Bold or Not, Next U.N. Secretary-General Faces World of Pain

Bold or Not, Next U.N. Secretary-General Faces World of Pain
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon speaks to Mali President Boubacar Keita on the sidelines of the U.N. Chief Executives Board meeting in Washington, D.C., Nov. 21, 2014 (U.N. photo by Eskinder Debebe).

Does it matter who runs the United Nations? There was a frisson of excitement at U.N. headquarters at the start of this month when a consortium of advocacy groups launched a campaign to overturn the “outdated and opaque” process for selecting the secretary-general. But at a time when increasing global divisions threaten to reduce the U.N. secretariat’s ability to improve international cooperation, there are questions about how much impact the post can really have.

The current secretary-general, Ban Ki-moon, steps down at the end of 2016. As I have previously argued, Ban took far too long to find his feet at the U.N. after taking office in 2007, but he has improved over time and especially in recent years . He has been a consistent champion of long-term causes, including the battles against global poverty and climate change, while tackling more-immediate crises such as the Ebola outbreak with growing determination.

After eight years on the job, Ban reportedly still finds the U.N. machine perplexing and frustrating. Many U.N. officials continue to view the former South Korean foreign minister as an outsider to their organization. But he may yet take the credit for some signature multilateral deals scheduled for next year, including pacts on reducing carbon emissions and new international development goals. He is still trying to fix bits of the U.N. system that annoy him. He has always grumbled about the inefficiencies of “blue helmet” peace operations and has just launched a panel of veteran peacemakers to help resolve these.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review