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Two Top Posts Soon Vacant At The United Nations

Two Top Posts Soon Vacant At The United Nations

Scoop News: Two top positions at the United Nations will be vacant by the end of June this year, opening a new diplomatic war within the Membership to fill them. According to separate reports, both leaders at the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) are leaving this coming summer.

As reported by UN Forum, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guehenno, the Frenchman at the helm of peacekeeping operations at the Secretariat in New York, is rumored to retire from the UN after overseeing for the past seven years one of the largest and more strategic areas of UN activity. Image: United Nations Plaza, New York, by Selwyn Manning.

Guehenno was appointed by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in October 2000, taking over from his compatriot Bernard Miyet. He was re-confirmed to the post by Annan’s successor, South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon, in January 2007.

“The question is whether another Frenchman will replace him or would the post be open for an announced competition like the new one proposed on Peacekeeping reform,” UN Forum reports. “The post had been offered to France by former Secretary-General Kofi Annan in return for lifting the veto in the Security Council on his election.”

A rumored candidate for DPKO, a French stronghold, is French Minister of Foreign Affairs Bernard Kouchner. “Diplomatic corridor talk in Paris circles around Dr. Bernard Kouchner,” UN Forum reports. “The hyperactive co-founder of Medecins Sans Frontiers is likely to leave his post end March, after French Municipal elections.”

Dr. Kouchner served under the U.N. flag in Kosovo as Special Representative of the Secretary-General between 1999 and 2000. In 2005 and 2006, he was a candidate for two key UN posts, High Commissioner for Refugees and Director-General of the World Health Organization.

During Guehenno’s leadership, DPKO has been shaken by inquiries and controversies, from sexual abuse by the Blue Helmets in peacekeeping missions to – very recently – the award of a large no-bid contract to a Lockheed subsidiary.

A second post at the Under-Secretary-General level, will reportedly be vacated at the end of June. According to Reuters, Louise Arbour has notified Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon of her intention not to seek a second term as UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. Her mandate expires on June 30.

"She has been thinking about it for a long time and she has decided against continuing for another term," Reuters reports, citing one source close to the UN, who declined to be identified.

Arbour, a Canadian national, was appointed by Kofi Annan in 2004, one year after the death in Baghdad of the post holder, Sergio Vieira de Mello. Earlier in 1996, she was appointed by the Security Council of the United Nations as Chief Prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for the former Yugoslavia and for Rwanda. After three years as Prosecutor and before heading to Geneva’s OHCHR, she was appointed to the Supreme Court of Canada.

The selection process for such high posts is usually very secretive, even if both Annan and Ban have tried to make it more transparent. Governments will be lobbying hard on the Secretary-General, as both positions have a very high-visibility in terms of politics and public opinion.

It is unclear whether New Zealand will express interest for either post. In the recent past, the country has unsuccessfully tried to run for the top posts at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The country made the short-list only for the latter, with the candidature of former Environment Minister Simon Upton.

At present, no New Zealanders are holding a post at the Under-Secretary-General level. Two are appointed at the Assistant Secretary-General level: Jan Beagle, currently Deputy Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva, and Ross Mountain, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Another New Zealand national, David Shearer, was appointed in 2007 as Deputy Special Representative for Humanitarian, Reconstruction and Development in Iraq, also acting as UN Resident Coordinator, as well as the Humanitarian Coordinator, in Iraq.

In 2006, the United Nations appointed Sir Kenneth Keith as a member of the UN International Court of Justice, the first New Zealander ever to be elected to the Court.

Another Kiwi, Major-General Clive Lilley, was replaced last year as Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine by an Australian, Major General Ian Campbell Gordon.


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