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Sri Lankan, Thai diplomats in run for top UN post

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  • Greg Cannon
    http://www.dawn.com/2005/09/26/top7.htm Lankan, Thai diplomats in run for top UN post By Masood Haider UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25: One of Sri Lanka’s top
    Message 1 of 1 , Sep 26, 2005
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      http://www.dawn.com/2005/09/26/top7.htm

      Lankan, Thai diplomats in run for top UN post

      By Masood Haider

      UNITED NATIONS, Sept 25: One of Sri Lanka’s 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 “world’s
      most impossible job,” as the UN’s 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, Thailand’s 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
      European country.

      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
      suffered.

      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 Lanka’s 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
      prevailed.

      There is a consensus within Asia and among the
      continent’s superpowers that “this is going to be
      Asia’s turn to head the UN,” after Mr Annan steps
      down.

      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
      UN’s 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.”
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