A New Global Agenda
Four United Nations experts comment on the challenges Mr. Ban Ki-moon
will face as he takes on the role of the world's top diplomat. Plus: How they
envision the UN seven years into the new millennium.
Distinguished Fellow, Canada's Center for International Governance Innovation; Served
as the first UN Deputy Secretary- General under Kofi Annan
Mr. Ban Ki-Moon will face enormous challenges the minute he takes over from Kofi Annan as secretary-general. Iran, North Korea, Darfur and the many other hot spots around the world will dominate his agenda and consume most of his energies. I hope he will hold a bit in reserve to look after the Secretariat and its people. Ban should not believe those who
claim the Secretariat is a hopeless mess. The institution performs many of its functions very well and the ratio of highly talented, dedicated people to laggards is not worse than in any big bureaucracy I know and may even be a bit better.
Currently, more than 80,000 United Nations soldiers, police officers and civilian staff are deployed in various
peacekeeping, humanitarian and human rights missions. They are getting on with their job and rarely make headlines.
A sharp-eyed auditor would probably find all kinds of irregularities which must be and are being addressed as they are discovered. Let us bear in mind however, that, as the United States government itself has found out in Iraq, operations in conflict zones do not lend themselves to immaculate administrative practices.
This is not to say that Ban should strike off managerial reform from his list of priorities, far from it. Much remains to be done to complete the transformation of the UN Secretariat into a modern, efficient and accountable
institution. Many of the reforms undertaken by Kofi Annan are starting to bear fruit but need to be pursued vigorously
with strong leadership from the top. If I may be so bold as to offer some advice to the new secretary-general, I
would suggest the following.
First, appoint the right people to senior positions. There will be enormous pressure from all quarters to impose national favorites. They should be firmly resisted. And if the message goes out from day one that Ban does not
respond well to such pressures, it will have a sobering effect on all concerned for the future. Of course, he will have to
ensure that his top ranks are fairly representative of the diversity of UN membership, but reasonable geographic balance
does not mean accepting without scrutiny a country's nominee or reserving certain posts for certain countries.
All senior appointees should have adequate management credentials in addition to the usual diplomatic or specialized
expertise. Need I add that I hope Ban will appoint many women, not just out of fairness but also because, in my
experience, women are less inclined to indulge in turf wars and power games.
The UN needs to be run by team players, not prima donnas. Second, simplify accountabilities within the Secretariat. This could mean folding into existing departments the multitude of small offices (e.g. children in armed conflict, least developed countries).
The new secretary-general should also drastically reduce the very long list of special envoys and part-time appointees and ensure that the remaining ones are given clear reporting lines. Last but not least, he should delegate
real authority to the deputy secretary general for specific administrative functions. Some of these changes require the
approval of the member states, but Ban should take example on his predecessors and proceed with the changes he deems necessary and ask questions later. He may be rolled back on a few decisions but chances are most will survive.
Third, pursue the reform of the "Ban should not believe those who claim the Secretariat is a hopeless mess."
TThe inaugural year for Mr. Ban Ki- Moon will be a hazardous and trying one. The world in 2007 has entered a
dangerous phase in which genocide, nuclear weaponry, terrorism and geopolitics have risen to be the primary challenges
that face the freshly elected United Nations leader. The test of his leadership is likely to be how effectively
he can manage, ameliorate or defuse these lethal menaces before they pose a direct threat to humankind.
The most important cluster of issues that Ban will encounter relate to maintaining peace around the world. It is in
this realm of security that the new secretary-general will have to show his real talent as the globe's preeminent diplomat.
He will have to provide evidence of a determined and focused approach as peacemaker and catalyst for change-
especially because, in this arena, he will be taking on a number of new and unresolved political obligations which came
into play under Kofi Annan.
For example, in 2005, the UN agreed to make "the responsibility to protect" a principle which the Security Council now considers in weighing whether to support humanitarian intervention abroad. This rule allows the UN-when a state gravely misbehaves-to override the UN Charter provision that protects the domestic sovereignty of a member state against outside interference. The likely reckoning for this measure could have come for the first time on the question of stopping the genocide in Darfur, as the Sudanese government refused entry to UN forces through most of 2006; the issue will surely come around again during Ban's term.
The second set of challenges deal with the proliferation of nuclear weapons around the globe. The most immediate
crisis-points here relate to North Korea and Iran. Ban will, of course, have a special role in handling the matter of the
Korean bomb as he is Korean and as he has had past dealings with Pyongyang as South Korea's Foreign Minister. Facing these two highly volatile situations, Ban will be under intense pressure to accelerate the UN's efforts to reduce nuclear- as well as biological and chemical- weaponry around the planet.
Terrorism is the third benchmark. Here, Ban will have to focus on assisting so-called failed states to reconstruct
their societies and help them in quashing domestic fanaticism. Annan has bequeathed Ban two formidable UN ventures-the Peacebuilding Commission and the Democracy Fund-to aid ailing nations in the rebuilding process. Ban must now make sure these two entities operate as promised. He also must forcefully pursue Annan's Millennium Development Goals, convince member states to continue to finance the body's 18 ongoing peacekeeping missions, and among other
serious tasks, place a moratorium on small arms traffic that fuels insurgencies.
All of these actions can go far toward dampening down the scourge of extremist violence. Ban's last charge is to act as a conciliator- in-chief in ongoing conflicts around the globe. He will need to press forward toward resolving the long-running
Israeli-Palestinean dispute He will have to look into the fate of aging dictatorships- as in Burma, Cuba, remnants
of the old Soviet empire and in Africa-to encourage their transition to democracy.
To assure more legitimacy for the actions of the UN Security Council, he may have to consider ways of expanding
its membership. As a supporter of the International Criminal Court, he has to assure the world that the institution
will try war criminals around the globe. He must also ramp up the UN's Human Rights Council that, so far, has
failed to live up to its admonitory role.
And to improve the UN Secretariat, he will have to seek broad reforms in the UN's management. Most importantly,
he must nurture good relations with the world's most powerful country and the UN's biggest donor-the United
To accomplish all of these objectives, Ban must show that he can be an effective and persuasive global spokesman.
Among the greatest strengths of his predecessor, Annan, was his ability to inspire the billions of people on the
earth with the UN's mission of eliminating poverty, securing human rights, controlling violence and upholding
moral goals. Using the UN podium, Ban Ki-Moon can now enlist these same concerns and make them his own.
Willingly or not, he is today the world's secular pope. With the full support of the UN-so far, a survivor of 61 years
of strife and upheaval-he will have an ostensible head-start.