AFTER a gap of 30 years, it is now Asia`s turn to fill the post of the next secretary-general of UN, said Jayatha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, who is one of the candidates. ‘I think I have a very good chance because my candidacy is distinguished by the fact that I have had a long record as a national and international diplomat, including being accredited to the UN,’ Dhanapala said in Doha.

 Dhanapala is currently the senior advisor to the Sri Lankan president. ‘He was invited to manage the peace process by the government in mid-2004 after a distinguished diplomatic career, peace-builder and disarmament expert,’ states his website. ‘He has been an articulate champion of non-discriminatory global norms, the rule of law, the Millennium Development Goals, and the general concerns of developing countries in the collective interest of the international community.’ The Sri Lankan candidate, who is supported by both the ruling party and the opposition back home, will be meeting Qatar`s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs HE Ahmed Abdullah al-Mahmoud today.

 Besides seeking Doha`s support, he will also hand over a letter from his president to HH the Emir. Qatar, currently a member of the Security Council (UNSC), has a crucial role to play, the candidate said. The UNSC, which has 15 members, usually elects a person. The name is then recommended to the General Assembly, which endorses the selection. This has been the practice so far. Dhanapala said he has the advantage of being a diplomat who has been looking at the UN from outside as well as working within the world body.

 ‘At a time when we are talking about reforms, it is a good asset to have. The other advantage is that I am from Sri Lanka, which traditionally has been a moderate country. I have been able to build consensus on world issues, including the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.’Though he is not confident of his victory, he said he has not met any criticism so far to his candidacy. ‘My candidature is seen as from a qualified individual who has close understanding of the working of the UN and I have a very comprehensive experience in various aspects of UN work.’

There is by common understanding that the next secretary-general should be from Asia because it is over 30 years since U Thant of Myanmar completed his tenure. ‘And it is appropriate that a country from a continent that contributes 60% of the global population and 25% of global economic output and a continent which has been the cradle of several great civilisations and religious philosophies should be able to provide leadership.’ There are two other declared candidates – Thailand`s Deputy Prime Minister Dr Surakiart Sathirathai and South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon. ‘But it is possible that there may be other candidates.’ Elections will have to take place before the end of the year, but he said, the decision might take place in September or October.

 If elected, UN reforms are certain to be at the top of his agenda. ‘These reforms need an experienced hand to implement.’ Dhanapala is on his way to Stockholm to attend an international conference on weapons of mass destruction. He will also be visiting other Gulf countries. Source:Gulf Times