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UN leader Ban Ki-moon focused on climate change and peace in Darfur in first year

UN leader Ban Ki-moon focused on climate change and peace in Darfur in first year

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon flew 125,000 miles (200,000 kilometers) and visited six continents during his first year as U.N. chief, gaining a reputation as a workaholic and a staunch advocate for peace in Darfur and global action to combat climate change.
But at U.N. headquarters, he's had a tougher time making progress on his goal of changing U.N. culture and re-engineering a giant international bureaucracy where 192 countries often have competing interests so the U.N. can better deal with today's fast-paced world.
And despite being an avid globetrotter _ 132 days on the road in 39 countries or territories _ Ban Ki-moon has yet to become a household name, though his predecessor, Kofi Annan, wasn't either in his first year. Ban also has yet to master the soundbite, which is critical for a global personality.
By all accounts, his greatest success has been in highlighting the dramatic impact of climate change _ from melting glaciers in Antarctica to the disappearance of much of Lake Chad _ and helping to galvanize world opinion and get political leaders to launch negotiations on a new treaty to curb global warming.
In a message on his first year in office, Ban called the agreement earlier this month at the climate change conference on the Indonesian island of Bali "the year's key achievement." Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers echoed many diplomats and observers when he said "climate change stands out as an issue where he has made an impact."
"He played a personal role in Bali in getting a solution in a very difficult and complex end game there, and a solution which was way above the expectations of a number of players at the outset," Sawers said.
As for Darfur, the British envoy added that "nobody can doubt the energy and commitment that he's put into Sudan" and trying to end the nearly five-year conflict that has killed over 200,000 people and uprooted 2.5 million from their homes.
Ban has faced up to the "deeply recalcitrant regime in Khartoum ... and been more tenacious than previous secretary-generals have been in similar situations," Sawers said.
The secretary-general said no political issue has taken more of his time in 2007 than Darfur.
A year ago, he said, there was no movement toward peace, but today talks have started _ although without many key players _ and a joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping force to eventually number 26,000 troops will start deploying on Jan. 1.
"The challenge for the coming year is to work continuously with the Sudan government, rebel movements, representatives of civil society and regional leaders, as well as the U.N. Security Council and the international community, to ensure the ultimate success of both the talks and the military mission," Ban said in his message.
The secretary-general faces many other challenges as well.
When he took over from Annan as secretary-general on Jan. 1, the former South Korean foreign minister said he wanted to be a "a harmonizer and bridge-builder" and repair relations between the U.N.'s rich and poor states which had fought bitterly over parts of Annan's reform program.
But he got off to a rough start, mishandling U.N. reaction to Saddam Hussein's execution, taking a long time to make appointments, and trying to push through reforms without sufficient consultation with member states.
The secretary-general's first budget was criticized by the United States and others for being "piecemeal" and incomplete. It was approved by the General Assembly just before Christmas, but for the first time, the two-year financial blueprint was not adopted by consensus because of U.S. objections to funding a 2009 conference against racism which Washington considers anti-Israel.
The US$4.17 billion (euro2.87 billion) budget also didn't include the next major reform Ban is pushing _ strengthening the Department of Political Affairs so it can focus more on diplomacy to ease tense situations before they erupt into conflict. That will likely face an uphill struggle in the spring when additions to the budget will be considered.
The secretary-general has emphasized ethics, disclosure, and transparency and has authorized new steps to get all U.N. funds and agencies _ which operate independently _ to adhere to the same ethical standards that apply to U.N. staff directly under his authority.
But he has also been criticized _ including in the budget resolution authorizing the financing of the AU-U.N. force in Darfur _ for awarding a US$250 million (euro172 million) U.N. contract without competitive bidding for the construction of five new camps for the force. Ban has said this was done because of complex U.N. rules and a short timeframe.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said Ban has "a tough job" because he sometimes doesn't have the authority to make the decisions on his own.
"We think he's a good leader," Khalilzad told AP. "He's got good values, good convictions. He works hard. He's led the world on Darfur. He has played, obviously, a key role with regard to the climate issue ... and he has developed good relations with quite a lot of leaders around the world."
Khalilzad's predecessor, former U.S. Ambassador John Bolton, said he was disappointed at the slow pace of reforms.
On the other hand, Bolton gave Ban high marks for his approach to his high-profile post.
"He has not come to the view that he is God's gift to humanity. He doesn't think he's a secular pope like Kofi did, and he understands that he works for member governments which Kofi had forgotten. So on balance, I still think this is a marked improvement _ and I think that's the view of many member governments," Bolton said in October.
Luc Joseph Okio, a senior diplomat from the Republic of Congo, which is on the Security Council, praised Ban's interest in African issues and urged him to do more to settle conflicts on the continent, which would free resources for development.
U.N. Ambassador Marcello Spatafora of Italy, also a Security Council member, said it's impossible to compare the South Korean Ban to Annan, who is from Ghana, because they are products of different cultures.
While Asians are generally low key and don't show emotion, Spatafora said, in the past year he has seen in the secretary-general "how behind this facade of Asian impassibility there is a heart, there is a passion...."


Updated : 2021-05-10 06:34 GMT+08:00