UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's first 100 days as UN chief,
by his own admission, have not been a honeymoon: He's done lots of
globetrotting, made some missteps, and had a few successes.
Ban mishandled UN reaction to Saddam Hussein's execution but has
been successful in putting the international spotlight on the
Darfur issue and keeping up the pressure for speedy action.
Just over three months after he took the reins of the United
Nations from Kofi Annan, however, Ban is clearly still trying to
master the job of being a top world diplomat while running a giant
international bureaucracy where 192 countries often have competing
"As a grade for the first hundred days, I'd give him an A Plus
for effort, and an incomplete for substance," former US Ambassador
John Bolton said in an interview ahead of Ban's 100th day in the UN
Calling himself "a harmonizer and bridge-builder", the former
South Korean foreign minister came to the United Nations promising
to push for peace in Darfur and the Middle East, and restore the
UN's tarnished reputation, which has been battered by the
oil-for-food scandal in Iraq, corruption in the UN's purchasing
operations, and sexual abuse by UN peacekeepers.
Edward Luck, director of Columbia University's Center on
International Organization, said the best secretaries-general
"combine advocacy for the UN's core values with a very realistic
and pragmatic sense of what can be accomplished at any point in
"He will have to define his tenure more boldly in the future,
but personally, I don't think that's something for the first
hundred days," Luck said in an interview. He said Ban has been more
outspoken on some issues than many people think.
The secretary-general told Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir that
he had to live up to his promise to accept a hybrid African
Union-UN force for Darfur, Luck said. He told US President George
W. Bush that he wants to focus on climate change, and he told the
Iranians that their rejection of the Holocaust is unacceptable.
But Ban ran into trouble on his first day of work, January 2,
over Saddam's execution when he twice failed to state the UN's
opposition to the death penalty and stressed instead that whether
to use capital punishment should be a decision made by every
country. The following day, his spokeswoman said he believes UN
member states should move toward the abolition of capital
punishment and the following week Ban said: "I encourage that
After two months of preparation, more than any of his
predecessors, many at the UN were surprised that he waited until
the last minute to make his initial appointments. He dismissed as
groundless reports that he promised top jobs to key countries, but
he kept the tradition of his predecessors in giving the most
important posts to veto-wielding Security Council nations whose
votes were crucial to his election.
He asked for the resignations of all UN staff at the rank of
assistant secretary-general and above, and at least one found out
while listening to the daily UN press briefing that his had been
accepted. Others are still waiting to hear whether they still have
jobs, while the appointment of the person widely regarded as Ban's
closest confidante, Kim Won-soo, as deputy cabinet chief and
assistant secretary-general has never been publicly announced.
Ban said he wanted to repair relations between the UN's rich and
poor member states who fought bitterly over parts of Annan's reform
program, and to build a staff that is mobile, dynamic, accountable
and better able to meet the challenges of the 21st century. But his
attempt to get speedy General Assembly approval to split the
overburdened Peacekeeping Department and revamp the Department for
Disarmament Affairs ran into strong opposition, and it took over
two months for the 192 members to approve his revised proposal.
While the assembly wrestled with reform, the secretary-general
headed off in late January on a four-nation African visit including
the African Union summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. There, he tried
unsuccessfully to get Sudan's al-Bashir to allow the deployment of
an AU-UN force in Darfur. In March, he made an unannounced visit to
Iraq en route to the Arab League summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
where he again put the pressure on the Sudanese leader.
"He's certainly proven to be a very energetic
secretary-general," Luck said "Maybe his new label would be the
ubiquitous Mr Ban. He seems to be everywhere there needs to be a
hole plugged in the dike."
"He's testing the waters in a lot of places, seeing what's
possible, getting a feel for the current political dynamics and
reminding people that in many cases there may be a UN option that
they haven't considered," Luck said.
(China Daily via agencies April 11, 2007)