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by Jayantha Dhanapala

There are two contrasting job descriptions of the post of Secretary-General (SG) of the United Nations which falls vacant at the end of this year. One is by the first incumbent of this position, Trygve Lie of Norway, who famously called it "the most impossible job in the world". The other is by the first, and so far only, Asian SG – U Thant of Myanmar (formerly Burma) – who wrote, "The Secretary-Generalship is not the most impossible job in the world, although it is certainly one of the most difficult. It is without any question one of the most rewarding."

It would be all too facile and fallacious to draw conclusions from this contrast. It is not a question of hardheaded Western pragmatism versus philosophical Eastern equanimity. Both men worked at the UN during the Cold War era. Trygve Lie was forced to resign because of Soviet antagonism while U Thant declined unanimous offers of a third term. Was it because U Thant was content to be more Secretary than General or was he a more consummate diplomat harmonizing the competing interests of the two super-powers of the time?

Today, times have changed. The Cold war is over. Yet we do have the countervailing imperatives of a unipolar world on the one hand, with one super power possessing an accumulation of military, political, economic and ‘soft’ power on a global scale that is unprecedented in human history. On the other hand, we have a globalized world of rising expectations in a highly integrated political and economic world order where multilateralism is an indispensable foreign policy option for the mighty and the meek and for the rich and the poor. At the apex of this multilateral system is the 61 year old United Nations politically paralyzed when the Permanent Five of the Security Council (P5) disagree – as in the case of Iraq in 2003 – but remarkably effective when they do agree. Based on universally shared values the UN has set and monitored the implementation of norms in a wide range of fields from human rights to international trade. It has been at the forefront in peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, development policy and many other areas affecting the daily lives of people.

So how important is the choice of the next SG of this world body that everybody wants to reform? Some loudly lament the absence of a formal job description. Do we make the incumbent more effective by spelling out his complex duties? How many incompetent Presidents or unpopular Prime Ministers would have performed better if their written or unwritten constitutions had fleshed out their functions? Do the times determine the job or does the jobholder influence the manner in which the duties are discharged? What qualifications and experience are we looking for or is it, as one veteran UN observer has recently written, mainly a matter of "character and potential"? And if so how do you judge that? By common consent no one has enlarged the scope and stature of the job as much as Dag Hammarskjold (1953-61) did. Was his exemplary character pre-judged? Succeeding him, U Thant (1961-71) brought the UN into calmer waters despite the Vietnam War focussing on what the UN can do rather on what it could not. Was it foreseen that he would be the SG that he turned out to be?

Then there is the procedure for the election on which many views have been expressed. Should it be more transparent and should not the General Assembly have more control? Should the candidates present manicured manifestos and engage in a US Presidential campaign style extravaganza or should they be shrinking violets waiting coyly in the wings till the call comes?

All pertinent questions. Today, those disillusioned by the sullied reputation of the UN seek a Superman as the next SG. The media speculates wildly about past Presidents and current Prime Ministers forgetting that those elected on national mandates are more likely to be Generals than Secretaries. The UN system has already had many such square pegs in round holes. Perhaps what the UN needs today is what it has always needed – a SG who is a tried and tested diplomat with versatility and gravitas derived from experience, a flexible and modest temperament and the limitless patience of a consensus builder. We need someone who will be more of a steady moral compass than a flamboyant political weathercock. History has proved that the Charter’s Article 100 requirement for impartiality is more achievable with the citizens of smaller countries with the least amount of accompanied national baggage of territorial and other disputes in their international relations. We need a strong manager who will delegate and yet be finally the person where the buck stops. And yes – even if it is an oxymoron – we need a practical idealist.

The limitations of the job are well known. 192 sovereign states are unlikely to yield more power or latitude to the office of the SG. Nor will the Security Council be pursuaded to act speedily however often and urgently the SG draws their attention to situations threatening international peace and security under Article 99. Resources will remain unpredictable and limited. Smooth relations with the host country and largest contributor to the Budget are a sine qua non. The SG will remain the lightning conductor when things go wrong whether it is because of what the Security Council, General Assembly or some other part of the complex UN system did or did not do.

The choice will be made in a few weeks. Already some transparency in the process is evident as candidates are scrutinized by civil society and the media. And yet doubts remain about the process. Will new candidates enter the race dodging critical appraisal? Will the choice be made on the basis of realpolitik among the P 5? Will bilateral relations and the propensity for building strategic partnerships, enhanced economic investment, aid and trade between the voter country and the voted individual’s state be the criteria? Or will it be confined to the record of achievements and proven abilities of the candidates? Only time will tell.

