Wednesday, August 26, 2009

is Ban really doing that bad a job?

I'm a little late blogging on last week's scathing report by Norweigan Deputy Ambassador Mona Juul to her Ministry on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's performance (translation of the letter included), but for those who didn't read it, it accuses Ban of being passive abroad, incompetent at home and prone to "temper tantrums."

Well, from what Ambassador At Large has heard, the temper tantrums part is accurate, and his management style has been somewhat insular and disappointing. It's also true that he doesn't have Kofi's charisma and probably never will. Buuut...

Amb. Juul's report doesn't give the SG enough credit on two points:

1. It accuses him of failing to solve things that nobody can solve, like Burma's refusal to release Aung Sun Suu Kyi. Kofi couldn't make them do it. The US and EU can't. ASEAN can't. The UN is not a country and the SG commands no army. It's no surprise he can't do this sort of thing.

2. It fails to credit Ban for the persistent diplomacy that he's displayed. Ban travels constantly to all corners of the world and is always willing to fly and meet somebody. Sometimes he gets stood up, like on his recent ill-advised trip to Burma. But he'd also moved Sudan to be more pliant on the deployment of the UNAMID peacekeeping force in Darfur, and gotten more out of Khartoum than even Kofi ever could. (That all changed, of course, after the ICC indictment, over which Ban had no control.) Also, Ban and his humanitarian chief John Holmes almost single-handedly convinced the paranoid Burmese junta to allow in food aid after Cyclone Nargis and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

This is not to say that Ban has been an exemplary SG in his first half-term and it's not to say he'll get a second term. But the Secretary-General has limited power and some of the expectations of the position are just unrealistic.

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