U.N. job seek­ers get chance to im­press as Ban pre­pares to meet with of­fi­cials

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Betsy Pisik

NEWYORK—The­jock­ey­ing­for topjob­si­nanewU.N.ad­min­is­tra­tion has­be­gunin­earnest­witht­hear­rival in New York of in­com­ing Sec­re­taryGen­er­alBanKi-moon,whow­ill­take over the or­ga­ni­za­tion in five weeks.

Se­nior man­age­ment in some de­part­ments will be re­placed for the first time in a decade or more, forc­ing long­time staffers out of their sinecure­sand­giv­ingMr.Bananop­por­tu­ni­ty­tore­makethe­o­r­ga­ni­za­tion to his lik­ing.

Mr. Ban, who stepped down two weeks ago as South Korean for­eign min­is­ter, ar­rived at the United Na­tion­sonNov.16to­takeparti­na­tran­si­tion­thathas­been­gath­er­ing­steam since his unan­i­mous se­lec­tion in mid-Oc­to­ber.

Hei­s­ex­pect­ed­toan­nounce­hisse­niorstaffap­point­ments—in­clud­ing achiefof­staffand­deputy­sec­re­tary- gen­eral — shortly af­ter he is sworn in as the eighth U.N. sec­re­tary-gen­er­alonDec.14.He­takesfullcharge of the or­ga­ni­za­tion on Jan. 1.

Mr. Ban has be­gun a round of meet­ings with at least three dozen un­der­sec­re­taries-gen­eral and as­sis­tant sec­re­taries-gen­eral, as well as with key am­bas­sadors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives of non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions and trusted ad­vis­ers.

The Ban team is us­ing the meet­ings mainly to gather in­for­ma­tion, but for many U.N. of­fi­cials, the ap­point­ments serve as half-hour op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­press the new boss and keep their jobs or trade up.

“He has a bat­tery of ap­point­ments,” said one per­son in­volved with the tran­si­tion. “He wants to find­outwhatishap­peningin[each] area and have a bit of look-see at th­ese peo­ple: Can they walk and talka­nd­shoot­straight?The­re­alem­pha­sis is on suck­ing in as much info as pos­si­ble.”

Of course, the source added, “There­areim­por­tant­per­son­nelde­ci­sions loom­ing.”

De­part­ing Sec­re­tary-Gen­eral Kofi An­nan has re­fused to ap­prove long-term con­tracts for most se­nior man­age­ment,leav­ingMr.Banafree hand to se­lect his own heads of ma­jor de­part­ments. Most con­tracts will ex­pire at the end of De­cem­ber or the end of Fe­bru­ary, ac­cord­ing to cur­rent of­fi­cials.

In the mean­time, the 39-story glass-walled U.N. head­quar­ters has been re­ver­ber­at­ing with gos­sip, whis­per­ing­cam­paigns,ru­mor­sand out­right dis­in­for­ma­tion.

WillMr.Ban­fa­vorAsian­sor­bend against them in or­der to seem im­par­tial? Will he keep some top man­agers or re­place as many as three dozen of­fi­cials over the next few months? Is it true that he will con­sider only women for the most prom­i­nent posts? Have ma­jor na- tions al­ready locked down the de­part­ments they want to run? How much in­flu­ence will Wash­ing­ton have?

“Those­whotalk­don’tknow,”said one knowl­edge­able ad­viser, plead­ing ig­no­rance. “I don’t think any de­ci­sions have been made yet.”

Mr. Ban’s ad­vis­ers, most of them plucked­fromSouthKorea’sFor­eign Min­istry, have been ab­sorb­ing in­for­ma­tion from var­i­ous sources in­sid­e­and­out­side­theUnit­edNa­tions. Peo­ple­whoob­served­himt­woweeks ago said he was pro­ceed­ing me­thod­i­cally, tak­ing in in­for­ma­tion and “truth-test­ing” what he hears.

The Korean diplo­mat in­her­its an or­ga­ni­za­tion that has been al­lowed to grow hap­haz­ardly as its mem­ber­ship and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties have ex­panded. Staff morale has sunk over re­cent years in the face of the Iraq oil-for-food in­ves­ti­ga­tion, sex scan­dals in peace­keep­ing, wide­spread per­cep­tions of bad man­age- ment, lax over­sight and se­lec­tive ac­count­abil­ity.

The United Na­tions now costs some$2bil­lion­toruneachyear,and the­sep­a­rate­peace­keep­ing­bud­getis ex­pect­ed­ton­ear­ly­dou­bleto$10bil­lion a year by 2008.

Man­yare­hop­ingth­atMr.Ban,62, will­work­withal­most­sur­gi­cal­clean­li­nes­sand­pre­ci­sion­toslice­awaythe non­per­form­ers and the un­der­qual­i­fied. Oth­ers are fear­ing dras­tic change.

Prepa­ra­tions­forMr.Ban’sar­rival have been un­der way through­out the U.N. sys­tem.

His tran­si­tion team is tem­po­rar­ily based in a glass-walled of­fice tow­er­across­thestreet­fromtheSec­re­tariat, a mod­ern of­fice space with work cu­bi­cles and con­stantly ring­ing phones.

Mr.Bani­s­ex­pect­ed­tospend­most of the next five weeks in New York, ex­cept for brief trips back to Seoul and at least one visit toWash­ing­ton.

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