famine is political.

14 March
Trump seeks deep cuts to UN relief programs, just as 20 million people face famine
(UN Dispatch) The Timing Could Not Be Worse
“We stand at a critical point in history. Already at the beginning of the year we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN,” UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien told the Security Council last week.”
He was referring to what is known around the UN as the “four famines.” These include one already-declared famine (in South Sudan) and three other situations (Yemen, Somalia, Northern Nigeria) that are extremely food insecure and may soon cross the starvation threshold to “famine.”
Millions of people around the world turn to the UN as their last lifeline — they get food from the World Food Program; their children get vaccines and medical care from UNICEF; they get rudimentary shelter and assistance from the UN Refugee Agency.  These agencies are already stretched thin. The Syria civil has caused the biggest global refugee crisis since World War Two, forcing agencies like the WFP to scale back. (And “scaling back” means reducing the caloric intake of the people they serve.)
Even small cuts to their budgets have profound implications for the people they serve. A massive cut from the single largest funder could cause a generation-wide catastrophe the likes of which the world has never seen.

13 March
White House Seeks to Cut Billions in Funding for United Nations
U.S. retreat from U.N. could mark a “breakdown of the international humanitarian system as we know it.”
(Foreign Policy) State Department staffers have been instructed to seek cuts in excess of 50 percent in U.S. funding for U.N. programs, signaling an unprecedented retreat by President Donald Trump’s administration from international operations that keep the peace, provide vaccines for children, monitor rogue nuclear weapons programs, and promote peace talks from Syria to Yemen, according to three sources.
The push for such draconian measures comes as the White House is scheduled on Thursday to release its 2018 budget proposal, which is expected to include cuts of up to 37 percent for spending on the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign assistance programs, including the U.N., in next year’s budget. The United States spends about $10 billion a year on the United Nations.

21 February
Vitaly Churkin, Russia’s U.N. Ambassador, Dies at 64
(NYT) His death comes at a critical juncture in Russian-American relations, amid allegations of Russian interference in the United States presidential election and President Trump’s praise for his Russian counterpart, Vladimir V. Putin.
… Mr. Churkin … was widely considered a masterly diplomat. He could be caustic and wry in equal measure, especially in exchanges with his American counterparts. Once, after Samantha Power, a United Nations ambassador in the Obama administration, scolded him for Russia’s actions in Aleppo, Syria — “Are you truly incapable of shame?” she said — he accused her of acting like Mother Teresa.
… News of Mr. Churkin’s sudden death sent a shock through the diplomatic community, where he was widely seen as a deft diplomat, skilled at using the rules and protocols of the United Nations to his country’s advantage, including Russia’s veto in the Security Council.
Ms. Power, who sparred with him regularly in the Council chambers, said on Twitter that she was “devastated” by the news of Mr. Churkin’s death. “Diplomatic maestro & deeply caring man who did all he cld to bridge US-RUS differences,” she wrote.
The two were friendly enough that she once took him to see the musical “Hamilton.” Mr. Churkin recalled that her husband, the legal scholar Cass Sunstein, had sat next to him in the theater and schooled him on the United States Constitution.
A previous American ambassador to the United Nations, Susan E. Rice, called Mr. Churkin “highly effective and very funny.”
(Reuters) Churkin first came to prominence as foreign ministry spokesman for the Soviet Union from 1990 until the collapse of the superpower the following year. Despite the pressure of events, he appeared to revel in the attention of the Western correspondents who mobbed him at briefings, and was happy to respond to them at length in fluent English.
He went on to serve as deputy Russian foreign minister and ambassador to Belgium and then to Canada, eventually moving to the United Nations in 2006.
In his last interview, given to the state-funded Russia Today earlier this month, Churkin argued that the United Nations was ever more essential for resolving conflicts around the world.
“I think the U.N. continues to be an indispensable mechanism,” he said. “Without the U.N., we would be acting all on our own.”

