IG’s Peace Blog

Peace and its many aspects

The SG speaks out about…the SG!

I ran across this BBC article yesterday. It’s a pretty good read, and I thought it was quite fair.

“Halfway through his first term in office, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is receiving mixed reviews, but how does he think he’s doing in the job?

The former South Korean foreign minister succeeded Kofi Annan in January 2007 for five years.

Courteous and thoughtful, Ban Ki-moon describes himself as a harmoniser and a consensus builder.

For the past two-and-a-half years he has been trying to help resolve the world’s many conflicts against a geo-political backdrop where harmony and consensus are sorely lacking.”

It seems some (ie some journalists) find him too low key and have even gone so far as to call him the “Invisible Man”.   All in all, I think the article does a pretty good job of refuting this idea, and in putting the SG’s first half term in perspective.  However, as usual, there are bigger issues involved here.  First, despite being the visible “head” of the world organization the SG’s real powers (he does have a few) are rather limited (go read the U.N. Charter if you don’t believe me–it’s not long 🙂 ).  To be blunt, the real power in the organization is in the Security Council, and actually in its five permanent members (Charter again…hint, hint–it really isn’t very long 🙂 ) .

But beyond that, as the article indicates to some extent, effective diplomacy is often “quiet diplomacy”.  Why is this?  Because if you want governments to consider new (and hopefully more peace-oriented) policies, you don’t necessarily want to do this in the glare of the media all the time.  A government would most often reject the idea that their former policies were wrong if asked by reporters, and efforts to get them to move in a new direction would be stymied.  So,  good diplomacy is not often done in a fish bowel.  Many of the great achievements in diplomacy have been prepared by sometimes lengthy periods of secret talks.

So, while I am not taking a position on Mr. Moon, I think there is much to be said for his style, which indicates one viable way to operate between the Scylla and Charybdis of world public opinion on one side and the vested interests of the SC permanent members on the other.

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July 21, 2009 - Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , ,

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