- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 30, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Once the anti-United Nations crowd was on the far right of America’s political spectrum. In recent years, the anti-globalization crowd joined local trade unions in turning against international institutions. Now the normally sober Washington-based Foreign Policy magazine has taken to calling U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon “the world’s most dangerous Korean.”

That kind of rhetoric seems to signal a desperate bid for attention by a magazine that was making real strides toward serious influence in recent years. And that dubious honor clearly belongs to Kim Jong-il and the other bloodstained autocrats of communist North Korea, not this self-effacing, hard-working veteran of South Korea’s foreign ministry.

As today marks the halfway mark in Mr. Ban’s five-year term, we thought it was a good time to see the man and review his record. We have been around long enough to know that the establishment media doesn’t always give the reader the full picture.

We visited with him for almost an hour in his Sutton Place town house in New York City and soon realized that he is one of those rare men in public life who is more concerned with concrete actions than press reports. Mr. Ban is a backroom reformer. He doesn’t call press conferences to lament corruption or mindless bureaucracy in the United Nations, although he will bluntly tell you he detests both. Instead, he goes to work behind the scenes. In his first few days on the job, Mr. Ban made public his financial disclosure forms. He hoped to lead by example, but not one official followed. He kept working. Today, more than two years later, all of the covered senior U.N. officials have reluctantly released their forms.

Next, he appointed as a kind of “ethics czar” a tough-minded Canadian who is so tough “he doesn’t even fear me,” Mr. Ban jokes.

The first Asian secretary-general since 1971 brings a kind of Asian Tiger sense of accountability to the post, which has been lacking in recent decades. He has demanded an accounting of the vast sums spent by the United Nations and has announced “zero tolerance” for any official who misused funds. Of course, he is at war with an entrenched bureaucracy that doesn’t want to be held accountable. It is not surprising that Mr. Ban is finding his reform efforts to be slow going; it is surprising that he is willing to press them at all.

If the United Nations wishes to be relevant in this century and not lose its diplomatic position to a host of regional organizations - everything from the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) to the European Union - it will need precisely the reforms Mr. Ban is advocating. The organization cannot continue to have First World money and Third World accounting standards. Of course, the establishment press and its allied nonprofits are bellyaching about the United Nations’ new leader. They don’t want to reform the bureaucracy, but to use it to fund their personal utopian plans.

We wish Mr. Ban well in his lonely crusade for common sense at Turtle Bay. Every donor nation should back his efforts to break up bureaucratic paralysis and hold officials to account for the billions of dollars they are entrusted with to feed the hungry and house the stateless.

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