According to reports, the United Nations is on course to select
its next Secretary-General in October. The
process gained steam this week with an informal straw poll in the
Security Council. The details of the
"blind" straw poll reveal very little about how much support each
of the current candidates really have. Instead, it was merely a way
for candidates to learn which of the 15 Security Council members
"encourage" them to go on, "discourage" them, or have "no opinion."
While two candidates received more support than the other two,
confidence in the currently announced candidates is low and
speculation is high that others will be nominated over the next few
months. It is unlikely that this week's straw poll will determine
how the race will shape up. The most significant result may be for
a candidate or two to withdraw quietly after being discouraged by
the Security Council.
However, the straw poll is an opportunity for Security Council
members to send a message about what they would like to see from
the next Secretary-General. The United States should use this
process to state clearly that candidates for Secretary-General must
be committed to fundamental and far-reaching UN reform to make the
organization more transparent, accountable, and effective.
The Next Secretary-General?
Politics makes strange bedfellows, and this is perhaps more true
for the United Nations than elsewhere. The most overt evidence of
political horse-trading involves the regional influence over the
selection of the Secretary-General. In tacit acknowledgement of
Asia's claim to the next Secretary-General, all four of the
official candidates are Asian. Asia's claim is based on an informal
and loosely followed tradition of rotating the Secretary-General
position among different regions. Thus
far, candidates from countries outside of the Asian regional group
have been excluded from consideration, despite the fact that
Eastern Europe is the only regional group that has never had a
Politics also likely dominated, if less publicly, consideration
of the four official candidates by the Security Council this week.
All have been jetting around the world on public relations tours to
secure high-level official endorsements, and all have personal
strengths and weaknesses that will factor into the support they
garner. Just as important, however, are international political
dynamics and the concerns of the members of the Security Council.
All four of the official candidates have widely reported negatives
that may undermine support in the Security Council:
- India: Shashi Tharoor, UN
Undersecretary-General for Communications. While Tharoor
has made the promotion of human rights and non-governmental
organization (NGOs) participation in the UN the centerpieces of his
campaign, he has been endorsed by Belarus-one of the world's worst
human rights abusers and a country that often intimidates its own
NGOs. Tharoor argues that his years of
experience within the UN will greatly aid him as Secretary-General.
Others argue that an insider would be poorly positioned to reform
the UN and point to numerous scandals during the tenure of
long-time UN bureaucrat and current Secretary-General Kofi Annan.
Tharoor has not won the endorsement of any of the major world
leaders lobbied by his government at the recent G-8
- South Korea: Ban Ki-Moon, Minister of
Foreign Affairs and Trade. Ban Ki-Moon has the support of
at least two consistent human rights abusers-Uzbekistan and
Egypt-which raises questions about his commitment to making the UN
more effective in advancing basic human rights. While his familiarity with North
Korea may be an asset, that the South Korean government has been
reluctant to confront North Korea on human rights or its
belligerence and nuclear ambitions should concern the U.S. because
the situation on the peninsula will likely occupy the UN for the
foreseeable future. Ban has said little about UN reform, and there
are questions about his commitment to it. The current government in
South Korea campaigned in 2004 with strong anti-United States
rhetoric. Thus support from the U.S. is in question even though
President Bush said the U.S. is now "looking in the Far East" for
the next Secretary-General.
- Sri Lanka: Jayantha
Dhanapala. Jayantha Dhanapala failed to win India's
support, which is considered important for a South Asian candidate.
He has been strongly criticized by Russia and was reportedly a
thorn in America's side as chair of a global review of the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation Treaty. As UN Undersecretary-General for
Disarmament from 1998 to 2003, Dhanapala reestablished and led the
UN's disarmament program. Under his watch, India and Pakistan
declared themselves to be nuclear states, and Iran and North Korea
violated their nuclear arms agreements.
- Thailand: Deputy Prime Minister
Surakiart Sathirathai. Surakiart Sathirathai was the early
frontrunner, based on his endorsement by the Association of South
East Asian Nations (ASEAN). He reportedly also has Chinese support.
However, his prospects seem to be in steady decline as his
government battles political troubles in Thailand. He has reacted
to detractors by filing lawsuits, and many human rights groups
News reports indicate that, while Ban Ki-Moon and Shashi Tharoor
led the UN Security Council's first straw poll to become the next
Secretary-General, there is a "a general sense that none of the
candidates were likely to succeed."
If the official candidates founder, other potential candidates
include Afghanistan's former finance minister Ashraf Ghani; Prince
Zeid Ra'ad Zeid Al-Hussein of Jordan; President Vaira
Vike-Freiberga of Latvia; former deputy prime minister and finance
minister of Malaysia Anwar Ibrahim; current high commissioner of
Pakistan to the United Kingdom and a former ambassador to the
United States Maleeha Lodhi; former President of Poland Aleksander
Kwasniewski; Singapore's former Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong; and
Administrator of the UN Development Programme Kemal Dervis of
U.S. Priorities for the Next
How the U.S. will vote on the official candidates is unclear.