Jeremy Kinsman reacted:
Very saddened by the sudden death of Vitaly Churkin, Russian Ambassador to the UN. He was a consummate professional and a very intelligent, reasonable guy who represented his country superbly. A golden young star in the difficult 90s, along with others in the young cohort of internationalists who shot to the top in Moscow after the reaction to the coup against Gorbachev cleared out their fence-sitting elders, he helped make peace in the Balkans, and later served as an admirable ambassador to Canada. He became Mr. Arctic Council before going to the UN where he took a lot of heat as the US/Russia relationship became vexed but bore it all with serenity and in private maintained rewarding personal relations with western colleagues including Samantha Power, who has declared herself “heartbroken’ at this sad news.

2016

Donald Trump Just Insulted The United Nations, And Their Response Is Perfect
(Occupy Democrats) Donald Trump recently took a shot at the United Nations, calling it “just a club for people to have a good time” in a tweet. It appears to have been in response to the United Nations Security Council approving a resolution demanding that Israel immediately halt their illegal construction of settlements in Palestinian land.[See Israel – Palestine/Gaza 2015 – 2016]
Trump’s Republican overlords told him that this was bad for Israel, so he took to Twitter to complain about it, in an immature and entirely pathetic attempt to delegitimize the world’s largest multilateral diplomatic organization.
Not two hours later, the United Nations’ Twitter account replied with some cold hard facts about the incredible work that the United Nations, its executive committee agencies (United Nation’s Children’s Fund, the World Food Program, United Nation Development Program, and the United Nations Population Fund) and dozens of smaller branch organizations like the World Health Organization and the UN Refugee Agency, do for billions of people around the world.
UN aid workers put their lives in danger to deliver medicine and food to starving civilians in war zones across the world, only to die when Trump’s best friend Vladimir Putin rain bombs on their aid convoys. The men of UN peacekeeping missions have spent years battling terrorism in Somalia and keeping the fledgling government – the first since 1991 – afloat, as well as helping to prevent genocide in the Central African Republic and Burundi. When natural disaster strikes in far-away nations, the United Nations is on the ground, setting up relief camps, digging people out of the rubble, administering first aid, delivering food aid to the homeless. When
When natural disaster strikes in America, Donald Trump is on the scene for a photo shoot then it’s back to the mansion!
While not everything the UN does is a success and or without issue, the good that the UN does in the world is unquantifiable. Donald Trump could not be more wrong or more horrendously offensive when he disparages the UN as a “club for people to get together and have a good time.” Trump,should be forced to spend a day in a Mosul refugee camp so he could gain a little perspective on what the UN truly does – and to see the suffering that Trump’s incompetence and ignorance will surely lead to.

12 December

General Assembly Seventy-first session, 59th plenary meeting Appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

