Korean for UN top post?

However, there are fears that should Ban get the nod from the Security Council, a decision which is more or less followed by the General Assembly, reform of the all-powerful council could be stalled for as long as 10 years.

This fear arises from South Korea’s public opposition to UN Security Council Reform and its reticence to see countries like Japan get permanent veto-status positions on the body.

Last year, South Korea, Italy, Mexico and Pakistan strongly opposed a plan to permanent council seats to Brazil, Germany, India and Japan.

African countries supporting Security Council reform and seeking positions on the body include South Africa, Nigeria, Egypt and Libya.

The African Union has publicly declared that it would like Africa to get two permanent veto-power seats and two other non-veto seats on an expanded and reformed Security Council.

At present there are five permanent members with veto power – the US, China, Britain, France and Russia ‘ and ten non-permanent rotating seats.

Regardless, Ban ‘ seen as a compromise candidate between the United States and China ‘ has consistently topped unofficial polls since July and his nomination appears to now be a mere formality.

To date, all Security Council deliberations on the issue have been held behind closed doors and Ban has not testified before any committees to explain his position on key issues at a public forum.

Last week, current Security Council president, Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima admitted that the selection process was not very democratic but any changes would have to be made after Annan’s successor had been chosen.

He was quoted saying: “I do not deny that there might be further room for improvement.”

Annan himself has come out supporting reform, saying: “As you know, the Security Council must reform-for the sake of the developing world, and for the sake of the United Nations itself.

“The perception of a narrow power base hanging on five countries is difficult to sustain and it risks leading to an erosion of the UN’s authority and legitimacy’I have in the past described this as a democracy deficit. It must be corrected.”

Ban commands a lot of respect in diplomatic circles, though it has been said he lacks the charisma and toughness needed to head such an organisation, especially at a time when the majority are asking for reforms that the powerful minority are not comfortable with.

China’s Ambassador to the UN Wang Guangya on Monday said: “I think definitely the United States is the most important member of the United Nations, but since this organisation has 192 members, I think each member should be counted and therefore we have to respect the major powers but also respect the positions, concerns of the smaller countries.”

Wang denied that Ban was simply a Sino-American compromise saying: “I think that he is (an) experienced one. He is low key but very firm, and he’s decisive. But I think sometimes the Asians show their quality in a different way. So I do hope that he will be a good candidate for the job of secretary-general.”

America’s Ambassador John Bolton said he had a lot of respect for Ban.

However, a lot of controversy has surrounded the current jockeying for the world’s top diplomatic job.

There have been claims that South Korea has spent millions of dollars “bribing” Third World countries to support its candidate.

These “bribes” have come in the form of aid such as Ban’s May pledge of an $18 million educational programme for Tanzania as well as a raod and bridge project in Western Tanzania.

After this, Tanzania officially stated that it was backing Ban as its candidate for the UN post.

South Korea has also signed a cooperation agreement with Peru in addition to building a $1 billion car factory in Slovakia.

Seoul has reacted strongly to this with a government official saying: “I would like to stress that the allegations against Mr. Ban Ki-moon and, moreover, the integrity of the Korean government do not correspond with the facts.”

Meanwhile, Britain has reportedly demanded that its nationals get key jobs in the secretariat as a pay-off for supporting Ban.

The secretary general serves a maximum of two five year terms and oversees the operations of over 30 000 UN employees across the globe.

Secretaries general who have so far served are Gladwyn Jebb, Tyve Halvdan Lie, Dag Hammaskjold, U Thant, Kurt Waldheim, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Boutros Boutros Ghali and Annan.

Hammaskjold died in a plane crash in Zambia (then Northern Rhodesia) in 1961. U Thant retired for personal reasons while Waldheim made a bid for a third term but was vetoed by China.

Boutros Ghali’s bid for a second term was vetoed by the US.

October 2006
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