- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 7, 2007

Pieces fall in place

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has named several senior appointees to a chorus of armchair quarterbacking. After one popular selection last week and several groaners, the grumblers have already branded him with the most scalding adjective they have: “business-as-usual.”

Mr. Ban’s most popular decision so far might also be his most important: The post of deputy secretary-general will be filled by Asha-Rose Migiro, the foreign minister of Tanzania. She’s a woman; she’s an African; she’s an outsider. Her appointment was immediately welcomed by a 133-nation coalition of developing countries, and ignored by naysayers.

Not so Mr. Ban’s other appointments.

Early last week, he appointed as his chief of staff Vijay Nambiar, a seasoned Indian diplomat whose appointment was unpopular in the blogosphere because he served as an adviser to Kofi Annan, Mr. Ban’s predecessor.

Mr. Annan’s former chief of staff, Mexican environmentalist Alicia Barcena Ibarra, was tapped to be undersecretary-general for administration and management — the top management post — responsible for ensuring transparency, accountability and financial oversight of the sprawling organization.

Ms. Barcena’s appointment has been red meat to corruption seekers, who note her close ties to disgraced former U.N. envoy Maurice Strong. If Ms. Barcena wants to get off on the right foot, she must prove to doubters that she is the business end of Mr. Ban’s new broom.

This week, she should meet the press, give an honest public accounting of the scores of internal U.N. investigations and their outcome, and persuade Mr. Ban to accept the resignations of officials in scandal-prone departments such as human resources, procurement and so on, that have been less than proactive in modernizing their work force and methods.

Management has for generations been led by an American, but Washington has its eye on the Department of Political Affairs (DPA), a position of theoretical influence that has expanded and contracted over the years. It is not clear how much Mr. Ban, a career diplomat in the South Korean Foreign Ministry, will rely on the DPA. If he decides to roll up the Department of Disarmament Affairs under the DPA umbrella, the office could have greater emphasis on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, a U.S. foreign-policy priority.

It is not clear at this point who Washington would like to see as DPA chief, and given the lateness of the appointment, it’s possible the Bush administration has not yet picked its candidate. There is no doubt Mr. Ban is selecting his own team, but he’s not totally independent. After a year on the campaign trail, Mr. Ban no doubt has plenty of promises to keep, and no one gets in line before the five permanent members of the Security Council.

For example, the new head of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is British, but not necessarily the one Mr. Ban planned to hire. The rumor mill had decided that John Holmes, the new director of OCHA, London’s former ambassador to France and a longtime friend of Prime Minister Tony Blair, was to have been the head of DPA, traditionally a British post. But when Washington decided to snatch the DPA plum, Mr. Holmes was knocked sideways to the OCHA job.

China will likely regain control of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs, while Russia continues to run the U.N. office in Geneva. France will surely retain peacekeeping, which will likely continue under the Teflon leadership of Jean-Marie Guehenno.

Say it right

Since columns are, in part, to stimulate gossip, let’s get one thing straight: If you’re talking about the new U.N. secretary-general, you may as well get his name right. It’s pronounced “Bahn Ghee-moon,” and “Mr. Bahn” on subsequent references.

And yes, of course there are already nicknames, including BKM, “Banky” and “the new Korean guy.” His own favorite seems to be “the slippery eel,” not quite an endearment, bestowed by reporters in Seoul.

• Betsy Pisik can be reached by e-mail at [email protected]washingtontimes.com.

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