(Jayantha Dhanapala is Sri Lanka’s candidate for the post of Secretary-General. He is a former Ambassador of Sri Lanka to the USA and a former UN Under-Secretary-General)

via… The Island

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“UNSGslection.org is the website of a campaign organized by a group of Non-governmental organisations calling for a more democratic, transparent and effective selection process that will ensure the appointment of the most qualified candidates as the next Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Among the NGOs are Amnesty International, Third World Network, Equality Now and the World Federalist Movement – Institute of Global Policy. On August 11 a Questionnaire of 14 groups of questions was submitted by them to all four declared candidates. Jayanatha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka was the first to respond followed by India. The responses of the other two candidates are still being awaited.

Here are the questions and answers from Jayantha Dhanapala. (more…)

Jayantha Dhanapala was instrumental in taking the peace process where no Sri Lankan had taken it before. It was a pity his policy initiative was compromised by political expediency. Could his candidature for the post of Secretary-General of the United Nations also be subjected to similar forces, courtesy global politics? In LMD’s latest issue, Dr. Jehan Perera, Executive Director of the National Peace Council of Sri Lanka, highlights Dhanapala’s contribution to peace in Sri Lanka. And the business magazine’s August edition, out now, underscores just why Dhanapala would be the most eligible candidate to hold the UN’s top post.

When the diplomat with over four decades of experience took over the leadership of the government’s Peace Secretariat in May 2004, the peace process was heading for disaster. The LTTE had pulled out of peace talks a year earlier – and it had commenced a vicious strategy of assassinating its Tamil political opponents and members of the government’s intelligence apparatus. It had presented an ambitious document for regional self-rule sans the central government. Compounding this negative scenario, the general election of April 2004 had been largely fought on the issue of the peace process. The victorious United People’s Freedom Alliance (UPFA) campaigned on a platform that was critical of the peace process. The alliance highlighted its deficiencies as being unilaterally beneficial to the LTTE. It also accused the former government of having betrayed the country.

As Perera, a highly respected peace Analyst, observes in LMD: "But two unexpected events turned the situation around. The first was the appointment of Sri Lanka’s leading international diplomat to be the Director-General of the Secretariat for Coordinating the Peace Process (SCOPP). This appointment provided a measure of hope that the government was putting forward the country’s best intellectual resources to serve the cause of peace. Dhanapala’s UN experience, combined with his professionalism and integrity, meant that Sri Lanka had a world-class negotiator taking on the LTTE. However, the hoped-for breakthrough in the peace process was not immediate."

The LMD writer also points out in the magazine’s current edition that the international donor community pushed the Sri Lankan parties to work together towards a negotiated settlement. "It took nearly six months of hard work; but eventually, Dhanapala and his team of negotiators succeeded in reaching an agreement with the LTTE on a joint mechanism for tsunami relief: the Post-Tsunami Operational Management Structure (P-TOMS). This was only the second agreement ever to be signed between the government and the LTTE, the first being the (Ceasefire Agreement) CFA of 2002.The signing of the P-TOMS agreement heralded a possible new phase for the peace process," Perera comments.

"Another major achievement was the marked shift in the attitude of the LTTE, which occurred in the course of the negotiations with Dhanapala and his team of negotiators. A comparison between the P-TOMS and the LTTE’s proposed ISGA proposal showed a vast difference," expounds LMD. [Via… The Island]

Sri Lanka’s widely known International Civil Servant and Senior Presidential Advisor, Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala, is Sri Lanka’s only candidate for the position of UN Secretary General. This truth goes unquestioned in Sri Lanka and among knowledgeable circles abroad and almost the entirety of this country-including the State – could be said to be staunchly backing Dhanapala’s candidacy for the UN’s top job.

We need to reiterate this truth, lest ideas to the contrary be circulated by some misinformed and misguided persons.

If there are pretenders to the candidacy we hope their minds would be disabused of this false notion. Dr. Jayantha Dhanapala is Sri Lanka’s choice for the post of UN Secretary General and there could be no other. This is the stark truth and we hope there would be no quibbling in any quarter about it.

Long before the current race to succeed the incumbent UN Secretary General Kofi Annan got underway, Dhanapala had distinguished himself as a diplomat and International Civil Servant.

His skills as a disarmament expert won for him the position of UN Under Secretary General for Disarmament from 1998 to 2003. Besides, his knowledge of international politics and of the Humanities is both profound and varied.

