Kofi Annan, the UN Secretary General, will be stepping down at the end of this year. Speculation has begun as to who will be filling his eloquent, but ultimately somewhat ineffectual shoes.
Most commentators predict an Asian successor. It has been 34 years since an Asian sat at the helm of the UN, the Burma’s U Thant. Now, as more Western headlines concern the meteoric rise of India and China, Asia’s stature is growing apace. Russia and China, two of the veto-holding permanent members have announced that they will support an Asian candidate.
Kofi Annan himself has stated he would be in favour of a female successor, but he has little sway in the matter. The UN has never been headed up by a woman before, despite being in existence for some 60 years.
So far all the candidates in the running are Asian – and are men.
Thailand’s deputy prime minister, Surakiart Sathirathai; a Sri Lankan diplomat, Jayantha Dhanapala; and South Korea’s foreign minister Ban Ki Moon have been in the race for some time. The most recent entrant is India’s horse, Shashi Tharoor, whose name was announced last week.
His chances seem slim, primarily because the position of UN SG has usually been reserved for citizens of smaller nations. With India’s immense size and now considerable clout, an Indian SG would be a break from tradition. Pakistan and some other nations have raised concerns about his nomination and Tharoor’s own experience may not help him. For three decades he has been intimately involved with UN operations and the selectors of Annan’s successor may want to choose a fresh face to get away from the undesirable UN image that has grown in recent years.
Tharoor has won the lion’s share of press coverage and is “held in the greatest regard” in the US. He is currently the UN under-secretary general for communications and public information and has the sort of CV that makes you sick – with a doctorate and two masters at the age of 22 and nine books to his name. India’s press has, for the most part, been bursting with joy at Tharoor’s nomination and international status, but not everyone is happy (sorry link seems dead: P R Kumaraswamy, a New Delhi prof, argues Tharoor should down-play his Indianess)
More news of the race comes courtesy of Chapter 15, a blog dedicated to the race for the next UN SG. Singapore’s PM Goh Chok Tong is thinking about it, Nafis Sadik’s name has been mentioned – who could be successful as a Muslim woman, effectively ticking two boxes. Whatever pans out over the next few months, it seems very likely that Asia will be providing the United Nations with its next leader.
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Filed in: Current affairs,Organisations,The World