August 24, 2009

Ban Ki-moon: a non charismatic (non proactive?) Secretary General

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Benedict XVI have some things in common. Both belong to the very select group of leaders of the international community. Their predecessors were very charismatic and highly regarded as proactive and progressive. But both of them are seen as the opposite of their predecessors: non charismatic at all, not proactive and even problematic. Ratzinger’s term has been widely commented, but only recently people have started to talk about Ban’s problematic term. In fact, it has been more dark than problematic. A secretary general is supposed to be a world leader with the power to mediate between different actors of the world arena and make sure the international agreements are respected. In his few attempts to do so he has achieved very little (some would say nothing).

Some months ago he insisted to meet Burma’s (Myanmar’s or however you want to call it) military Junta in order to make them free the opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi who has been under detention for the past 14 years. Ban returned empty handed from his meeting with the generals who not so long ago reacted violently against the monk’s peaceful protests against the regime. His recent visit to Sri Lanka did not have a very positive outcome either, considering that still thousands of Tamils are displaced in refugee camps.

But everyone has started talking about Ban after the appearance in the media of Mona Juul’s intercepted memo in which she fiercely criticized his term. Mona Juul is the chief of the Norwegian delegation to the United Nations. In the memo, which was not aimed to be public, and is labelled by Foreign Policy Magazine as “brutally frank” she calls the Secretary General: “spineless, charmless, and incapable of setting the agenda”. She also says “Ban's voice on behalf of the G-172 and the poor is barely being registered” and that “he has been "absent on the issue of disarmament and non-proliferation."

The Mona Juul memo has raised speculations about problems inside Ban’s team. Some comments have been made about the possibility that he will hold office only for one term. It will be interesting to see what happens in his visit to Norway by the end of this month.

Now Ban’s actions will be observed with much more attention by the media.

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