U.N. Readies to Name New Secretary-General
DEBORAH AMOS, host:
Another top diplomat, South Korea's foreign minister, now looks at to take over the helm at the United Nations. He's the only candidate for secretary-general to escape a veto in a crucial but informal Security Council ballot yesterday.
NPR's Louisa Lim reports on the man who's likely to replace Kofi Annan.
LOUISA LIM: Ban Ki Moon is a 62-year-old career diplomat known as a skillful negotiator, whose hardworking and has experience at the U.N. In an address to the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this year, Ban laid out his vision for the post.
Mr. BAN KI MOON (Foreign Minister, South Korea; Secretary-General Candidate, United Nations) Secretary-General should really be a harmonizer, try to demonstrate leadership by example. That's what I have been doing in the past. And I think I can coordinate and reconcile all these divisive opinions among the member states.
LIM: He's been South Korea's foreign minister for two years, a fact which some say has led to a conflict of interest in this race. Media reports charged that South Korea strengthened his position by strategically increasing its foreign aid budget to Tanzania, which is on the Security Council, and even giving a grand piano to Peru. South Korea denied these claims.
Ban Ki Moon's predecessor as foreign minister, Yoon Young-kwan, has known Ban for decades since they were university students. He says Ban is a man with standards.
Mr. YOON YOUNG-KWAN (Former Foreign Minister, South Korea): He has been always a person of integrity, humility and most of all a strong motivation. He's a tender person who manages his personal relationships quite well. But at the same time he's a person who sticks to his goals. I mean he's tough on the inside.
LIM: That staunch defense addresses another main criticism: that Ban is soft on the outside or too weak a character to head the United Nations.
According to James Paul from the Global Policy Forum, a non-governmental organization that monitors decision-making at the United Nations, the opaque selection process tends to favor low-key candidates.
Mr. JAMES PAUL (Executive Director, Global Policy Forum): It tends to favor a very quiet candidate that's considered to be pliant to the wishes of the permanent members. Basically, they don't want a strong secretary-general, and Mr. Ban is more or less in that mode, I would say.
LIM: Speaking to journalists, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., John Bolton, said he was very pleased and had a lot of respect for Ban. But his comments hardly sounded like a ringing endorsement.
Ambassador JOHN BOLTON (U.S. Ambassador to United Nations): I wish there had been more candidates, but it is what it is. We can't make candidates. We can only make available the circumstances for them to declare themselves.
LIM: Job number one, according to Ban, will be reforming the U.N.'s management and financial practices. He's also pledged to play a more active role in urging North Korea to scrap its nuclear weapon programs, as well as seeking to end conflicts in the Middle East and Sudan. In his first comments, Ban told Yonhap News Agency he was delighted yet felt a heavy sense of responsibility.
The Security Council will hold a formal vote next Monday.
Louisa Lim, NPR News, Shanghai.