After nine months in office, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon appears to be more optimistic, encouraged and confident about solving some of the thorny, long-standing issues both at the UN and in the world. Some recent developments have given him good reasons to be so.
In an exclusive interview with Beijing Review in his office at UN headquarters in New York, Ban said he has adopted significant measures to reform the UN, with some already successful and some still ongoing.
The successful ones he cited are restructuring the peacekeeping operation department and reforming the disarmament sector. His next focus will be on how to strengthen "preventive diplomacy capacity," as he has been doing in handling some regional issues.
Ban said that "communicating and consulting" with all the 192 member states of the world's largest intergovernmental organization is the most difficult part in carrying out his reform, which "involves time and energy." But the UN secretary general is quick to add that he is very much committed to do that.
On the world front, progress has been made on Darfur, an issue that has confounded world leaders for four years - and one in which Ban has taken a strong personal interest since he took office. His hectic efforts over the past few months to build support for his initiatives to help resolve the Darfur situation have included a high-level meeting at the UN in September and a weeklong trip to Sudan, Chad and Libya earlier the same month. After these meetings, Ban had garnered enough regional and international support that he decided to host the peace talks on Darfur planned for later this month in Tripoli, the Libyan capital.
Though the UN secretary general is concerned that some of the leading groups in the Darfur region are still showing reluctance, he has urged them to participate in the talks and made it clear that non-participation of any individual group should not be the criteria to judge if the talks succeed or fail. "So, we will convene the meeting as planned," he said.
Contrary to those who had accused China of inadequate action on the Darfur issue, Ban said that the country has been playing a "very constructive role." China has dispatched an engineering team to Darfur and appointed a special envoy who has been working very closely with the international community, he said.
The so-called boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games based on that accusation is not warranted and is misplaced, the UN secretary general said. "We are looking forward to the most successful hosting of the Olympic Games next year," he added.
The UN secretary general said China is a key player in the United Nations and that maintaining a strong partnership between the United Nations and China is very important, particularly to the United Nations.
Advancing the global agenda on climate change was another major achievement of the UN secretary general. On September 24, the day before this year's UN General Assembly general debate, Ban chaired a high-level meeting to secure political commitment and build momentum for the UN Climate Change Conference scheduled for December 3-14 in Bali, where negotiations on a new international climate agreement should begin.
More than 80 heads of state and government, with representatives from 168 countries, attended the one-day event in September, making it the largest meeting ever of world leaders on climate change. "I was very much encouraged by the result of the high-level meeting," Ban said.
According to Ban, the leaders have agreed that now is the time for the international community to take action and that the appropriate forum of negotiation should be the United Nations and the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.
"On the basis of this in Bali, I hope we'll be able to reinvigorate the old maps and directions of our negotiations," he said.
Ban described the joint declaration signed at the second inter-Korean summit earlier this month as a step forward in solidifying the ongoing exchanges and cooperation, which would help further the national reconciliation of and build mutual trust between South Korea and North Korea. Ban was one of the architects of South Korea's so-called "sunshine policy" toward North Korea before he became the UN secretary general. The first inter-Korean summit was held in June 2000. He said he is "quite confident that the implementation process will be much smoother" this time.
Ban was equally encouraged by the agreement signed at the six-party talks on the North Korean nuclear issue on October 3 in Beijing. "This is much further on the basis of the February agreement this year," he said. As South Korea's former minister of foreign affairs and trade, Ban used to be a key player in the six-party talks that are aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the dispute over Pyongyang's nuclear program.
Ban's Plan for the UN
- Restructure the peacekeeping operation department
- Restructure the disarmament sector
- Strengthen "preventive diplomacy capacity"
- Change the working culture of the UN
- Advance the global agenda on climate change
(Reporting from New York)