The wheels are reeling fast towards the day, in about a year, when the world will know who is replacing Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General. The race to succeed Ban Ki-moon is well under way as possible candidates line up through the media and political analysts – as potential candidates and the selection process fill the agenda of intense debates. The 2016 appointment will come during these times of the agitating and concerning resurfacing of tensions between East and West – this time over Syria and Ukraine (in particular); in the days many see as cementing a new Cold War between Russia and the West and these tensions continue creating the most difficult challenges the UN has had to face and deal with in more than a generation.
There is no avoiding it: the UN Secretary-General election process, and UN workings generally, will more likely than not become functionally gridlocked by Cold War-style divisions, backroom Cold War-style “deals” and “innuendos” with more far-reaching consequences than just some political tittle-tattle that gets someone’s “nose out of joint” for a day or so. So to keep the gridlock at bay the UN will need someone with real diplomatic skills at its helm. A smooth consensus between member states as to who that candidate might be, appears most unlikely – much suspicion and animosity rises and is likely to rise in this Cold War-style atmosphere.
“When Ban Ki-moon’s time in office comes to an end next December, the world could be looking at two firsts in the new UN secretary-general: the first to come from Eastern Europe, and the first woman in the post,” wrote Andrew Macdowall, a Serbia based correspondent and analyst, for the UK Independent on 30 May 2015 as he conducted an interview with Croatia’s foreign minister Vesna Pusic, who has now declared that she will be running for the UN Secretary-General position in 2016.
In this interview Vesna Pusic expressed the belief that her experience of post-war politics has been important training for the UN!
“Maybe it’s too much to expect that a secretary-general can change countries,” she said. “But it helps a great deal if she can understand and know how it feels when talking to people in a country, or confronting a situation in a country before or during a conflict.”
Give me a break! Give me a break!
Vesna Pusic’s post-war political input in Croatia as well as across the former Yugoslavia region is very much coloured by her incompetence and bias that leads to raised divisions among people as well as between former states of Yugoslavia, for which she, as foreign minister, was charged to move towards reconciliation. Through her lack of compassion and shallow or rather skewed political insight into defining issues of problematic matters, she has made staunch enemies of Croatian women who are victims of war crime of rape. She has managed to alienate many people and even a brief online search easily indicates that she is not widely regarded as a person who appeals for their strength, political and diplomatic competence. She has been criticised by the victims of the “conflict” in Croatia for not understanding their plights and justice for crimes and yet, here she is talking herself up about her ability to understand victims of conflict!
Give me a break! Give me a break!
It’s a curious thing that Andrew Macdowall, in his interview of Vesna Pusic for The Independent, blatantly suggests that Irina Bokova’s “family ties to the communist-era elite may act against her” (in her UNSG candidacy) and yet completely omits to make any references of the same weight to Vesna Pusic’s “family ties” – given he writes about Bokova’s ties to communism why not write about Pusic’s?! Vesna Pusic’s father was a high-ranking official in communist regime of Yugoslavia that left hundreds of thousands of innocent deaths.
A UN secretary-general candidate must be seen as P-5 ‘compatible’ and Vesna Pusic is certainly facing an uphill battle in this if she does put her hand up for the position. China, Russia, France, UK, USA consultations have in the past three decades proved to be a watered down compromise and 2016 is likely to prove anything but the likeness of preceding decades. Compromises are likely not to be made with same relative ease as before and the common denominator across P-5 that will draw victory for the UNSG candidate cannot be predicted at this stage with much certainty but it is likely to be connected to issues underpinning the current tensions between East and West. There is the reality of Cold War-style tension and content and political pull that will make the 2016 choice all the more tricky and unpredictable.
If there really is a strong preference for an Eastern European UN Secretary-General the front-runner seems to be, after all, Irina Bokova, the Bulgarian diplomat and the current Director-General of UNESCO. She has received the nomination of Bulgaria, she is US and Russia ‘compatible’, speaks French and is UN literate. Other possible candidates from Eastern Europe besides her and Croatia’s Vesna Pusic are Vuk Jeremic of Serbia, Miroslav Lajcák and Jan Kubis of Slovakia, and Danilo Turk, the former president of Slovenia and international law professor, who served between 2000 and 2005 as UN Assistant Secretary-General for Political Affairs, one of the organisation’s key jobs.
If one cannot be elected from Eastern Europe for whatever reason, but I have a hunch it’ll justifiably have something to do with resharpened Cold War knives and old die-hard communist ties that still ominously linger, despite the fact that some will say they don’t, then the field will open up to candidates from all regional groupings. In that event candidates are likely to include Australia’s former Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, New Zealand’s former Prime Minister Helen Clark, who currently heads the UN Development Programme, she has the support of New Zealand, Romano Prodi of Italy, José Manuel Barroso of Portugal, and Dilma Roussef of Brazil.
Come 2016 and UN Secretary-General elections we will see perhaps like never before battles about deep alignments between Moscow and Washington. Moscow and Washington will very likely view candidates as being on the wrong or the right side of the modern-day iron curtain.
Certainly, the world does not need Croatia’s Vesna Pusic a UN Secretary-General – she is inclined to believe that people feel they don’t know the UN, just like she evidently doesn’t know it:
“People feel that the UN isn’t known to them; it’s very abstract, out there in New York, and [then] at times of crisis there are blue helmets that drive through your country. [A debate] would make the institution more acceptable and known to the global general public,” she said in her interview for The Independent.
There’s nothing abstract about the UN to most of us, I don’t think. There’s a lot we don’t like about it but also a lot that is good about it. It could shed itself, though, of politically ambitious people who have notable connections but know little of true relevance and feel – even less. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)