All Eyes On Annan’s Successor And His Picks For UN Top Management
By Andreas von Warburg
UNITED NATIONS - Two weeks into the transition period, all eyes at the United Nations are on Secretary-General-Designate
Ban Ki-moon (pictured left) and his picks for the top management. South Korea’s former Foreign Minister will be swearing in in front of the General
Assembly on 14 December before taking over from Kofi Annan in January. And his transition agenda is getting tighter and
tighter: he has to familiarize with the Secretariat, as well as staff procedures; interview candidates for senior posts;
and meet with ambassadors and representatives of regional groups.
“My mission, my plan at this time is to take charge of the transition until the end of December,” Ban Ki-moon told
reporters after his first transition meeting with the President of the General Assembly, Sheikha Haya Rashed Al Khalifa.
The Secretary-General-designate said he had “a very good discussion” on issues related to the reform process and the
role of the Organization around the world.
Ban Ki-moon, who last week had a short private meeting with outgoing Secretary-General Annan, laid out his diplomatic
agenda in October, the day he was confirmed by the General Assembly: rebuild trust among all the membership; stay the
course with ongoing reform of the Secretariat management; enhance coherence and coordination; face the challenges for
peace, development and human rights. “The Iranian nuclear issue, the security and humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the
Middle East and conflicts in Africa also call for concerted responses,” he said back in October. “Attaining the
Millennium Development Goals by 2015, in particular for the least developed countries, and mainstreaming human rights in
all of the United Nations work are also imperative.”
But one of the most daunting challenges that the soon-to-be Secretary-General is facing at the moment is the appointment
of the senior staff, under-secretaries-general and deputy secretary-general in particular. The five permanent members of
the Security Council – namely China, France, Russian Federation, United Kingdom, and United States – have all expressed
their interest in key positions, such as Political Department and Management. And the list of pretenders grows by the
“Until the end of this year, and until the end of January, I have to first of all think about major appointments for
major posts, and also think about the plans for my agenda,” he said a few weeks ago. “And I'm going to meet some people
whom I have in mind or who have been recommended by certain people for certain posts.”
There are already speculations about the person who will replace Annan’s right hand, UN Deputy Secretary-General Mark
Mallock Brown. Although the United Kingdom seems to be pushing for another Brit as UN second in command – in particular
if they won’t be able to get back the Political Department –, Ban Ki-moon’s advisers are not revealing any candidate.
The post of Deputy Secretary-General was created almost 10 years ago with a specific set of responsibilities, spanning
from assisting the Secretary-General in leading and managing the operations of the Secretariat, to ensuring
intersectoral and inter-institutional coherence of activities and programmes that cross functional sectors. The post was
entrusted to Canada’s Louise Frechette, who remained in office until earlier this year. Annan was at the beginning of
his term and the appointment of a woman as first Deputy Secretary-General was seen as a strong willingness to re-balance
the Secretariat and improve the status of women in the UN-wide system. The post, however, was given to Mark Malloch
Brown after Frechette’s resignation, a move that provoked extremely negative reactions within Un circles.
The appointment of his Deputy would be one of the most important top management decisions for Ban Ki-moon. In a recent
interview with London newspaper The Times, the new UN chief said he was leaning towards appointing a woman as his right
hand but didn’t mention any possible candidates.
Uncertain is also the future of outgoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Earlier this month, Annan ruled out any tilt at
the Presidency of Ghana, where he is originally from. “There is a very long holiday in my future for my wife and myself,
I think we deserve it,” he said during his trip to Nairobi this past week. “So I'll take a long break and then try and
organize a life that will give me a balance between reflection and action, and I don't think being President of Ghana
will give me that kind of life.” Annan also said that he will focus his efforts on Africa’s future – once he leaves the
Organization – working on issues such as development, poverty, and health.
Annan has repeatedly said that he and his wife Nane, a Swedish lawyer and artist, will move to Ghana… But not for long,
according to some. A senior diplomat at the UN, speaking on condition of anonymity, has suggested that the outgoing
Secretary-General might be interested in some sort of good-will post, maybe related to Africa.
While at the moment there seems to be no plans for Annan to address the staff in New York before he leaves – in March he
was booed by many during an encounter with staff members at Headquarters, confirming the unhappiness of employees
regarding the UN reform agenda and Annan’s performance in his last few years on tenure – the President of the UN Staff
Union, Stephen Kisambira, is reportedly having difficulties meeting with the upcoming Secretary-General. According to a
recent report by the Washington Times, Kisambira “had telephoned the transition office twice a day for the previous two
weeks, seeking to meet with Mr. Ban's advisers or the new chief, and was told repeatedly that the office had not decided
whether to see him.”
The UN Staff Union represents a total of more than 20,000 people working at Headquarters and on the field.