- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 21, 2005

Thai ‘listening’

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ candidate to be the next secretary-general of the United Nations, Surakiart Satherathai, took his “listening tour” to New York last week, meeting with U.N. diplomats and officials as he builds support for his candidacy.

Mr. Surakiart met with Deputy U.N. Secretary-General Louise Frechette to talk about management reforms, hosted a private lunch for U.N. ambassadors from a dozen nations and visited Henry Kissinger.

“It’s part of my listening tour as an ASEAN candidate,” the Thai official said on his way to a waiting limo.

He said they spoke of U.N. management and how to coordinate the organization and the demands of 191 member states.

“So we had a very constructive session, we shared experiences,” said the former foreign minister. “I went through a lot of management reform as foreign minister in the last four years.”

Mr. Surakiart says he has been learning French — the traditional language of diplomacy — to better communicate with the many Francophone leaders and delegations.

But even that is unlikely to help him much with Washington, which has refused to endorse any candidacy this early in the electoral process.

U.S. officials have indicated that they are open to campaign bids from Eastern Europe, a region that has never fielded a secretary-general.

Nevertheless, Mr. Surakiart met last Monday afternoon with newly arrived U.S. Ambassador John R. Bolton, who has stressed that U.N. reform and efficiency is the Bush administration’s priority for the United Nations.

The only other declared candidate from Asia is Jayantha Dhanapala of Sri Lanka, a disarmament specialist who has served as the central government’s mediator with the Tamil Tigers.

Mr. Annan’s second five-year term will expire in December 2006. He has said he wants his successor to be selected well before that, for a more orderly transition.

Fighting poverty

Kemal Dervis, the new administrator of the U.N. Development Program, arrived last week brimming with optimism for “a historic moment” in the fight against poverty.

Mr. Dervis, a former World Bank official and former economic minister of Turkey, is the first administrator from one of the 166 countries that benefit from UNDP efforts, a fact that probably will boost the agency’s reputation in countries where it spends roughly $4 billion a year on governance initiatives, poverty reduction, women’s empowerment and other programs.

A bureaucrat in the chatty mold, Mr. Dervis, 56, expounded at a press conference on the importance of cheap communications technology as a tool against poverty, and stressed that donors should have a more far-sighted approach to development now that strategic Cold War investing is behind them.

Development is one of four main issues expected to dominate the summit here Sept. 14-16, when as many as 175 world leaders will affirm their efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals. Those goals include ambitious targets to reduce poverty, illiteracy and child mortality, and improve access to clean water and decent work.

Document discussions

Diplomats today will start another round of discussions on the text world leaders are expected to endorse when they gather in New York next month for a summit on U.N. reform.

The document has ballooned to 39 pages as nations and regional groups stuff it with pet issues, mostly relating to security and terrorism, human rights, U.N. reform and responsiveness, and development in the poorest countries.

Earlier this month, Washington blasted the document as “overlong” and demanded “a major rewriting.”

The text has been assembled by nearly a dozen facilitators, rather than by direct discussion among member states.

Betsy Pisik may be reached via e-mail at [email protected]

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