Sri Lankan, Thai diplomats in run for top UN post
Lankan, Thai diplomats in run for top UN post
By Masood Haider
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25: One of Sri Lankas top
diplomats, Jayantha Dhanapala, is quietly moving
around in crowded lobbies here, making contacts with
leaders from around the world in pursuit of his bid
for the post of UN Secretary-General. An unassuming
man, he is one of the two candidates for the worlds
most impossible job, as the UNs first
secretary-general Trygve Lie of Norway described it.
Lie said that when the UN membership was less than 70.
Now a secretary-general has to work with 191 members,
and tackle some issues and phenomenon that were not
envisioned in the UN charter.
But Mr Dhanapala is not the only one who has thrown
the hat in the race.
The other declared candidate in the field is Dr
Surakiart Sathirathai, Thailands deputy prime
minister, who was the first to announce his intention
to run for UN secretary-general. A third candidate
being mentioned, but not yet officially in the race,
is President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland, an East
But diplomats expect more candidates to surface as the
campaign gathers pace. Secretary-General Kofi Annan
steps down at the end of 2006, when his second
five-year term, marked by sandals and charges of
mismanagement, expires. The election for the next
secretary-general will take place in fall next year.
During a break in his campaign on the sidelines of the
60th session of the UN General Assembly, Ambassador
Dhanapala met Pakistani newsmen. He emphasized that he
will keep his campaign quiet, not loud, keeping in
view the dignity of the position of secretary-general
obviously he had in mind the recent damage it had
Mr Dhanapala said he was fully equipped to take on the
enormous challenges that confront the highest
diplomatic job in the world.
He said he has the right stuff. I have seen the
United Nations from inside and from outside.
Mr Dhanapala was Sri Lankas ambassador to the UN in
Geneva and also to the United States, and worked in
missions in several other countries. He later served
as UN Under-Secretary-General for Disarmament Affairs
(1998-2003) and the President of the 1995 NPT Review
and Extension Conference, at which he hammered out a
consensus for the final document when deep divisions
There is a consensus within Asia and among the
continents superpowers that this is going to be
Asias turn to head the UN, after Mr Annan steps
China and Russia, the two veto powers on the UN
Security Council, have publicly declared that they
would back a candidate from Asia. The last
secretary-general from Asia was U. Thant from Myanmar
who served for a decade from 1961.
Discussing the difficult challenges of the job, Mr
Dhanapala said, I think I have the diplomatic skills
to manage the tasks. A diplomatic practitioner for
more than 30 years, he said he has the experience to
synthesize the national interests of 191 member states
so as to move forward.
I want to emphasize my managerial competence as an
ambassador and a senior manager at the UN who is aware
of the difficulties at a multinational organisation,
with staff from various nationalities, Mr Dhanapala
said. He said he would ensure productivity, gender
equality, mobility of staff in an effort to maintain
high ethical stands, integrity and transparency.
We have been carrying out a quiet campaign befitting
the post of secretary-general, which is sacrosanct and
represents all the values the UN stands for, Mr
Dhanapala said. He said his country was not seeking
commitments from governments, but would do so closer
to the time of election in the fall of next year. So,
there is great deal of time; this is an opportunity
for assessing the situation . . .
Replying to a question, Mr Dhanapala said preliminary
contacts have already taken with officials of the US
National Security Council (NSC) and State Department
and Sri Lanka President Chandrika Kumaratunga has
written letters to President George W. Bush.
Asked what he would do differently if elected, he said
UNs major problem is compartmentalization. I will de
compartmentalize the UN, adopt a more integrated
approach, he said, adding, We all know about the lip
service paid to coordination, but nobody wants to be co-ordinated.