A giant yawn over Ban Ki-moon


He reckons he’s got the support of the veto-holding Permanent Five (P5) on the Security Council — the United States, United Kingdom, France, China and Russia. It’s up to the 15-member council to decide on appointing the secretary-general, which they do in time-honored non-transparent fashion: behind closed doors.

But it’s the “big five” who really decide, and it’s highly unlikely a year before the end of Ban’s first term that they would have the energy to go through the motions to find a more dynamic candidate. Unfortunately for the institution, they prefer somebody more secretary than general. Visionaries need not apply. Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt was denied a second term because he was too outspoken and ran afoul of the U.S. His successor, Kofi Annan, only began kicking up rough about the “illegal” Iraq war a year after the invasion and halfway through his second term when he had nothing to lose.

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So, the P5 picked the former South Korean foreign minister because it was “Asia’s turn” and he seemed like the sort of person who wouldn’t cause them any trouble. Also, frankly, there wasn’t a great deal of competition. As secretary-general, Ban has kowtowed to China on human rights, done the bidding of the U.S. and generally kept a low profile. In small groups, he has an engaging manner, and there’s no doubt he is a workaholic. But his halting English and snooze-inducing speech delivery have been damaging to the U.N.’s reputation. The landmark United Nations building right now is an empty shell, its personnel spread across temporary offices in the U.N. grounds and in various places nearby. The symbolism is not lost on anyone. Staff morale is low, and it certainly ain’t Ban who is going to cheer them up.

So the inevitable second term of Ban Ki-moon looms. I’m sorry but the world will greet his next five years in office with a massive shrug of indifference.