General Assembly Seventy-first session, 59th plenary meeting Appointment of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Taking oath of office, António Guterres pledges to work for peace, development and a reformed United Nations
(UN News Centre) Sworn in today as the ninth and next United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres pledged to reposition development at the centre of the Organization’s work and ensure that the UN can change to effectively meet the myriad challenges facing the international community.
“The United Nations needs to be nimble, efficient and effective. It must focus more on delivery and less on process; more on people and less on bureaucracy,” said Mr. Guterres after taking the oath of office at a ceremony before the 193-member UN General Assembly.
Mr. Guterres, a former Prime Minister of Portugal (1995 to 2002) and former UN High Commissioner for Refugees (2005-2015) took the oath of office following the Assembly’s tribute to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who steps down at the end of the month after leading the global Organization for the past 10 years.
At the onset of his remarks at the swearing-in-ceremony, the Secretary-General-designate paid tribute to Secretary-General Ban for his “principled leadership [that] helped to chart the future of the UN – through the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development; through [his] commitment to peace and security; through [his] initiative to put human rights at the heart of [UN’s] work.”
Mr. Guterres then highlighted three strategic priorities for the Organization: working for peace; supporting sustainable development; and reforming its internal management.
António Guterres, Sworn In as U.N.’s Next Leader, Must Factor Trump Into His Plans
(NYT) António Guterres took the oath of office on Monday to become the next secretary general of the United Nations amid a rise in nationalist movements around the world and what he called a loss of confidence in institutions, including the one he will take over in January. The next United Nations leader would already have faced tough challenges: war, climate change, widening income inequality, record levels of global displacement. But the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States has changed the incoming secretary general’s approach to virtually every major crisis, a wide array of United Nations diplomats said in recent weeks, outlining three particularly vexing conundrums. …
The third conundrum is Syria, which Mr. Guterres staked out as his top priority when he campaigned for the job. Mr. Trump has suggested he wants to join Russia in routing the Islamic State from Syria, even if that approach means keeping the country’s strongman, Bashar al-Assad, in power. If he goes along, Mr. Guterres, a canny, well-connected politician who has cast himself as a champion of human rights, will face the prospect of endorsing a leader widely accused of committing war crimes.
6 October
The next UN Secretary-General: Why Guterres is the best person for the job
Former UN assistant secretary-general Ramesh Thakur on this year’s historic voting process and why former Portuguese prime minister and UNHCR head Antonio Guterres was his top pick all along.
(OpenCanada) Prime minister of Portugal from 1995–2002 (and as such the first ex-PM to be chosen SG), in 2005 Guterres became the UNHCR for ten years and his reputation within the UN system was quite high during the time I was still a UN official (until April 2007).
I met him once (or maybe twice) after that in a relatively small and intimate setting and was impressed by his performance. Anecdotal evidence confirmed that his reputation among most governments and civil society remained very high for competence, integrity, values and willingness to speak out in defence of those who lacked voice but needed support. These qualities were even more starkly in demand and evident in the final two years of his tenure as the refugee crisis hit Europe. …
First, this year’s was the most transparent and inclusive selection process in UN history. Denmark’s Mogens Lykketoft, who as president of the 2015–2016 GA initiated most of the key innovations, believes this was a game-changing process that will be difficult to reverse.
Second, the regional criterion remains important but for any region to succeed, it must unite behind one candidate from the start. Nine of the 13 total candidates were from Eastern Europe, which badly split their votes and ensured someone else got the job.
Third, the gender criterion was relevant for the first time and women candidates outnumbered men, but did not prevail, for two reasons. There were again too many candidates—7 of the 13—and gender was never going to be the sole criterion.
Fourth, many candidates clearly possess a remarkable capacity for stubborn self-delusion. It would have been better after the first three rounds for all candidates who had failed to cross the 9 vote threshold to withdraw, producing a cleaner process and outcome thereafter.
See Antonio Guterres’ candidate website and read his widely-praised Vision statement
26 September
Gwynne Dyer’s wry look at the role and selection process for the selection of the next secretary-general of the United Nations
Next secretary-general: no charisma required
(The Japan Times) The secretary-general of the United Nations is, in some senses, the highest official on the planet, but the selection process is hardly democratic. In fact, it has traditionally been a process as shrouded in secrecy as a papal conclave.
It is the Security Council’s 15 members who pick the candidate, although all 192 members of the General Assembly then get to vote on their choice. … This is why people with strong opinions and a record of taking decisive action don’t get the job. That sort of person would be bound to annoy one of the P5 great powers — Russia, Britain, China, France and the United States — or even all of them one after the other, so the entire system is designed to prevent a maverick with big ideas from slipping through.
It’s basically a civil service job, suitable for persons of cautious disposition. How could it be otherwise? You only get what you pay for, and no great power is yet ready to pay the price in terms of its own sovereignty of having a powerful independent leader at the U.N.
The job is still worth doing, and there is never a shortage of applicants. The secretary-general can speak out as the conscience of the world when there are massive violations of human rights, and once in a while she can actually organize a peace-keeping mission to stop the horrors (if the great powers agree).
And she becomes, by virtue of her position, the most striking symbol of that more cooperative, less violent world that most politicians, diplomats and ordinary citizens actually aspire to.
20 September
Obama at UNGA: Refugee crisis a test of our humanity
At his last UN General Assembly, US president calls on member states to step up commitment to accept and help refugees.
Ban’s ire
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon opened the annual meeting for the final time. He leaves office after a decade at the end of this year.
Ban released years of pent up anger at leaders and countries who have contributed to suffering and conflict across the globe.
He took particular aim at Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, in the wake of an attack on a humanitarian aid convoy Monday that killed 20 people.
“Just when we think it cannot get any worse, the bar of depravity sinks lower,” Ban said. “The humanitarians delivering life-saving aid were heroes. Those who bombed them were cowards.”
19 September
UN issues unprecedented declaration on refugee crisis
14 September
Five things to know about the 2016 UN General Assembly
(Open Canada) Refugees and climate change will top the agenda in New York this month as leaders from around the world come together for this year’s United Nations General Assembly.
The 71st session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) kicked off Tuesday (13 September) in New York City, as representatives from the UN’s 193 members met to discuss international issues and prepare the policies necessary to combat the world’s most pressing concerns.
