UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon appointed officials from Egypt, the United States, China, and Japan to top UN posts Friday and accepted the resignation of 17 senior staff members as part of a long-awaited overhaul to start shaping his new administration.
The secretary-general, who took office on Jan. 1, decided to leave a number of senior UN officials in their jobs including Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno of France, Legal Counsel Nicolas Michel of Switzerland, and security chief David Veness of Britain.
With his previous appointments, Ban has kept the UN tradition of giving top jobs in the UN Secretariat to the five permanent Security Council nations – the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China – as well as its largest financial contributors, the US and Japan.
He named Egyptian Ambassador Muhammad Shaaban, a personal assistant to Egypt s foreign minister, as undersecretary-general for General Assembly and conference management to replace Jian Chen of China.
As predicted, Ban named the US ambassador to Indonesia, B. Lynn Pascoe, to the UN s top political post – undersecretary-general for political affairs. Pascoe, 63, a career diplomat who has served in Moscow, Hong Kong and Bangkok, as well as Beijing twice, has been ambassador in Jakarta since October 2004.
Some diplomats have questioned whether putting an American in such a sensitive post dealing with global hotspots especially in the Mideast will work – because even though all UN staff pledge to support the world body, they still carry the weight of the politics in their home countries.
Pascoe will replace Ibrahim Gambari of Nigeria who visited Myanmar twice last year to appeal to the military government to release all political prisoners and institute democratic reforms. He was allowed rare meetings with meet pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who is under house arrest.
In other top appointments, Ban chose Kiyotaka Akasaka of Japan, currently deputy secretary-general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as undersecretary-general for public information. He will replace Shashi Tharoor of India, a candidate for secretary-general who came second to Ban, whose resignation was accepted.
Ban selected China s UN Ambassador in Geneva, Sha Zukang, to be undersecretary-general for economic and social affairs, replacing Jose Antonio Ocampo of Colombia.
Ban has come under increasing criticism for the delay in appointing senior staff after asking for the resignation of more than 50 undersecretaries-general and assistant secretaries-general.
The new UN chief wanted the General Assembly to approve his plan to split the growing and overburdened peacekeeping department and move stymied global disarmament efforts into his office before making his senior appointments.
But developing countries – who represent more than half the UN s 192 member states – refused to give speedy approval, insisting this week that the proposal needs to be spelled out in greater detail and go through a normal debate and budget review.
So Ban was forced to make Friday s appointments without knowing whether his peacekeeping and disarmament proposals will be approved. He accepted the resignation of Undersecretary-General for Disarmament Nobuaki Tanaka of Japan without naming a replacement.
His chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar, announced the appointments at a press conference and said the secretary-general was instituting a new policy limiting senior staff to serving five-year terms. The secretary-general also serves a five-year term, though most UN chiefs have served two terms.
It is not clear, for instance, how the policy will affect Guehenno who was appointed undersecretary-general for peacekeeping in October 2000.
Nambiar said he would not go into individual cases but said Ban s idea is to give one or two year contracts to senior staff already at the UN He said other senior appointments … will be made in due course through a consultative process.