Ban Ki-moon set for second term as UN secretary-general

The United Nations General Assembly was poised to elect South Korean Ban Ki-moon to a second term as the UN’s secretary general Tuesday, after he was backed by all major powers.

Outspoken in faulting the leaders of Arab countries facing protests, but criticised himself by some human rights groups, the former South Korean foreign minister has been certain to win re-election for several months.

Ban, 67, declared his candidacy two weeks ago and was given formal backing by the UN Security Council on Friday. With no challenger to force a contest, the 192-member General Assembly will confirm the new term by consensus.

The UN leader got into the daily grind on Tuesday before the vote, giving a speech on the need for everyone to have access to clean toilets.

Ban’s term ends on December 31 but a UN ambassador said: “Holding the vote now is a good thing. The UN has a lot of important work to do in Sudan, Libya and other places.

“There has never been any doubt about the result,” added the ambassador. “He may not be everyone’s favorite but no one has any reason to stop him.”

Climate change
Ban has said climate change — a topic the UN struggled with during his first five years — is his top challenge. He has called the battle against global warming “the most important priority” for mankind.

The UN chief has also vowed to keep speaking up for the protesters taking on long-ruling leaders in the Arab world.

Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad now refuses to take calls from Ban, the UN spokesperson said. Ban has also had telephone confrontations with Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and other regional leaders in recent months.

Human rights groups have nevertheless attacked Ban for not raising the case of detained Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo in a meeting with China’s President Hu Jintao last November.

Ban, a career diplomat, took over as UN secretary general in 2007, succeeding Kofi Annan and calling himself a “harmoniser” and “bridge-builder.”

Human rights
But rights groups say he is too deferential to China and the other four permanent members of the UN Security Council — Russia, the United States, Britain and France — which could have vetoed his reappointment.

“Now that he no longer has the burden of seeking re-election we hope that he will be more free to stand up for human rights everywhere,” said Human Rights Watch UN director Philippe Bolopion.

Despite the criticisms however, Ban has annoyed China and Russia with his strong line on Libya, Syria and the uprising in Yemen.

Sri Lanka was also infuriated when he named an independent panel to look into alleged atrocities when the government put down a decades-old Tamil separatist uprising in 2009.

Some UN officials have said privately that they expect the secretary general to be more outspoken on rights in his second term.

Ban, who was South Korea’s foreign minister from 2004 until 2007, is the eighth UN secretary general since the body was formed after the second world war. — AFP

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Tim Witcher
Tim Witcher works from New Delhi, India. AFP South Asia director Tim Witcher has over 548 followers on Twitter.

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