1. This will be Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s last opening of the General Assembly.
There are currently 10 candidates in the running to replace Ban – five men and five women. The decision is expected to be made in October. In the meantime, keep an eye out for these names as the week’s events unfold.
2. Participants will be looking towards 2030.
On Jan. 1, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were officially implemented with the hope of putting an end to poverty, reducing inequality and battling climate change between now and 2030.
3. The refugee crisis will top the agenda.
4. The pressure is on to ratify the Paris Agreement.
5. The General Assembly has a new leader.
Fiji’s UN Ambassador Peter Thomson has been elected as president of the General Assembly, a position which rotates annually between five geographic areas. This is the first time a representative of a small Pacific island developing state has been elected to this post.
1 September
Kevin Rudd: Securing the UN’s Future
(Project Syndicate) As the existing international order becomes more fragmented, strong global-governance institutions are crucial for addressing the world’s strategic, economic, and sustainability challenges. And yet rarely have our existing institutions – including, above all, the United Nations – been frailer.
… In particular, the next UN secretary-general should consider taking several key steps. For starters, he or she should convene a summit-level meeting – a sequel to the 1945 San Francisco Conference, where delegates agreed to the UN’s founding charter – at which member states would reaffirm their commitment to multilateralism as a fundamental principle. The summit should be designed to highlight the critical advantages of cooperation and rebuff the emerging view that multilateralism is simply a burden to bear.
Moreover, the new secretary-general should emphasize the UN’s role in building bridges between the great powers, particularly during tense times, and the great powers’ role in enabling the UN to benefit the wider international community.
Third, the secretary-general should make use of Article 99 of the UN Charter. This means introducing new initiatives to address global-leadership challenges, even when an existing initiative may fail. This means establishing a comprehensive doctrine of prevention, one that emphasizes robust long-term policy planning so that the organization can prevent, or at least prepare for, future crises, rather than merely reacting to situations as they emerge.
8 August
Kevin Rudd: My 10 principles to reform the United Nations, before it’s too late
Those of us who are proud to be life-long friends of the UN today will defend the institution to the hilt. But The uncomfortable truth is that while the UN today is not broken, it is in trouble. The danger is that it is starting to drift into irrelevance as states increasingly “walk around” the UN on the most important questions facing the international community, seeking substantive solutions elsewhere, increasingly seeing the UN as a pleasant diplomatic afterthought.
(The Guardian) Global geopolitics is in the middle of its third great transformation since the last global war: from 40 years of cold war, to what now seems to have been the 20 year temporary peace that followed the fall of the Soviet Union, to the current period of growing geopolitical instability between the US and Russia, the US and China and the now the deepening strategic engagement between China and Russia.
Geo-economics has also radically changed from a post-war global economy dominated by the US, to one where global economic power is split between the US, China and Europe, and where China’s economic century has barely begun.
And against all this fundamental change in the deep underpinnings of the order itself, the need for global collaboration is at an all-time high as we strive to respond to the “globalisation” of everything, from global financial instability, to the rise of global terrorism, the explosion in global people movements and the planetary imperatives from climate change.
22 July
Four-Europeans-lead-in-race-for-UN-Secretary-GeneralFour Europeans lead in race for UN Secretary-General
Portugal’s António Guterres, Slovenia’s Danilo Türk, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova and Serbia’s Vuk Jeremić have emerged as the frontrunners in a race to replace UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, whose second term expires on 31 December.
In a secretive straw poll, the 15 members of the Security Council voted on Thursday (21 July) with three options: to encourage, discourage or express no opinion on any of the 12 candidates [see list of the candidates]. However, this is only the first step of a procedure.
The straw poll followed a series of closed-door meetings in which each of the 12 official candidates, who have been nominated by their governments, was introduced to the Council members and answered questions.
The outcome of the contest dealt a blow to the candidacies of other prominent hopefuls, including New Zealand’s Helen Clark, who finished fifth, with 8 ‘encouragement’ votes, 5 discouragement and 2 ‘no opinion’. Argentine Foreign Minister Susana Malcorra finished in seventh place. After the ballot was cast, it was reported that New Zealand’s UN ambassador emerged from the Security Council chamber looking deeply distressed, declined to take questions from the press.
13 July
UN SecGen candidates debate
The First-Ever UN Secretary General Debate Made for Some Great TV
(UN Dispatch) Ten of the twelve candidates for UN Secretary General participated in a “debate” last night jointly hosted by al Jazeera and the President of the UN General Assembly. “Debate” is in quotes only because the candidates never directly engaged each other. But for observers of the American political system, the format would look quite familiar: the candidates gave opening and closing statements, and in between took questions from the Al Jazeera moderators and audience members in the UN Hall.
This made for legitimately interesting television and — for the first time– put the candidates on the spot to answer questions about controversial and topical global issues.
The ten candidates were broken up into two groups of five, with each group facing about an hour of questioning. The audience consisted of UN Member states and members of civil society. Their questions were somewhat predicable for those of us who have been following this process. The Hungarian ambassador, for example, asked a question about leadership style; the Bahamian representative asked about the effects of climate change on small Island states; a Senegalese representative asked about the perception that Africans were unfairly targeted by the International Criminal Court.
But moderators James Bays and Folly Bah Thibault did take some opportunities to press the candidates on topical issues, including South Sudan, Syria and Haiti among other issues.
15 April
More nominations expected for UN secretary-general position
The current nine nominees for United Nations secretary-general were questioned last week by the General Assembly, but more nominees are expected to be named soon. Meanwhile, two or three front-runners — including former Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres and former New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark — have emerged from the current candidates. “We urge now every country and every candidate … to come forward and come forward quickly,” said General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft. Reuters (4/15)
Candidates for UN’s top job answer hundreds of questions
The nine candidates for United Nations secretary-general answered about 800 questions over three days of hearings, said General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft. The candidates were questioned on their plans to create a more efficient and fair organization, gender parity and the need for a strong secretary-general. The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (4/15),  The Guardian (London)
Historic process to choose next UN secretary-general begins