Although President Bush's statements on July 10 indicate that the
U.S. has acknowledged demands that the next Secretary-General be
from Asia, it also seems clear that the U.S. will oppose candidates
whom it considers unsuitable. Thus
far, the U.S. appears unenthused about any of the four declared
candidates, which may in part reflect its uncertainty about the
commitment of the individual candidates to fundamental UN reform.
Based on comments by U.S. Ambassador to the UN John Bolton, UN
reform is a priority for the U.S. and will be a key factor in its
decision whether to support or oppose a particular candidate.
The organization has major responsibilities. The UN employs over
9,000 people of all nationalities and spends $7 billion per year in
the its regular and peacekeeping budgets-more than the 2004 gross
domestic product of 72 UN member states. It
runs 18 peacekeeping missions involving some 90,000 personnel. Some of these missions, including
the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) established in
Jerusalem in 1948 and the UN Military Observer Group in India and
Pakistan (UNMOGIP) established in 1949, date back decades and are
older than two-thirds of UN member states.
Unfortunately, the UN has often failed in these
responsibilities, and recent, well-publicized scandals illustrate
the many problems that continue to plague the world body. For
instance, investigations found some 200 instances of alleged
procurement mismanagement and fraud in peacekeeping operations.
Additionally, bribes and kickbacks to the tune of $2 billion under
the Iraqi Oil-for-Food program involved over 2,000 companies in
nearly 70 countries.
The United Nations often makes decisions based more on political
concerns than on the overall effectiveness of the organization. Seemingly benign changes in
personnel and mandates are perceived as turf wars, slights, or
assaults on obscure fiefdoms. These concerns led the G-77 to delay
and block Secretary-General Annan's reform effort by requesting a
series of reports from the Secretary-General on his proposals. Compounding the problem, the G-77
led an effort to approve a UN budget beyond the $950 million cap
despite making little progress on UN reform this past June, thus
removing a major incentive for reform. While the U.S. did not vote
against the resolution, it disassociated itself from the consensus
The United States should make UN reform a paramount
consideration for the next Secretary-General. President Bush missed
an important opportunity recently when he left the drive for reform
out of the list of qualities he seeks in the next
Secretary-General. The next Secretary-General should, as the
President pointed out, be someone who "wants to spread liberty and
enhance the peace, do difficult things like confront tyranny, worry
about the human condition, [and] blow the whistle on human rights
violations," but it is also
critical that he or she is committed to battling fraud, improving
UN oversight, and removing the bureaucratic detritus and defects
that limit the UN's effectiveness.
The official candidates have presented their views on reform to
the Security Council. Yet UN reform for these candidates may be
inconsistent with what the U.S. envisions. To varying degrees, they
have engaged in political maneuvering designed to attract support
from a broad swath of the General Assembly and avoid controversial
aspects of reform.
The failure of these candidates to lay out explicitly a reform
agenda designed to improve UN effectiveness, oversight, and
accountability and to forthrightly announce their intention to
implement those reforms if they become Secretary-General should
concern the U.S. Whoever takes over from Kofi Annan must be more
than the chief cheerleader for the UN, an opportunistic diplomat,
or a skillful orator. As John Bolton has noted,
The UN Charter describes the secretary-general as the UN's
"chief administrative officer." He is not the president of the
world. He is not a diplomat for all seasons.… He is the
chief administrative officer. Nothing less than that, to be sure,
but, with even greater certainty, nothing more.
As much as individuals, groups, and governments are eager to see
the next Secretary-General champion various causes, the first
priority and qualification for the next Secretary-General-and the
only responsibility specifically assigned to the office in the UN
Charter-is to be an effective chief administrative officer. Given the evident flaws of the
organization, the first priority of a chief administrative officer
must be to fight for fundamental reform of the
Without reform to improve effectiveness and accountability,
every UN activity-regardless of its merits or the capabilities of
the next Secretary-General-will suffer. Unfortunately, the straw
poll process will say little about how much emphasis the Council
places on a candidate's ability to carry out substantive UN reform.
It won't indicate what substantive expertise the Security Council
members seek in the person who will inherit from Kofi Annan a
massive and very troubled organization. The U.S. should request
that the candidates publicly identify a reform agenda that they
will pursue and should announce that a lack of commitment to reform
will draw U.S. opposition. In addition, Washington should make it
clear that failure to follow through on promises made by the
eventual winner will influence the U.S. decision to support or
oppose reelection five years hence.
Schaefer is Jay Kingham Fellow in International Regulatory
Affairs in the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom, a division of
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies, and Janice A. Smith is Special Assistant to the Vice
President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies, at The Heritage
"Communication of the President
of the Security Council to the President of the General Assembly
regarding the selection of the next Secretary-General," from , circulated on July 6, 2006, at .