He served with great distinction as a diplomat in numerous of Lanka’s missions abroad before joining the UN system. As is well known, Dhanapala was UN Secretary General Kofi Annan’s choice in 1997 for dealing with the complex subject of UN reform.

In short, Dhanapala’s credentials are beyond question. He has done Sri Lanka proud and is this country’s unquestioned choice for the post of UN Secretary General, which position would soon fall vacant on Kofi Annan completing his second term as UN Chief.

We wish to remind all concerned that Dhanapala needs our unqualified support and endorsement. Undermining his candidacy would be tantamount to violating the will of the State and of the people. Let us all espouse his cause as one man and not be guilty of engaging in anything approaching treachery and betrayal.

The matter of Dhanapala’s candidacy is something that was considered settled by the State quite some time back. His candidacy has received the blessings of all who matter.

What is left to be done by the Lankan State and the public is to explore every means of promoting Dhanapala’s candidacy. It should be ensured that Dhanapala wins the eminent position he is vying for.

Our front page news story yesterday quoting no less a person than the President’s Secretary should help to defuse all doubts and reservations on this question, if there are any in any quarter. Sri Lanka’s Jayantha Dhanapala must win and we call for a united advocacy of his candidature.

Via… Daily News Editorial

COLOMBO: Former UN Under Secretary General Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala is Sri Lanka’s only candidate to the coveted UN top post, President’s Secretary Lalith Weeratunga asserted yesterday.

Weeratunga said Dhanapala is the only candidate nominated by Sri Lanka for the UN Secretary General’s post which will fall vacant after the current head’s second and final term expires in November.

He said: "There are no other candidates".

It is broadly accepted that an Asian candidate should be elected to head the UN this time, although the big countries have not officially agreed to this principle.

Foreign Secretary S. Palihakkara also confirmed the Presidential Secretary’s statement that there were no moves by the Government to nominate a second candidate.

Palihakkara said: "The Government of Sri Lanka and President Mahinda Rajapaksa has stated very clearly that Dhanapala is the only candidate from Sri Lanka."

The four Asian states which are contesting for the top UN post submitted their nominations as early as June.

South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki Moon, Indian candidate, serving UN Under Secretary General Shashi Tharoor, Thai Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai and Sri Lankan Candidate, Senior Presidential Advisor Jayantha Dhanapala are the only official candidates in the race.

However, some 30 more names including British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President Bill Clinton have been suggested and are speculated to enter the fray, to head the most powerful organisation in the world.

Dhanapala served as the UN Under Secretary General for disarmament from 1998 to 2003.

He was handpicked by Kofi Annan to take over the challenging job after UN reforms in 1997.

Source: The Associated Newspapers of Ceylon Ltd.

By Thalif Deen – Inter Press Service

United Nations, 26 July, (IPS): A "straw poll" conducted in strict secrecy behind closed doors — no stenographers, no Secretariat staff — in the 15-member Security Council has left the race still wide open for a new U.N. secretary-general, who is due to take office next January.

The informal poll Monday did not produce a single clear winner because none of the four candidates was able to muster 15 positive votes: a high water mark in Security Council voting.

Still, the front-runner was South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon (with 12 positive votes, one negative vote and two abstentions), followed by U.N. Under-Secretary-General Shashi Tharoor of India (10:2:3); Thai deputy prime minister Surakiart Sathirathai (7:3:5); and Ambassador Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka (5:6:4).

The 15 Security Council members had to check-mark ballot papers which only read "encourage," "discourage" and "no opinion."

Since none of the ballots was colour-coded — and no distinction made between the five veto-wielding permanent members and the 10 rotating non-permanent members — it was a futile exercise to figure out who voted for whom, and who was danger of being vetoed when the real vote takes place in October.

"These are very early days, the real race may not yet have begun, and the next secretary-general may not yet be in the frame. The dynamics will now change, and let’s see how the situation pans out," a senior U.N. official told IPS Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

"I think the only definite or near-definite comment at this stage is that the two lower placed candidates might wish to consider the relative merits of staying in the race or withdrawing with grace," he added.

"I suspect the Thai candidate (who was endorsed by the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN) was hurt by the political turmoil in his home country and his lack of previous U.N. experience or involvement," he added.

Positioning oneself too early has also been damaging in the past. It would be very surprising if his withdrawal does not lead to speculative testing of the waters by others from ASEAN.

"Dhanapala was hurt, I expect, by the lack of perennial unity in South Asia, and his age (67) seems to have counted against him. The flare-up of civil war in Sri Lanka will not have helped either," said the U.N. official, speaking less than 24 hours after the results were announced late Monday.

