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