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Dominant Nations Press For Top UN Positions

Dominant Nations Press For Top UN Positions

By Andreas von Warburg

***Should NZ Move To Secure Top UN Jobs? Click here to send us your views***

The Puzzle Of The Under-Secretaries-General - UNITED NATIONS - Ban Ki-moon has a tough job ahead. While keeping in close contact with Washington, the Secretary-General-designate of the United Nations is traveling to France and Britain to face pressures on the composition of the new UN “cabinet” of Under-Secretaries-General.

The five permanent members of the Security Council – namely China, France, Russia, the United States, and the United Kingdom – are in fact trying to improve their presence in the Secretariat putting their people at the helm of key Departments. Three in particular are the focus of Ban Ki-moon’s cabinet negotiations: Political Affairs, now headed by Nigeria’s Ibrahim Gambari, Peacekeeping Operations, a French stronghold after the appointment of Jean-Marie Guéhenno in 2000, and Management, controlled by the Americans.

Now, it is customary that all Under-Secretaries-General, excluding those heading agencies and programmes whose executive boards had a role in their appointment, offer their resignation when a new Secretary-General takes office. Most often, also the Assistant Secretaries-General are excepted to present their resignation. When Kofi Annan took office in 1997, all 23 senior officials resigned and only a few were reappointed.

The process of the appointment of new Under-Secretaries-General is very delicate, and usually not at all transparent: the Secretary-General meets with the five permanent members of the Security Council) and with representatives of the regional groups to draw names.

This time however, the pressures from the P5 seems greater, with the United States lobbying for the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, while the United Kingdom wants to regain control over the Department of Political Affairs. A senior diplomat at the UN, speaking on condition of anonymity, also suggested that the outgoing Secretary-General might be interested in some sort of good-will post after he leaves the Organization at the end of the year.

But other key positions are at stake: it is customary for instance that the top job at the Department of Management goes to an American – Christopher Burnham already resigned last week to take a job in the private sector – while London is not keen to renounce to the post of Deputy Secretary-General, now occupied by Britain’s Mark Mallock Brown; in addition, Moscow is lobbying to keep the European operations, now chaired by Sergei Ordzhonikidze, Director-General of the United Nations Office at Geneva. And pressures are also coming from the six countries most actively involved in pursuing a permanent, or semi-permanent, seat of the Security Council – Brazil, Germany, Italy, India, Japan, Pakistan –, eager to improve their presence at the top levels of the Secretariat: for instance, Japan already has control over the Department of Disarmament Affairs, India heads the Department of Public Information, and Italy is at the helm of the United Nations Office at Vienna and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, also based in Vienna.

The formation of the new cabinet is indeed a very first test for Ban Ki-moon and his supporters. The new Secretary-General has to prove the public and the international community that he is impartial and independent, especially from the United States, which pays about a fourth of the UN budget and already controls most key posts in the United Nations system: apart from the Department of Management, the US heads UNICEF, the World Bank, and the World Food Programme.

New Zealand Should Push Harder For Senior Posts At The United Nations

ALSO, By Andreas von Warburg

UNITED NATIONS - The election of a new Secretary-General and the speculations regarding senior posts at the United Nations have forced many governments at the negotiation table to ensure a better presence in the UN system. New Zealand has tried several times in the past to place fellow countrymen in top posts at the United Nations, but with little success so far.

Now that South Korea’s Ban Ki-moon has been named to succeed Kofi Annan at the helm of the Organization starting 1 January 2007, New Zealand’s Government has the opportunity to play an even bigger role at the UN and intensify its economic and diplomatic ties with Seoul. The country is already one of the most active in the fields of human rights, development, and environment, but it can do better.

New Zealand only counts 15 nationals at the UN Secretariat, according to a 2006 Report of the Secretary-General. It is a very small number even though the country is technically over-represented and thus excluded for the Competitive Recruitment Examination programme. According to UN rules, in fact, staff members of the Organization are subjected to geographical distribution, based on budget contributions and other parameters. Each country is periodically given a range ceiling – for New Zealand the ceiling is 14 units – but it’s often disregarded since not all appointments are based on a geographical distribution basis. For instance, Australia counts 47 staff members, 11 over its ceiling, Russia 104 (73 over its ceiling), and the Philippines 49 (35 over).

Considering all appointments made by Kofi Annan, New Zealand is not represented at the Under-Secretary-General level. The country counts only one Assistant Secretary-General, Jan Beagle in charge of Human Resources Management, and two other senior-level officials, Major-General Clive Lilley, Chief of Staff of the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization in Palestine, and Ross Mountain, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

In the recent past, New Zealand 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.


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