The four men and four women who are vying to be the next United Nations secretary-general took questions from General Assembly members Tuesday, the first time anyone outside of the Security Council has been involved in the selection process. “For the first time since this organization started 70 years ago, the process for selecting and appointing the next secretary-general is being generally guided by the principles of transparency and inclusivity,” says General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft. Yahoo/The Associated Press (4/12),  Bloomberg (4/13)
Report: UN must strengthen oversight of employees
The United Nations failed to adequately oversee staff interactions with nongovernmental organizations, says a report by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services, which conducted an investigation in light of bribery charges against former General Assembly President John Ashe and six others. The report outlines steps to improve internal UN controls. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon “is pleased that the audit … shows that many of the control systems in place within the organization were found to be working properly,” but “is concerned at the findings related to instances where proper procedures were not followed,” says Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesman. Reuters (4/3),  The Associated Press (4/4)
30 March
Selection of next UN secretary-general will use open process
(UN Smart Brief) Candidates to succeed United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will have the unprecedented opportunity to state their views in open forums at the United Nations General Assembly and in public venues. There are already seven candidates for the post.
UN to hold secretary general job hustings for first time ever
Contenders will explain ideals and intentions to general assembly and hold public debates in New York and London, co-hosted by the Guardian
UN workers want open race for next secretary general, survey reveals
Poll of people working with or for United Nations increases pressure for female candidates – and for security council to loosen grip on selection process
Who will succeed Ban Ki-moon? A guide to the possible candidates
The UN secretary general’s term is up at the end of this year. Here are some of the confirmed and possible runners and riders in the organisation’s first open contest for its next head
Panel: More oversight needed for Assembly president
A United Nation panel charged with investigating the alleged bribes taken by a General Assembly president concludes that oversight of the office is lax and resulted in financial and reputational risk to the UN. “Despite the high level of visibility of the office, there are insufficient transparency and accountability measures,” the panel says. Yahoo/Agence France-Presse (3/29),  The New York Times (free-article access for SmartBrief readers) (3/29)

