Since Ban Ki-moon was sworn in on Dec. 14, 2006 as UN secretary
general, he has injected new culture, change and connotation into
the organization. Despite a range of expectations, doubts, support
and uncertainty, Ban is gaining credibility for both the UN and
himself with his unique Asian style.
The low-profile veteran diplomat has been trying to head the
Secretariat in a skilled and balanced way. He attaches equal
importance to both procedure and result, avoids confrontation or
contradiction, and prefers diplomacy behind the curtain. Ban adores
pragmatism and likes to compromise whenever possible.
Soon after taking office, Ban told the Security Council that "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 has spared no effort in pursuing a balance of power and
interests among member states. He urged his senior staff to resign
collectively within a time frame before redistributing the
positions. Officials from the United States, China, Britain, France
and Japan became under-secretary-generals in charge of major UN
departments. Africans got the remarkable post of
deputy-secretary-general, and Latin-America occupied the
substantial position as under-secretary-general for management.
In this way, Ban realized a balanced and stabilized internal
environment, gaining him wide support from major powers and
developing countries alike.
Before he became UN chief, Ban said he would set the highest
ethical standards and re-establish the credit of the organization
after the UN oil-for-food corruption scandal.
"We must hold all UN employees to the highest standards of
integrity and ethical behavior," he once said.
On this point, he sought to set an early example, by submitting
a financial disclosure statement to the UN Ethics Office on his
first day in post with a standard external review by Price
waterhouse Coopers. He thus urged all UN senior officials to submit
financial disclosures, in an attempt to halt suspected widespread
corruption in the system.
Meanwhile, Ban also enhanced the role of the UN Office of
Internal Oversight Services (OIOS), by separating it from the
department of management and reporting to the UN chief directly. In
addition, he proposed an independent budget for the OIOS, which
will give the organ full independence to fulfill its
As for the reform aimed at strengthening the capacity of UN
peacekeeping operations, Ban showed both strength and compassion.
His proposals, which included restructuring the Department of
Peacekeeping Operations and the creation of a separate Department
of Field Support, were initially opposed by a large number of
member states. However, after a lot of perseverance and a few
compromises he successfully persuaded the member states to approve
Now Ban is focusing his attention on the political department
and is ready to carry out a series of reforms. These proposals have
sparked a heated debate among the member states. In his report to
the General Assembly on the biennial budget, Ban showed his
intention to improve the capacity of the department by increasing
personnel, deepening functions, and establishing local bureaus in
some hot spots.
He also said he is prepared to reform the Department of Economic
and Social Affairs in 2008, something which has been advocated by
developing countries for years.
Ban usually pushes forward his reforms discreetly, proceeding in
a placid, undetectable or even soft way. However, to the UN
Secretariat, the achievement is inspiring and the changes are
In dealing with international affairs Ban makes full use of his
decades of diplomatic experience, achieving remarkable progress on
On the Darfur issue, he has changed the tone of the
organization, shifting it from blaming the Sudanese government for
human rights violations in Darfur to stressing that the source of
the current conflict in the region is linked to a lack of natural
resources. The move was welcomed by the Sudanese authorities. In
addition, he proposed a three-part strategy featuring a political
process, peacekeeping operation, and the promotion of humanitarian
aid and development in an attempt to solve the issue.
Ban appointed former President of the General Assembly Jan
Eliasson as his special envoy, hosted numerous negotiations between
the Sudanese government, rebels and countries concerned, and sought
support from major powers, including the United States, China and
the European Union, to make a contribution to a final solution. His
efforts led to the agreement on the deployment of the Hybrid
Ban well understands the role major powers play within the UN
system, especially the significant role played by the United
States. To some extent, whether a UN chief can succeed partially
depends on whether he can get cooperation or support from the
Ban has maintained continuous communication with the U.S.
government. In less than a year, he traveled to Washington D.C. as
many as five times.
Ban has also devoted much time and effort to working with
members of the Security Council, exploring the possibility of
bringing the United Nations back to Iraq as requested by the Bush
administration. In August, the council adopted a resolution to
expand the role of the UN mission there, marking a turning point
from the Annan era toward the country's post-war reconstruction
In return, criticism from the U.S. capital was remarkably
reduced, and the U.S. media adopted a more positive stance toward
the organization. This has created a favorable environment for the
UN chief, and a public opinion poll showed that a majority of
Americans viewed the UN positively.
Another issue that has boosted Ban's credibility is climate
change, which he views as a severe challenge for human beings. Some
have said Ban is "a man on a climate-changing mission." Ban has
frequently said his first priority is persuading the world to reach
an agreement on this urgent issue. At the same time, he emphasized
that "the United Nations is the natural forum for building
consensus and negotiating future global action," intending to
ensure a leading role for the organization in the battle against
With his diligent efforts, a high-level meeting was convened on
the sidelines of the general debate of the General Assembly in
September, forging a coalition to accelerate a global response to
climate change and build international momentum for the major
summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Meanwhile, Ban highly recognizes the significance of the Bali
conference, stressing that it must be a starting point for
negotiations to replace commitments agreed to under the Kyoto
Protocol which is due to expire in 2012. He also called for a
roadmap in Bali for a better future coupled with a time-line to
produce a deal by 2009.
Ban has embraced other issues such as the Middle East, Iran, the
Korean Peninsula, and Myanmar with a passion. He issued calls,
convened conferences, sought assistance, dispatched special envoys,
and utilized other means to promote diplomatic solutions.
However, he seldom attempted to interfere with the Security
Council or other institutions which are dealing with those issues.
As he himself said, he is to play the role of a harmonizer and
bridge-builder instead of a leader.
(Xinhua News Agency December 19, 2007)