The weakness of UN Secretaries General versus Big powers in speaking out

June 10, 2020

UN Chiefs Silenced by Big Powers with vetoes

as demonstrated again by George Floyd’s Killing

Protests in cities across the United States including in New York city. Credit: UN News/Shirin Yaseen
Thalif Deen wrote for the Santiago Times of 9 June a piece based on an IPS study about the lack of repsonse by the UN Secretary General.

…..But will any UN Secretary-General – past or present – have plucked up courage to condemn the political leadership either in the United States or China, two veto-wielding permanent members in the Security Council, in such harsh terms?

For a related issue, see: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/jun/09/what-does-the-un-stand-for-anger-as-staff-told-not-to-join-anti-racism-protests

The piece then considers whether a single 7 year term (instead of a reelection for 5 years) would help?

…The problem is that both Ban Ki-moon and Antonio Guterres have paid no attention to the three most important words that open the Charter of the UN: “We the peoples”…“They both pay homage only to governments; it’s as if ‘the peoples’ of the world don’t exist. As a result, there is neither transparency nor accountability”, said Lewis, who was a UN Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, and later co-founder and co-director of AIDS-Free World.

Guterres, he said, hides behind the Convention on Privileges and Immunities, or with willful arrogance refuses to answer questions put to him. “Thus, when asked why he’s silent on the turbulence in the United States, and in particular the excessive use of force, he defers to his spokesperson who provides fatuous nonsense in response.”

It was exactly the way Ban never felt the obligation to tell the truth about cholera in Haiti, nor to feel it necessary to explain why the $400 million fund was effectively abandoned, he noted.

Perhaps one of the few exceptions in the 75-year history of the UN was former Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali of Egypt who paid the supreme penalty of being vetoed out of a second term —even though he garnered an overwhelming 14 of the 15 votes in the UN Security Council. But the US ingloriously vetoed his claims for a second term….

The 1996 study sponsored by two major think tanks implicitly accused some of the world’s big powers of manipulating the election of the Secretary-General so as to ensure that U.N. heads are political creatures with no minds of their own. “It is impossible to escape the impression, that many governments, including some of the most powerful, do not want a strong, independent leader as Secretary-General,” said the study published under the auspices of the New York-based Ford Foundation and the Dag Hammarskjold Foundation of Stockholm. The authors of the study – Brian Urquhart and Erskine Childers, both senior UN officials – said the selection of the Secretary-General is quite literally part of “an old-boy network.” “The United Nations is an intergovernmental organisation, and governments have no intentions of giving up control of it.”

Lewis argued there is no freedom of information in the UN, and that’s what gets governments like Sweden frustrated and thinking of shortening the SG’s term. “The Secretary-General should be required to hold an open press conference at least once, preferably twice a week, with a critical media corps to ask questions. If that were the case, the entire culture of his office would change.” “It’s his behaviour rather than his longevity that needs reform,” declared Lewis.

In a hard-hitting article titled “As Protests Sweep the US, the UN Tweets Platitudes”, Dulcie Leimbach, a former editor at the New York Times and founder of PassBlue, a widely-read web publication covering the United Nations, wrote: “Amid curfews in New York City, constant marches and protests, sirens from the streets and helicopters whirring above, the United Nations top leader, António Guterres, has not appeared before the media to say anything directly about the convulsions exploding across the five boroughs and far beyond. Instead, he has relied on his spokespeople to provide responses.

Leimbach also wrote that the lack of direct reference to the killing of George Floyd, and the turn of events here in the city and elsewhere, extends to the UN Security Council, the General Assembly, the US mission to the UN and other national delegations. Only the UN high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, a Chilean who is based in Geneva, has directly addressed Floyd’s murder….

https://santiagotimes.cl/en/2020/06/09/un-chiefs-silenced-by-big-powers-with-vetoes/

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