"Ballot to Size Up Successor to
Annan," Financial Times
, July 22, 2006.
Past Secretaries-General have
included three from the Western Europe and Others group, two from
the African group, and one each from the Asian and the Latin
American and the Caribbean groups. In order, the past and current
UN Secretaries-General are: Trygve Lie (Norway), 1946-1952; Dag
Hammarskjöld (Sweden), 1953-1961; U Thant (Myanmar),
1961-1971; Kurt Waldheim (Austria), 1972-1981; Javier Perez de
Cuellar (Peru), 1982-1991; Boutros Boutros-Ghali (Egypt),
1992-1996; and Kofi Annan (Ghana), 1997-2006.
According to the U.S. Department
of State, "The government's human rights record remained very poor
and worsened in some areas with the government continuing to commit
numerous serious abuses." Specifically, the State department noted
a government predilection toward "deregistration and harassment of
nongovernmental organizations." See "Country Reports on Human
Rights Practices - 2005," Released by the Bureau of Democracy,
Human Rights, and Labor, U.S. Department of State, March 8, 2006,
Arirang News, "Uzbek President
Backs Korean FM's UN Candidacy," The Chosun Ilbo & Digital
, at .
Shaveta Bansal, "Bush Says Next UN
Leader May Be From Asia," All Headline News, July 11, 2006.
Daniel Ten Kate "Rumors: the
weapons of mass destabilization," ThaiDay
, July 19, 2006,
Mark Turner, "Korean tops straw
poll to head UN," Financial Times
, July 25 2006, at .
said, "We need a strong Secretary-General to help reform the U.N.
and we're very much involved in that selection." Interview on Fox
News, July 22, 2006. Bolton also stated on NPR, "We want somebody
who will be the chief administrative officer. I've described the
ideal candidate as a proletarian - somebody who will work in the
system, who will get his fingernails dirty or her fingernails
dirty, and really manage the place, which is what it needs."
Interview on NPR with Michele Keleman, NPR News, Washington, DC,
July 24, 2006.
Assembly approved the $3.8 billion biennial regular budget in
December 2005, which includes a nearly $1.9 billion for 2006. See
"General Assembly Adopts 2006-2007 Budget of $3.79 Billion,"
General Assembly document GA/10442, Department of Public
Information, December 23, 2005, at . UN
peacekeeping costs were about $5 billion in the last fiscal year
ending on June 30, 2006. United Nations Peacekeeping: Meeting
, United Nations, at . GDP data from
World Bank Development Indicators online.
Department of Peacekeeping Operations Fact Sheet," United Nations,
on the Oil-for-Food program, see Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., "The Final
Volcker Oil for Food Report: An Assessment," Heritage Foundation
No. 913, November 10, 2005, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/InternationalOrganizations/
. For information on U.N. peacekeeping abuses, see
Nile Gardiner, Ph.D., "The U.N. Peacekeeping Scandal in the Congo:
How Congress Should Respond," Heritage Foundation Lecture
No. 868, March 22, 2005, at http://www.heritage.org/Research/InternationalOrganizations/
. For an assessment of the U.N. procurement scandal,
see U.N. General Assembly, "Report of the Office of Internal
Oversight Services on the Comprehensive Management Audit of the
Department of Peacekeeping Operations," A/60/717, March 13, 2006,
Pits Big Powers Against Developing Nations," Bloomberg News, June
John R. Bolton, Permanent U.S. Representative to the United Nations
In Explanation of Position On Program budget for the biennium
2006-2007 Document A/C.5/60/L.44," USUN Press Release #140 (06),
June 28, 2006, at .
"First straw poll
on U.N. secretary-general post expected in late July," The
July 13, 2006.
John R. Bolton,
"The Creation, Fall, Rise, and Fall of the United Nations," chapter
3 in Ted Galen Carpenter, ed., Delusions of Grandeur: The
United Nations and Global Intervention
(Washington, D.C.: Cato
Institute, 1997), at .
UN Security Council Report,
"Second Report on the Appointment of the UN Secretary-General,"
June 21, 2006, citing the UN Preparatory Commission Report #PC/20,
December 23, 1945, pp. 3-4. The order of priorities are:
"Administrative and executive qualities to integrate the activity
of the whole complex of UN organ (para 12). Leadership qualities to
determine the character and efficiency of the Secretariat (para
15). Skills to lead a team from many different countries and build
the necessary team spirit (para 15). Moral authority to model the
independent role required by Article 100 of the UN Charter (para
15). Ability to play a role as a mediator (para 16). Capacity to
act as an informal adviser or confidant to many goverments (para
16, 19). The highest qualities of political judgment, tact and
integrity… (para 16). Communications and representation
skills to represent the UN to the public at large… (para
17). Overall qualities which demonstrate to the world at large that
personally the candidate 'embodies the principles and ideals of the
Charter to which the Organization seeks to give effect' (para