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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    “Secretary general should be both diplomat, administrator”

    One of the most important elections in the world is occurring right now in the halls of the United Nations, the outcome of which has potential to affect every one of us. The election season for the eighth secretary general is in full swing, and it provides an excellent opportunity for a comprehensive rethink of the position’s role in the world system.ÿ

    The United Nations as a multilateral institution is very much a necessity in today’s world, where the biggest problems require cooperative action by all countries. Whether U.N. peacekeepers are overseeing elections in the Congo, U.N. bureaucrats are administering the distribution of food aid in Niger, or U.N. diplomats are pushing for comprehensive AIDS programs in Southeast Asia, the United Nations carries out a variety of important, often unheralded tasks.

    Kofi Annan, the outgoing secretary general, has re-engineered his position’s purview, making the secretary general’s role that of a global diplomat rather than the member-states’ lackey, telling the world about things that may be discomforting but need to be heard, like genocide in Darfur, famine throughout North Korea and the threat of global warming.ÿ

    The Bush administration is now pushing for the next secretary general to be the “”chief administrative officer”” of the United Nations, not a global diplomat in line with the legacy of Kofi Annan. This opportunistic move is a mistake and a threat to the United Nations’ legitimacy at a time when the organization is more important than ever.ÿ

    On Monday, the Security Council, in an informal poll, looked set to recommend South Korean foreign minister Ban Ki-Moon to the General Assembly as the next secretary general. Ban has benefited during the election by apparently not offending anyone; he has avoided staking out definite positions on many of the most pressing issues.ÿ

    For a successful tenure, it is critical that the secretary general be an adept manager of U.N. relations with the United States. But this doesn’t mean being the United States’ puppy. Some of Kofi Annan’s finer moments came when he was pushing the issues that no one wanted to hear, especially the United States. In 2003, Annan was a lone voice in the woods talking about the genocide in Darfur; within a year, the United States had jumped on his bandwagon, pushing for a comprehensive settlement to the conflict there.ÿ

    Now that Ban’s candidacy for the office of the secretary general appears to be guaranteed, one should hope that he will deliver a policy speech clearly outlining his vision for the United Nations. U.N. reform is critical, but so is Third World development, nuclear nonproliferation, human rights, humanitarian aid for refugees and the realization of peace and security.ÿ

    Though we personally can’t vote in this election, its outcome is of great importance for everyone. Ask any of the UA students fasting today in support of increased international action in Darfur. Ask any UA student who volunteers through the Bureau of Applied Research in Anthropology with refugees resettled in Tucson. Ask anyone concerned by North Korea or Iran’s nuclear programs. We live in a changing world. The best secretary general will help it change for the better.

    Let’s hope Ban steps up as a global diplomat – a heroic voice for the mute – and not the administrator-in-chief the United States wants him to be.


    Opinions are determined by the Wildcat opinions board and written by one of its members. They are Nina Conrad, Lori Foley, Ryan Johnson, Ari Lerner, Nicole Santa Cruz and Matt Stone.

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