United Nations officials currently find themselves in a position similar to that of members of a religious cult who, having expected the messiah to appear in the near future, begin to grasp that there is no savior after all. For almost a decade, they have labored unhappily under Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. They believe that he is too cautious and too loyal to the U.S. and other big powers. But with Ban leaving office at the end of this year, U.N. staffers have hoped and prayed that a far more decisive and independent leader will take his place in 2017.
Their eyes have been on the calendar for some time already. As I noted last fall, many officials in New York have “treated Ban as a distinctly lame duck” for several years: “Faced with knotty institutional problems, they frequently conclude that whatever needs to be done will have to wait for Ban’s successor.”
Outside Turtle Bay, numerous activists and nongovernmental organizations have similarly called for a stronger secretary-general. Their expectations are very high.