Ban Ki-Moon Likely to Seek 2nd Term As UN Chief

Former Korean Foreign Minister Ban Ki-moon appears to be favoring a second term as UN General Secretary. More importantly, the five permanent members of the UN Security Council have shown little inclination to block a second term which ends December 31, 2011.

“My basic position is that if member states think my services are useful and necessary then I am willing to make myself available,” said Ban Wednesday when asked about his intentions. Normally candidates for the post declare their intentions by the end of May for a selection process that can stretch into September when world leaders meet at the UN General Assembly in New York. Ban was elected for a first term in October 2006. Ban’s predecessor Kofi Annan was confirmed for a second term in June of 2001, the last year of his first five-year term.

Ban said that for the moment he is focused on the UN response to the conflict in Libya and uprisings in Syria and other Arab nations.

“This year the world has experienced multiple crises” in the Arab world and North Africa and with the Japan tsunami disaster. I have not been able to find time to think about [re-election]. I am too busy doing my job as secretary general to think about all these issues. When the appropriate time comes I will be able to express my views about my future,” he said.

Ban is currently visiting key U.N. member states in the low-key campaigning that normally takes place around this point of a UN chief’s first term. The Secretary General is nominated by concensus of the 15-nation Security Council and is confirmed by the 192-nations that make up the General Assembly. In practice, each of the five permanent security council members — Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — have the power to veto a nomination and have exercised it in the past. None of the so-called P5 have expressed serious objections to a Ban second term. There is a two-term limit.

A General Secretary devotes most of his time mediating and negotiating behind closed doors under the pressure of constant lobbying by diplomats from the powerful P5. He gets little credit for his successes and much blame all around from the nations who don’t like the outcomes. Human rights groups routinely snipe at UN chiefs for not calling out nations like China and Russia and even the U.S. for human rights abuses.

Ban was reviled for not congratulating jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo for winning the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize and failing to address the detention with President Hu Jintao during a recent visit to China. Arab and other delegations from the developing world have accused Ban of being a U.S. stooge because his statements so often seem to echo those of the U.S. State Department or White House.

In 2008 Russia accused him of siding with the United States, France and Britain in supporting the secession of Kosovo from Serbia, which Moscow fiercely opposed. U.N. officials said at the time that Russia even threatened to block his second term over Kosovo (Ban made it up to them later). Both China and Russia complained that Ban had voiced public support for Egyptian demonstrators calling for the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The United States, Britain and France were annoyed with Ban in 2009 for departing from past practice and not referring to the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia as part of Georgia. The Georgian ambassador accused Ban of succumbing to pressure from Russia, which fought a brief war against the former Soviet republic of Georgia in 2008.

But the concensus among UN senior diplomats appears to be that Ban has been bland and conciliatory enough not to have seriously angered any of the P5 and has been active enough in pursuing major humanitarian goals to build up a fund of goodwill among most member states.