Tue 9 Jan 2007
Filed under: International,News
January 8: United Nations: Secretary General Ban Ki Moon is considering naming a U.S. diplomat as the United Nations’ top political official, which would give an American a key role in shaping the world body’s diplomatic, disarmament and postwar reconstruction policies, according to senior U.N. officials.
Ban recently interviewed B. Lynn Pascoe, the U.S. ambassador to Indonesia, about heading the political department, according to U.N. diplomats. If appointed, Pascoe would be the first American since the end of the Cold War to manage the United Nations’ chief political department, which oversees mediation efforts from Burma to the Middle East. British officials have traditionally run the department, although a former Nigerian diplomat, Ibrahim Gambari, is the current chief.
Ban’s initiative comes just months after the United Nations’ top U.S. official, Christopher Burnham, stepped down as the head of its management department. The Bush administration has agreed to relinquish that post — which an American has headed for 15 years — in the hopes of securing the top post in the growing Department of Peacekeeping Operations, which oversees 100,00 peacekeepers and has an annual budget of nearly $5 billion.
The decision reflects shifting U.S. priorities from reining in U.N. spending to playing a more active role in influencing the organization’s expanding diplomatic and peacekeeping missions. But Ban has assured French President Jacques Chirac that France would keep the top peacekeeping job, and he urged the Bush administration to nominate a candidate for the top post in the Department of Political Affairs.
U.N. officials cautioned that Ban has not yet decided to appoint Pascoe, whose nomination was first reported in yesterday’s Times of London. But they said the job is likely to go to a U.S. national.
Ban’s plans for restructuring the bureaucracy would require the approval of the 192-member General Assembly. He has begun briefing representatives from key U.N. regional groups on a plan to merge the organization’s Department of Political Affairs with its Department of Disarmament. A separate office for coordinating post-conflict peace-building efforts would also be absorbed into the expanded Political Affairs Department. Early discussions called for the department to oversee U.N. efforts to combat international terrorism, but Ban has not agreed to do so.
Ban has also proposed splitting the Department of Peacekeeping Operations. France, which has had one of its nationals run U.N. peacekeeping for a decade, would retain control over peacekeeping operations. Ban would create a second senior post, held possibly by a Japanese national, to oversee the department’s procurement, personnel and logistics.
“We face an unprecedented demand for peacekeeping as well as a range of growing demands for preventive diplomacy, good offices, peace building and efforts in conflict management,” Ban told the U.N. Security Council during a meeting on global threats to international peace. “We need to look at the organizational structures of all departments and offices related to peace and security, and find ways to strengthen our capacities.”
Ban’s initiative faces resistance from within the U.N. peacekeeping department, whose influence would be diminished by the changes. Some U.N. members are also concerned that it would allow the United States to exert too much control over the world body’s political priorities.
To win support for the changes, Ban has announced high-level appointments for nationals from the developing world. They include Ban’s pick for deputy secretary general, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Asha-Rose Migiro; Alicia B’rcena Ibarra of Mexico, his new undersecretary general for management; Vijay Nambiar, his Indian chief of staff; and Michele Montas, a former Haitian journalist, as his spokeswoman.
South Africa’s U.N. ambassador, Dumisani Shadrack Kumalo, said that he has concerns about Ban’s initiatives, but that there is a good chance the General Assembly will endorse them. He said Ban has effectively laid the groundwork by explaining his plans to key Third World voting blocs.