Shashi Tharoor: The Politics of UN Leadership
The contest for UN secretary-general is about neither vision nor the best resume, language skills, administrative ability, or even personal charisma. It is a political decision, made principally by the P-5.
(HuffPost) Election cycles are growing longer worldwide. … Yet some races — such as that for the next United Nations secretary-general, which will also be held in 2016 — still occur largely under the radar. This should change.
… the decision comes down to the 15 members of the Security Council, who select the candidate to be rubber-stamped by the UN General Assembly (as has occurred in every case so far). Crucially, the Security Council’s five permanent members – China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the US – have veto power, so a majority means nothing if a single member of the P-5 dissents.
The result is that the “least unacceptable” candidate gets the job. And, as it stands, there is no reason to believe that the advent of social media, satellite television coverage, or a more intrusive press will change that fundamental reality.
In 2016, the smart money will be on an east European candidate acceptable to the P-5, particularly Russia. …  – only one UN region has yet to be represented: Eastern Europe.
In fact, a number of potential East European candidates have already emerged, with some said to have begun actively soliciting support.
But there is a hitch: Eastern Europe must avoid attracting a Russian veto. Indeed, that may be the main factor derailing the prospects of former Polish Foreign Minister Radek Sikorski. If, as some fear, the Kremlin vetoes all East European candidates, a representative from the Western Europe and Others Group, such as former New Zealand Prime Minister and current UN Under-Secretary-General Helen Clark, could stand a chance, especially given the appeal of finally selecting a woman for the role. (17 January 2015)

