NEW YORK NEW YORK – Ban Ki-Moon, the region and his re-election
Not long after assuming duties as the United Nation’s eighth secretary general, Ban Ki-Moon headed for Barbados.
Assessing the island’s development during his visit, Mr Ban, a former foreign minister of South Korea, said he saw a country on the move. That didn’t come as a surprise to Bajans who had previously heard Ban’s immediate predecessor Kofi Annan describe the island as a nation that punched “above its weight”.
Annan, considered one of the most dynamic of UN bosses, used those words while on a trip to Barbados.
More than four years later as Mr Ban sought a second five-year term, Barbados, Cuba and their Caribbean neighbours found themselves being accused by some diplomats and analysts of trying to stall the unanimous General Assembly vote on his re-election in order to send him a message that the Latin American and Caribbean group of states felt neglected.
It’s a charge Barbados’ top UN envoy Joseph Goddard, Bahamas Ambassador Paulette Bethel and Antigua’s Permanent Representative John Ashe dismissed as rubbish.
“We were not part of any attempt to delay the secretary general’s re-election in order to send a message,” Goddard insisted.
“It’s simply untrue to state that there was an attempt to delay the unanimous re-election,” said Bethel, chairperson of the Caricom group of ambassadors.
Ashe put it bluntly: “There wasn’t any move to sabotage the re-election. We are more sophisticated than that.”
But that’s only a part of the story.
Caribbean nations do believe the SYG is short-changing the region. Diplomats who requested anonymity asserted that Mr Ban had consistently failed to place Caribbean experts in the higher echelons of the secretariat. The most glaring example of that failure was the recent appointment of a Chilean to lead the UN Mission in Haiti instead of Colin Grandison, CARICOM’s assistant secretary general for international affairs, whose candidacy was endorsed by the same leaders.
And when the Bahamian government pushed to have a national appointed to a senior position, Mr Ban selected someone else. He also didn’t choose a Caribbean expert to replace another West Indian to fill a vacant position in the UN Environmental Programme, UNEP. He selected a Kenyan, reportedly for geographic political reasons.
Many UN and other Caribbean sources said it was Washington that derailed Grandison’s chances.
But the Caribbean isn’t alone in expressing concerns about Mr Ban’s style.
Other small island developing states complain he doesn’t consider them important enough to act in their best interest.
The Caribbean may not have tried to block Ban’s re-election consensus but they have certainly attracted his attention.