The new General Secretary of the United Nations: Profile and perspectives
The change of guard in the United Nations is always a period of relative unease in terms of the change of powers relating to the replacement of one General Secretary with another. All interested parties –And in this case the whole world-, is anxious to observe the first moves and initiatives that Ban Ki-Moon will undertake, as part of its appointment in the most important international organization.
A Korean career diplomat, Ban Ki –Moon, was born in the town Eumseong in 1944i. He studied international relations in the national university of Seoul from where he graduated in 1970. In 1985 he was awarded the Master degree in public administration by the Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University. As a young man Ban Ki- Moon met with President Kennedy when he was 18 years old, after a special program organized by the USA Red Cross, sent him in Washington. He is married and has two daughters and a son. Apart from Korean he speaks English and French. On overall he is a man of wide experience in the international diplomatic life, as well as, experience in managing people and resources, since he was the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Korea the previous years.
Ban Ki Moon’s election as a Secretary General can be generally perceived as a balancing act between the representatives of all Continents. He is the first Asian in this position since the late Burma national, Ou Thad between 1961-1971. At this point it is interesting to note that his approval as the head of the UNii, comes in the delicate point when North Korea announced its nuclear trial out that send alarming messages all across the globe. Moreover it is of value the fact that he was elected with an unanimously approval in a period where tensions between states are flaring up due to unresolved crises in the Middle East, Africa and the North Korean nuclear affair withstanding. About the latter issue, it is probably of pure symbolic coincidence that the first South Korean to lead the United Nations was elected the same dates that his Northern compatriots were conducting their first nuclear test, thus defying the legitimacy of the current world structureiii.
Ban Ki – Moon is regarded as a patient, mediator and a persistent personality, the exact character traits that are vital for anyone in his place. His international experience is extensive and he has been occupied in many occasions in affairs that are on top of UN priority at the moment. After joining the diplomatic corps he was sent to New Delhi and afterwards he served in the United Nations unit of the Korean Ministry of Defense. Latter on he was the head of the representation of South Korea in the UN, before his state becomes fully accepted as a regular member. From 1991 he was the South Korean representative in the UN, and also served twice in the embassy in Washington. Other diplomatic tours he was appointed include the ambassadorship in Vienna where he was voted as a president of a commission dealing with the banning of nuclear test, in 1999. A few years before in 1992 he was the vice President of a joint-steered committee between North and South Korea for the control of nuclear materials.
Other engagements include the chairmanship as the director for the USA-Korean relations department in the Korean MFA and as a national security advisor and a foreign relation consultant for the Korean President. Lastly in 2005 he played a leading role – As a Foreign Minister-, for a joint statement between the two Koreas and other parties, towards the solving of the nuclear issueiv.
In general the new Secretary General is a personality fully aware of the issues that relate to the Korean Peninsula and most importantly the nuclear problem. His knowledge in the nuclear sector and the Weapons of Mass Destruction is a great benefit for the UN because these are the decisive issues to be dealing with, in the coming years. Moreover his experience includes an overall appreciation of the Asian affairs, in addition, to the Korean – American relations and the role of USA in the East Asian region. A last his previous appointments in the United Nations, provide him with the necessary familiarity of the often complex United Nations procedures, protocol and most importantly unofficial engagements with all parties and representations. It remains to be seen though how his diplomatic skills will help him in handling other less knowledgeable territories to him, like Iraq, Israeli – Palestinian issue, terrorism, Darfur crisis and tens of other regional conflicts and crises. Whatever the future developments might be, the new Secretary General has all the essential qualities to succeed, should he is helped as well by the nation states all across the world.