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The Passing of the Torch: Selection of the UN Secretary-General October 10, 2006

Posted by earthlingconcerned in United Nations.
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Mere hours after the first nuclear arms test in North Korea; the United Nations nominated their next secretary general in Ban Ki-moon of South Korea. banki-moon.PNGAfter reading up on his accomplishments and the respect he has garnered internationally, it appears to be a smart choice. The timing of his nomination could have been looked at as rather suspicious (considering his history as a south Korean diplomat and recent North Korean news) but it was indeed planned for quite some time. All other reasonable candidates for the position had dropped out and for all intents and purposes, he should be a worthy successor to Kofi Annan. Shortly after his nomination was made official, he had these words to say, “This should be a moment of joy. But instead, I stand here with a very heavy heart. Despite the concerted warning from the international community, North Korea has gone ahead with a nuclear test.” Those may quite possibly be words that define his legacy as he has vowed to resolve the North Korean nuclear crisis once he becomes secretary-general. Hopefully, his influence and experience in the region will do just that. Kofi Annan, whose second term expires in January, had his own goals early on when he became secretary-general.

Kofi Annan made great efforts to trim down the UN expenditures and save face after some massive failures throughout the 90s. But his legacy was supposed to be one of a more humanitarian nature. It was abundantly clear that the world was facing a crisis in regards to the needs of survival and the resources available to guarantee it. Annan seemed to have a vision. Quoting from Paul Kennedy’s, “The Parliament of Man”:

Annan seemed to be increasingly successful in steering attention to Africa, the continent facing the greatest concatenation of challenges, and in getting public opinion to recognize that efforts to help African societies must involve not only substantial resources, but above all cleverly shared work by all parts of the UN as well as by the NGOs, the churches, and international business. In this large, holistic view of things, the Security Council is but one of the actors—a vital one, to be sure, for every community needs its nightwatchmen and policemen—but much else is also needed to make the world community content and prosperous.

In a post Cold-war world, he had hoped to be able to let cooler heads prevail, and worry about the oft forgotten humanitarian goals of the United Nation. But it was soon shown that Cold-war or not, the forgotten continent of Africa would always be overshadowed by those with the wealth. At the dawn of the 21st century there remained problems that never seemed to go away. From the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, India and Pakistan’s perpetual quarrel over Kashmir, to Saddam Hussein and all of the fresh eruptions of violence in Congo and Sierra Leone, he had a mountain to climb just to bring world-wide attention to his humanitarian goals. However, calling for action against the HIV/AIDS pandemic in 2001, and proposing the Global AIDS and Health Fund, he seemed to be making progress in his ambitions.

And then, September 11th arrived.

From that point on, the focus on the humanitarian goals of the United Nation were once again overshadowed when a new war on terrorism was waged by the only remaining super power. Africa continued to be an afterthought by those with the ability to help make a difference. Martin Meredith takes the words of a Nigerian academic in his epic book, The Fate of Africa, by saying “the problem is not so much that development has failed, as it was never really on the agenda in the first place.” He then closes with the following:

After decades of mismanagement and corruption, most African states have become hollowed out. They are no longer instruments capable of serving the public good. Indeed, far from being able to provide aid and protection to their citizens, African governments and the vampire-like politicians who run them are regarded by the populations they rule as yet another burden they have to bear in the struggle for survival.

And that is where we stand today. Kofi Annan’s legacy was displaced by the realities of the modern world. The North Korean tests may pave the way for a different legacy for the new secretary-general. However, this passing of the torch may extinguish whatever hope there was left for a dying continent.

Sitting alone, the fire.

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