Tuesday, September 1, 2009

At UN, Juul Memo Triggers Scramble for Posts, Nixon-like Defenses on Malaysia's Day

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, August 31 -- Diplomatic circles at the UN in New York still reverberate with the leaked critique of Secretary General Ban Ki-moon signed by Norway's deputy ambassador Mona Juul. While the truth of most of the critiques is hard for all but the most fervent Ban supporters to deny, speculation continues to center on who leaked it, why it was leaked and relatedly what the memo and its leak might accomplish.

A cross section of Ambassadors offered their views to Inner City Press on Monday. A South Asian Permanent Representative, relatively new on the UN scene but already a presence, opined that "the perceived weakness" of Mr. Ban is being used to "try to grab spoils," which in the UN is to say, posts.

He characterized as "old news" the portion of Juul's memo which has the UK's John Holmes taking over the chief of staff spot from Vijay Nambiar. Others say that by year's end, Nambiar will be handed another UN post, presumably at the Under Secretary General level, perhaps like Jean Maurice Ripert. On that, there is curiosity of where Ban created Ripert's USG post from, without approval from the Fifth (Budget) Committee. Was the still vacant Office of the Special Adviser on Africa USG post being used?

Another Ambassador from an ASEAN country said that portion of the memo "can't be good for Nambiar," adding that a perceived need is for someone to tell Ban "what he needs to hear, and not want he wants to hear." Another opined that the one UN Special Representative praised in Juul's memo, her countryman Kai Eide at the UN Mission in Afghanistan, was in fact hurt by the inclusion of his name.

A Ban supporter, from a country which should be obvious, blamed the leak on internal Norwegian politics, the opposition versus the party in power, with Mona Juul somehow involved. He reminded, as others did, that Juul has sought but not gotten an ASG post from Ban. He dismissed the importance of Ban not being allowed by Than Shwe to meet with Aung San Suu Kyi, saying that the UN's goal in Myanmar is democratization, a goal "larger than Suu Kyi." Even he offered no defense of Ban's performance on Sri Lanka.

Online, an almost laughable defense of Ban has been published in the Korea Times, concluding that "if you sincerely support the United Nations and care about its future, why not get behind Ban and watch his back... undermining Ban with corrosively poisonous criticism could set in motion an acidic chemistry that winds up eating away at the United Nations itself."

But when those who were critical of Richard Nixon, for example, were accused of thereby undermining the U.S., many of them replied that it was precisely because they were patriots that they opposed what Nixon was doing.

UN's Ban and the Norwegians, Juul memo echoes in NY not shown

Those interviewed by Inner City Press include some major supporters of the UN, including Ambassadors of small countries which need or want a strong UN. Without of course equating Ban Ki-moon and Nixon, if the defense of Ban is that a critique of him is a critique of the UN, that is lame.

Footnotes: at the celebration of Malaysia's national day on August 31 at that country's mission, the squid was spicy and the mango juice was cold. Deputy Secretary General Asha Rose Migiro appeared, and left by limo with the ubiquitous Parfait. The U.S., it seemed, was represented at the level of DPR, the level of Mona Juul. It was said that there will be no Qaddafi tent at all, only a hotel room like the other leaders attending. South Korea's president will be coming to the General Assembly, and to the G-20 meeting in Pittsburgh. India's Prime Minister, it seems, will attend only the G-20, followed by a visit to Washington in October.

Some small countries complained of perceived mistreatment by UN Protocol, and of what they called the pro big country bias of Ban's September 22 climate change event. The Malaysians were nothing but gracious, and barbecued satays on the patio behind their mission. As the weather cools down, the UN is about to heat up. Watch this site.

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