20 March
I Love the U.N., but It Is Failing
(NYT Sunday Review) I HAVE worked for the United Nations for most of the last three decades. I was a human rights officer in Haiti in the 1990s and served in the former Yugoslavia during the Srebrenica genocide. I helped lead the response to the Indian Ocean tsunami and the Haitian earthquake, planned the mission to eliminate Syrian chemical weapons, and most recently led the Ebola mission in West Africa. I care deeply for the principles the United Nations is designed to uphold.
And that’s why I have decided to leave.
The world faces a range of terrifying crises, from the threat of climate change to terrorist breeding grounds in places like Syria, Iraq and Somalia. The United Nations is uniquely placed to meet these challenges, and it is doing invaluable work, like protecting civilians and delivering humanitarian aid in South Sudan and elsewhere. But in terms of its overall mission, thanks to colossal mismanagement, the United Nations is failing.
Six years ago, I became an assistant secretary general, posted to the headquarters in New York. I was no stranger to red tape, but I was unprepared for the blur of Orwellian admonitions and Carrollian logic that govern the place. If you locked a team of evil geniuses in a laboratory, they could not design a bureaucracy so maddeningly complex, requiring so much effort but in the end incapable of delivering the intended result. The system is a black hole into which disappear countless tax dollars and human aspirations, never to be seen again. [See Comments below]
8 March
irina bokova_2This Woman Could Become The World’s Top Diplomat
Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova wants to be the first female U.N. secretary-general.
Since the U.N. began soliciting candidates in December, Bulgaria’s Irina Bokova has emerged as a potential favorite for the position. Bokova, 63, is the current director-general of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization — the first woman to hold the title — but is now openly campaigning for the role of secretary-general.
29 February
Portugal nominates ex-refugee chief for U.N. secretary-general
(Reuters) Portugal’s government has proposed Antonio Guterres, a former UN high commissioner for refugees, as a candidate for secretary-general of the United Nations, it said on Monday.
Guterres was Portugal’s prime minister between 1995 and 2002 and served two terms as U.N. high commissioner from 2005 until last year.
19 February
UN climate chief Figueres to step down in July
United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres will leave when her six-year term ends in July. In a separate announcement, Green Climate Fund chief Hela Cheikhrouhou will leave in September after one term of three years. Reuters (2/19), Climate Home (2/19)
16 February
Former UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali Dies At 93
Boutros-Ghali associated himself with the famine in Somalia and organized the first massive U.N. relief operation in the Horn of Africa nation.
(Aanadian Press|AP) … the scion of a prominent Egyptian Christian political family, was the first U.N. chief from the African continent. He stepped into the post in 1992 at a time of dramatic world changes, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the end of the Cold War and the beginning of a unipolar era dominated by the United States.
But after four years of frictions with the Clinton administration, the United States blocked his renewal in the post in 1996, making him the only U.N secretary-general to serve a single term. He was replaced by Ghanaian Kofi Annan.
Boutros-Ghali’s five years in the United Nations remain controversial. Some see him as seeking to establish the U.N.’s independence from the world superpower, the United States. Others blame him for misjudgments in the failures to prevent genocides in Africa and the Balkans and mismanagement of reform in the world body.
In his farewell speech to the U.N., Boutros-Ghali said he had thought when he took the post that the time was right for the United Nations to play an effective role in a world no longer divided into warring Cold War camps.
“But the middle years of this half decade were deeply troubled,” he said. “Disillusion set in.”
In a 2005 interview with The Associated Press, Boutros-Ghali called the 1994 massacre in Rwanda — in which half a million Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days — “my worst failure at the United Nations.”
But he blamed the United States, Britain, France and Belgium for paralyzing action by setting impossible conditions for intervention. Then-U.S. President Bill Clinton and other world leaders were opposed to taking strong action to beef up U.N. peacekeepers in the tiny Central African nation or intervening to stop the massacres.
14 February
Randeep Ramesh: The UN should be the solution in Libya, but it’s the problem
With the west looking at military options and today’s deadline for a new unity government, the UN is playing a difficult hand very badly
(The Guardian) To the administrations in Tripoli and Tobruk, the United Nations added a third – a “unity government” in Tunisia: one so fractured that three of its nine-member presidential council reportedly came to blows recently.
Endorsed by the UN in December, the administration has said it will come up with a list of ministers that everyone can agree on by tonight. To make matters worse, everything the UN does now is tainted by Libyan concerns about its credibility.
Much of that concern relates to the role of the former UN peace envoy, Bernardino Léon. Léon, a former Spanish foreign minister, spent weeks last summer completing the proposed agreement between the two sides to form a power-sharing unity government. Those talks were meant to put to rest the intense, but largely hidden, competition between regional players such as the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar and their client states over influence in Libya, whose oil and gas reserves make the nation a valuable piece of global real estate. …
From the outset the UN has failed to work with political forces on the ground to design administrations best suited to local traditions. This would have meant international partners handing over responsibility for anti-terror operations to Libyan forces of varying political complexions and – something the west and its allies have so far not been willing to contemplate – tolerating their attempts to dislodge IS.
Instead militias, warlords and armed groups thrived as UN-backed processes failed to deliver governance or a politics that has popular support. The task in Libya has always been a daunting one. It has not been helped by the UN playing a difficult hand badly.
10 February
Finding the next UN Secretary-General
(Foreign Policy Association) While Americans are focusing on the upcoming U.S. Presidential elections, the United Nations is beginning its own election season. With current Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon term ending this year, the search for his replacement has begun. The UN has stated that it wants this current election to be the most transparent. The difficulty with the nomination revolves around the approval needed from the permanent members of the UN Security Council—The United States, The United Kingdom, France, Russia and China—which have veto power over who is selected for the position.
Qualifications
There is a push for the Secretary-General to be from a region of the world that has yet to be represented, which is the case of Eastern Europe. They must have support from their government, as well as the support from most countries in the region. Previous experience in foreign affairs as well as the ability to communicate fluently in the official UN languages (minimum of 2) is required for the candidate.
This is also the first time that the calls for a woman Secretary-General are being adequately met. Many groups such as the 1 for 7 Billion campaign have called for a woman in the highest office of the United Nations. Under Ban Ki-Moon and the Sustainable Development Goals initiative, the issues of gender equality and the rights of women have been targeted as areas of improvement throughout the world.
Many critics of the UN would point out that only 25% of top UN positions are occupied by women. A major step in the fight for gender equality would be to have a woman as the face of the UN. These are the four current nominees with the best credentials and most support:
5 February
UN needs a more charismatic leader than Ban Ki-moon
(Globe & Mail) “The next secretary-general must be elected on a fair and transparent basis,” said Jeremy Greenstock, the retired British diplomat who heads the United Nations Association in Britain. While heaping praise on Mr. Ban, Mr. Greenstock warned that the world would continue to become less stable if the UN were allowed to drift.
There is some reason to hope that the process will be more open this time around. Danish politician Mogens Lykketoft, the current head of the UN General Assembly, is attempting to end – or at least limit – the backroom deal-making by having a list of candidates published early in the process. That would shed at least a modicum of needed light on the unavoidable bartering to come between Washington, Beijing and Moscow.
27 January
How the U.N. Let Assad Edit the Truth of Syria’s War
As Syrian civilians starved to death, U.N. officials let the government in Damascus alter its master plan for saving lives.
(Foreign Policy) … to close readers of the U.N. Humanitarian Response Plan, which was published on Dec. 29, the big surprise was what the 64-page document failed to mention. The United Nations, after consulting the Syrian government, altered dozens of passages and omitted pertinent information to paint the government of Bashar al-Assad in a more favorable light.
Five Syrian relief organizations charged that the U.N. had set an “unacceptable precedent” in negotiating the wording of the report with the Syrian government. Removing all references to besieged areas “downplays the severity of the violations” of international law by the Assad regime, and removing the references to mine clearing was an implicit validation of the Syrian government’s position that mine removal constitutes military action, they said in a letter sent on Dec. 30.
Some aid workers believe that the U.N.’s willingness to toe the Syrian government’s line is due to the international body’s fear of being booted out of Damascus. In a separate letter on Jan. 13, 112 relief workers from government-besieged areas complained bitterly that staff in the U.N.’s Damascus office “are either too close to the regime or too scared of having their visas revoked by the same powers that are besieging us.”

