Monday, March 1, 2010

As UN Holmes Confirms Return to UK, Ripert for the Job, and US for Peacekeeping?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, February 24 -- Top UN humanitarian John Holmes has confirmed to The Times that he will leave New York later this year, setting off a major powers game of musical chairs for senior UN posts. This comes ten days after Inner City Press reported that Holmes would be returning to the UK, and Holmes denied the story vociferously on the margins of a press stakeout about Haiti and Somalia.

According to the Times' James Bone, Sir John will take over from Jeremy Greenstock at the Ditchley Foundation, consider once of the easiest UK Foreign Office sinecures: putting together conferences on a country estate in Oxfordshire.

The UK initially said it would not be seeking to retain the humanitarian post but rather seek Political Affairs, currently held by American Lynn Pascoe, or the S-G chief of staff post, currently held by India's Vijay Nambiar. But the UK has clarified that no decision has been made to forgo OCHA for one of the two other posts.

Francophone sources predict that former French Ambassador Jean Maurice Ripert, who last year was given a temporary post as the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Pakistan, may return to New York to take over Holmes' OCHA post. Bernard Kouchner, Ripert's mentor, is said to want to control UN Humanitarian Affairs. But this would require Alain Le Roy, also French, to step down as head of UN Peacekeeping.

There continue to be rumors that the Obama administration would like to take over UN Peacekeeping. During the last General Debate in September, Obama convened a meeting about peacekeeping -- which India boycotted, as they want the top post based on how many troops they contribute to the UN. (If India somehow got Peacekeeping, Nambiar would have to leave.)

Obama's UN Ambassador Susan Rice, headed through bad weather from DC to the UN for Wednesday's Security Council briefing on drug trafficking -- she began her statement at 11:40 am-- spoke earlier this week on Peacekeeping, and Tweeted it too.

Factual footnote: Susan Rice and and U.S. General Fraser are scheduled to meet with Holmes on February 24 about Haiti.

Sir John Holmes smiling as he gets on a plane, musical chairs not shown

For the US to take Peacekeeping, Lynn Pascoe would have to go. Then the UK could take Political Affairs, and Ripert's France take over Humanitarian Affairs. The Western Permanent Three play musical chairs.

But what of Nambair? What of India's aspirations for the Peacekeeping post? What of Egyptian USG Shaaban Shaaban, currently under fire in the UN Dispute Tribunal? If Shaaban is removed, perhaps Egypt's Permanent Representative will get the UN post he has long sought. Watch this site.

Footnote: Also on the UK tip, when Labour Party deputy leader Harriet Harman came to New York she targeted invitations to female Permanent Representatives. But some countries responded that their PR is otherwise occupied, and proposed that the Deputy come instead. So the UK had to ask, or look up: is the Deputy a female?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Um, the Ditchley Post isn't considered to be one of the easiest UK Foreign Office posts, largely because it isn't one.