Speaking from Bangkok, Asda Jayanama, the former permanent representative of Thailand to the United Nations, told IPS that his deputy prime minister should withdraw from the race, making way for "a more qualified ASEAN candidate."

"It is not too late for ASEAN to come up with a new candidate," Jayanama said, "and it has a reason to do so now because of the poor showing of its candidate in the straw polls."

In U.N. circles, there has been considerable speculation that if the Thai candidate falters or withdraws, ASEAN may nominate the former Prime Minister of Singapore Goh Chok Tong.

But the Singapore government has made it very clear that Goh is not an official candidate so far, and that it stands by ASEAN’s endorsement of Surakiart.

James A. Paul, executive director of the New York-based Global Policy Forum, which monitors the day-to-day activities of the world body, said: "I would say that the South Korean candidate may be opposed by Japan, which does not have a veto, so it is possible that his candidature faces no veto."

However, judging from the comments of Security Council ambassadors, Paul told IPS, there is no sense that any candidate is close to election at this point.

"These early exercises nearly always lead to further candidates declaring themselves and early candidates losing steam. It is very much like a papal election, in that the world has minimal information," he pointed out.

Paul also said that "speculation, while amusing, does not get us very far."

At this point, he noted, it is better to take the broad view of the process and recognize that the search is on for a pliant and relatively weak candidate whom all the permanent five (the United States, Britain, France, China and Russia) can feel comfortable with.

Analysing the chances of the two front runners, the senior U.N. official said that with Tharoor there are many things in his favor, but also some problem areas.

"He knows the United Nations well, and has a varied background within the system, including refugees and peacekeeping. Despite almost three decades as a U.N. official, he has not made enemies: not a small trait."

Tharoor, the official said, is articulate, respectful of power and money yet sensitive to developing country aspirations and sentiments, and is a champion of Asia’s rightful place in the U.N. scheme.

"He is also a genuine believer in the ideals and symbolism of the United Nations and has some intellectual heft. But many regard him as lacking in gravitas, without being able to explain just why," he added.

On the South Korean candidate, he said that Ban has the double attraction of having been a former ambassador and a Foreign Minister of his country.

"But will member states want someone from such a deeply conflicted part of the world? Could he stay above the fray each time the Korean problem comes up for discussion at the United Nations?" he asked.

"It would be nice to believe that members vote on the basis of their assessment of what would be best for the organization. A pessimist can always be pleasantly surprised," the official added.

– Inter Press Service (IPS) News Agency-

UNITED NATIONS: The Security Council on Monday held its first secret straw poll on four Asian candidates vying to succeed Kofi Annan, a Ghanaian, as UN secretary general.

According to a French news agency, all four candidates to succeed Annan, whose second five-year term expires at the end of the year, are Asian as the consensus here is that it is now Asia’s turn to assume the world body’s top job in line with an unwritten rule of regional rotation.

The candidates are South Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-Moon, Sri Lankan diplomat Jayantha Dhanapala, Thailand’s Deputy Prime Minister Surakiart Sathirathai, and India’s Shashi Tharoor, a UN undersecretary in charge of communications.

The council’s 15 members were presented with three choices in the secret ballot: encourage, discourage, and no opinion.

Ambassadors of the four countries which fielded candidates were informed of the outcome but there was no official announcement on the results.

"The reason we decided not to make the results public was so that the individual candidates could draw their own conclusions," US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton told reporters. "We will see if they draw any conclusion one way or the other once they’ve had a chance to consider these results."

Bolton said the ballot was significant in two key respects: One was the fact that it was held so early in the year with the goal of making a final decision at the end of September or early October.

The second was precisely that it may now lead to a decision "either for additional candidates to enter the race or for one or more candidates in the race to drop out based on their own assessment of how the vote went."

France’s UN Ambassador Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the council president for July, stressed that there was no differentiation between the votes of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the council and those of the 10 non-permanent members.

Both Bolton and de La Sabliere said there was no decision on whether or not to hold another straw poll.

Under UN Charter rules, the secretary general is elected by the 192-member General Assembly under recommendation from the Security Council, whose five permanent members — the United States, China, France, Britain and Russia — have veto power.

In practice, the five permanent members have dominated the secretary general succession process. Bolton meanwhile noted that with all the talk of regional rotation, it was "striking there’s so little talk of gender rotation."

"We’ve had one gender (in charge of the UN for 60 years). Maybe people ought to consider that as well," he added.

Source: Global Order

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