World Humanitarian Summit aims to improve handling of global crises
The United Nations-organized World Humanitarian Summit, scheduled for May, intends to bring public- and private-sector entities together to create proposals for improved handling of global crises. The summit will not produce binding resolutions. Reuters/Thomson Reuters Foundation (1/11)

2 Comments on "UN Reform/2"

  1. Diana Thebaud Nicholson March 20, 2016 at 6:51 pm · Reply

    Re: I love the U.N. but it is failing, some comments from former diplomats:
    – A major indictment. I became aware of major UN failings and bewildering cynicism in Yugoslavia ( Srebrenica and Bihac -which could have been as disastrous), in Haiti and second hand in Ruanda and elsewhere, but am not close enough to anything to know if Banbury’s total indictment is sound, a bit exaggerated, sour grapes or what. In Haiti, Nepalese soldiers and the import of cholera was inexcusable but the overall shambles is so deep seated and complex , all blame cannot be placed with the UN. Not everything they touch turns to slime. Whatever, Banbury’s accusations are so horrifying that we need to have reliable answers. I was surprised to read at the end that he exculpates Moon. My reading of the Sec Gen is that he doesn’t like to listen and makes Narcissus look like a minor ego and that makes me worry a bit about B. If the situation is as bad as B indicates then someone (who??) needs to look at reform. Is that possible within the UN’s political context,
    – Some observations to pass on to the CIGI crowd. Some things alas, don’t change as much as they should. I wrote my Master’s thesis on the administration of the UN Secretariat, and made some similar comments concerning the UN bureaucracy back then, about a half century ago.

  2. Gary Stark March 22, 2017 at 4:37 pm · Reply

    Here’s one very simple proposal for reform…

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wFNl4yDZNQM

    gary

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