U.N. chief Ban: Steady hand, sound judg­ment

The Washington Times Daily - - DECADE OF LEADERSHIP: UNITED NATIONS SECRETARY - G - By Dr. Alexan­dre Y. Man­sourov

Abig pic­ture can be clearly seen from a dis­tance. Only his­to­ri­ans are likely to prop­erly judge the truly re­mark­able achieve­ments of the most in­vis­i­ble sec­re­tary-gen­eral in the his­tory of the United Na­tions — Ban Ki-moon. His short-sighted crit­ics like to con­trast him with “charm­ing” Kofi An­nan and “dash­ing” Dag Ham­marskjold, paint­ing Ban as be­ing “pas­sive,” “pow­er­less,” “feck­less,” and “col­or­less.” But, they tend to lose the sight of the for­est be­hind the trees.

When Ban in­her­ited one of the tough­est jobs on the planet 10 years ago, the world’s or­ga­ni­za­tion was mired in the cor­rup­tion and mis­man­age­ment scan­dals, fac­ing mount­ing bud­get deficits and the great pow­ers in­creas­ingly tired of com­bat­ing “dan­ger­ously charis­matic” and un­re­spon­sive An­nan.

It was Ban whom the world lead­ers of the time called for the res­cue. And, an unas­sum­ing South Korean diplo­mat rose to the oc­ca­sion and proved him­self as an as­tute states­man, great leader of a global or­ga­ni­za­tion, and a vi­sion­ary ad­vo­cate of uni­ver­sal val­ues and the public good for the ben­e­fit of all hu­man­ity.

Hum­ble, in­dus­tri­ous and ami­able Ban, who is not a talker but a doer, proved to be a very ef­fec­tive cen­tral ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, who turned the United Na­tions around by push­ing in­ter­nal re­forms that bal­anced the bud­get, rooted out cor­rup­tion and in­tro­duced new codes of con­duct for U.N. em­ploy­ees.

Un­der his fair and bal­anced lead­er­ship, the United Na­tions un­equiv­o­cally de­nounced North Korean WMD provo­ca­tions and mil­i­tary threats and im­posed tough sanc­tions on Py­ongyang for re­peated vi­o­la­tions of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil res­o­lu­tions. He con­demned hu­man rights atroc­i­ties in Syria and or­ga­nized ef­fec­tive re­lief for hun­dreds of thou­sands of refugees in the Mid­dle East and Africa. Un­der his watch, the U.N. suc­cess­fully car­ried out nu­mer­ous peace-keep­ing op­er­a­tions around the world.

His ma­jor for­ward-look­ing achieve­ment was the suc­cess­ful con­clu­sion of the land­mark cli­mate change agree­ment at the Paris cli­mate con­fer­ence (COP21) in De­cem­ber 2015, a sig­na­ture project of his en­tire ten­ure that will ben­e­fit the en­tire mankind for gen­er­a­tions to come.

Some of his im­pa­tient crit­ics in­sist that the U.N. should have re­acted faster to global crises and done more to solve the world’s prob­lems. But Ban had to work within the con­fines of the in­ter­na­tional law, re­spect the opin­ions of the veto-wield­ing pow­ers of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil, and op­er­ate un­der the se­vere con­straints im­posed on him by a large multi­na­tional bu­reau­cracy ac­cus­tomed to mov­ing at a glacial pace and mostly by in­er­tia. While push­ing the prover­bial en­ve­lope as far as he could, he un­der­stood that in­ter­na­tional diplo­macy was the art of the pos­si­ble.

Ban Ki-moon’s great­est achieve­ment — the con­tin­ued ef­fec­tive­ness of the United Na­tions as a uni­ver­sal plat­form for public ex­pres­sion of di­verse, al­beit of­ten op­po­site opin­ions, and a global mech­a­nism for peace­ful con­flict res­o­lu­tion among na­tion-states — can prob­a­bly be ap­pre­ci­ated from the fu­ture van­tage point.

We live at the time when re­newed and es­ca­lat­ing East-West con­flict un­der­mines one af­ter an­other ex­ist­ing in­ter­na­tional in­sti­tu­tions, from G-8 to PACE. His­to­ri­ans re­mind us that the League of Na­tions col­lapsed when some great pow­ers were iso­lated or de­cided to walk away from it, and its dis­ap­pear­ance even­tu­ally led to the out­break of the Sec­ond World War in the 1930s.

Ban Ki-moon de­serves a lot of credit as the man whose “in­vis­i­ble” hand mas­ter­fully steered the United Na­tions be­tween Scylla and Charyb­dis and saved it from tak­ing sides, fall­ing vic­tim to great pow­ers ri­val­ries dur­ing the emerg­ing sec­ond Cold War, and end­ing up in the dust­bin of his­tory just as its ill-fa­mous pre­de­ces­sor.

Hum­ble, in­dus­tri­ous and ami­able Ban, who is not a talker but a doer, proved to be a very ef­fec­tive cen­tral ad­min­is­tra­tive of­fi­cer, who turned the United Na­tions around by push­ing in­ter­nal re­forms that bal­anced the bud­get, rooted out cor­rup­tion and in­tro­duced new codes of con­duct for U.N. em­ploy­ees.

Alexan­dre Y. Man­sourov, Ph.D., is a for­mer diplo­mat and se­cu­rity prac­ti­tioner. He is cur­rently pro­fes­sor of se­cu­rity stud­ies at Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity’s School of For­eign Ser­vice and pro­fes­sor of Asian stud­ies at the School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies at Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity in Washington, D.C.

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