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Round Two For Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon?

Just a few days ago, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon officially requested his consideration for a second term as Secretary-General of the United Nations by the UN Security Council and was decided by the UN General Assembly as a candidate.

Ban Ki-moon started his position on January 1, 2007, after having a variety of different government roles and international roles as a Republic of Korea national.  Ki-moon began working at the United Nations in 1975, as a member of the Foreign Ministry’s United Nations Division, followed by many different roles over the years within the organization, before attaining the top position.

Today as Secretary-General to the UN, Ban Ki-moon’s role is to represent the United Nations at a global level and to serve as the “chief administrative officer”. He serves as a global representative, focusing specifically on those in need and the missions to assist through the services of the United Nations. The role of Secretary-General of the United Nations is the top position of the United Nations that focuses on administration of the services, hiring of employees, and overseeing peacekeeping missions and mediation whenever there is conflict. Currently there is no limit to how many terms a Secretary-General can have – however, no Secretary-General has served for more than two terms so far, so his bid is well-placed and was to be expected.

Many are in support of his re-election, including European Commission President Barroso, the US, Britain, China, KoreaFrance, and Nigeria, just to name a few.  In fact, with the support of Russia, he has the support of the five permanent and veto-wielding members of the UN Security Council (US, Great Britain, Russia, China and France). His term so far has been full of determination- he has led with drastic and successful efforts in educating nations about issues of climate control and change specifically in developing countries. These efforts have been shown through the UN Climate Change Conferences, with the most recent one in Cancun in 2010. This conference worked towards gaining support from nations around climate control and also created the ‘Green Bank’ to fund the discussed possible changes at the Copenhagen conference the year before that had resulted in the Copenhagen Green Climate Fund. Of particular note was his success at gaining the support of the US and China in the climate talks, where they weren’t as active before.  Ban also said this week that he was proud that the UN under his guidance had saved many lives and had sown “the seeds of peace” in conflicts ranging from Sudan and Somalia to Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.

Considering his success so far, he has also been criticized for not being direct in what he looks to get done and is known to stay within his comfort zone or “inner circle” of employees within the United Nations Headquarters.  It has been suggested that his intentions are good as a leader, but his strategies may need to change in order to have outcome.  Looking ahead to the future and likelihood of his second-term bid, there are questions about his laid-back leadership personality and positive outlook on achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals by the 2015 deadline. The UN is concerned about the suffering global economy’s effects on the potential for each goal to be met. Also, with the 30th Anniversary of the AIDS disease just honored, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon makes another future goal to end AIDS by 2020, a goal that is said to be realistic but will require a lot of effort.

For now, the question remains could Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon be caught singing “Ban Ki-moon is Coming to Town” in front of UN correspondents, for a second time?  Time will tell.  We look forward in anticipation as the inspirational global leader with a pinch of humor hopes for a second term.

-Cara

Members Day at the UN: Activism and Idealism Unite

On February 11, 2011, several of the UNA-GB members traveled to New York to participate in the 3rd Annual United Nations Association of the United States of America (UNA-USA) Mid-Atlantic Regional Conference and Members Day held at the United Nations Headquarters. UNA-USA activists from around the country had an opportunity to meet and discuss headline-making issues of the day as well as the future of the organization with members of the UNA-USA Council of Chapters and Divisions Steering Committee and with the members of the Council of Organizations. The conference was the first official event marking new strategic alliance between UNA-USA and the UN Foundation. The aim of the alliance is to strengthen the role of grassroots information and influence on U.S. foreign policy.

After inspiring and thought provoking keynote speeches presented by A. Edward Elmendorf, Executive Director of UNA-USA, and by Mike Beard, Director of Better World Campaign launched by the UN Foundation, the vibrant and enthusiastic audience gathered in the largest Conference Room of the North Lawn Building, had an opportunity to hear presentations moderated by seven panels of experts. The focus of discussions lead by the rotating panels, reflected the main current concerns of the global community: ongoing upheaval in the Arab World, energy and climate change, new dimensions of global health and gender issues, Africa’s transformation in the 21st century, and last but not least, the question whether a negotiated settlement regarding Afghanistan is feasible.

During the lunch break attendees who were willing to skip their meal could choose between two competing sessions. One focused on discussing paths to a career in international affairs, and one devoted to developing UNA chapter-building skills.

The event was a valuable learning experience despite the fact that, due to the tight schedule with no build-in breaks, it was difficult to satisfy the need for networking with other participants of the conference, or to make it to the UN cafeteria, without missing some parts of the presentations. The sheer number of outstanding panelists and speakers representing all main fields of human endeavor, diverse national and cultural background, and vast personal and professional experience, was a pleasure to watch, learn from, and interact with.

Those of us from UNA-GB, who made an effort to be in New York this time, are already signing up for the 2012 UNA-USA Members Day.

-Margaret Chalupowski

International Day of the World’s Indigenous People

August 9 was established as the International Day of the World’s Indigenous People by the UN’s General Assembly in 1994 with the  goal to promote and protect the rights of the world’s indigenous people and to recognize significant achievements and contributions of the population. Recognizing indigenous filmmakers was the theme of the 2010 observance, with films being screened at the UN Headquarters.

In addition to recognizing the accomplishments of indigenous filmmakers, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon yesterday addressed the urgency to improve the lives of indigenous people. “Indigenous peoples still experience racism, poor health and disproportionate poverty,” Mr. Ban said. “In many societies, their languages, religions and cultural traditions are stigmatized and shunned.” (Source)

He indicated that statistics from the January UN report on the State of the World’s Indigenous Peoples included disturbing statistics: indigenous peoples are 600 times more likely to contract tuberculosis than the general population in some countries. Also, an indigenous child can expect to die 20 years before a non-indigenous fellow citizen.

Even with these shocking figures, the Secretary General continued that the situation has seen improvement over the past few years. “Since [the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, adopted by the General Assembly in 2007] we have seen more governments working to redress social and economic injustices, through legislation and other means, and indigenous peoples’ issues have become more prominent on the international agenda than ever before,” Mr. Ban said.

Even though there has been considerable progress in advancing the rights of indigenous peoples in the past few years, the recent statistics clearly demonstrate a drastic need for more improvement for the lives of indigenous peoples. The United Nations and other organizations are essential in this ongoing process.

In Cambridge, MA, the organization Cultural Survival partners with Indigenous communities to help them achieve their goals and defend their land, languages and cultures. To learn more about how you can help indigenous peoples in the New England area visit Cultural Survival’s website http://www.culturalsurvival.org/

Christina