Why Ban Ki-Moon Is Good for the United States
June 21, 2011
UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon, who has for the most part supported initiatives that coincide with American interests, recently announced his reelection campaign and received unanimous approval from the UN Security Council on June 17. From a U.S. perspective, a second term for Ban not only presents excellent international development opportunities but also bodes well for American interests.
Elected during the Bush administration, Ban was seen as a welcome change from the difficult relationship we had had with Kofi Annan. Former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations John Bolton and former U.S. secretary of state Condoleezza Rice openly supported Ban, and the Obama administration has also backed him. One day after Ban announced his desire for reelection, President Obama confirmed his support for the incumbent, praising Ban’s responses to global crises and commitment to the United Nation’s much-needed internal reform. Ban’s reelection could be doubly beneficial then for the United States. As a friend to U.S. national interests in the United Nations, Ban is well positioned to advance U.S.-backed approaches in the Middle East, North Africa, and North Korea.
Q1: Why is Ban Ki-Moon’s reelection good for the U.S. foreign agenda and security goals?
A1: From the U.S. perspective, Ban Ki-Moon is an exceptionally favorable secretary general. Ban’s personal experiences place his outlook on global issues firmly in line with U.S. foreign policy. Ban’s experience before becoming secretary general makes him uniquely qualified to handle difficult issues that will undoubtedly define this period, namely uncertainty on the Korean peninsula and the “Arab Spring.”
If there is a major succession and humanitarian crisis in North Korea in the coming years, as several Korea experts have predicted, Ban will be uniquely equipped to handle potential worst-case scenarios on the peninsula and in the broader region. During his tenure as foreign minister of South Korea, Ban built a reputation by engaging North Korea in talks, including as a leading participant in the Six-Party Talks on the North Korean nuclear program. In a second term as secretary general, Ban’s extensive knowledge of and involvement in this issue will bear fruit.
Ban’s background is likewise beneficial to his handling of the Arab Spring. The transition from autocracy to democracy is perhaps most successfully embodied by the postwar South Korean experience, a process through which Ban lived and participated. As a university student in South Korea during the 1960s, he was swept up by the pro-democracy protests on the streets of Seoul. Whereas a Westerner might take democracy for granted, the parallel between his generation’s protests against an unjust dictatorship and the Arab Spring provides Ban with special insight into the significance and importance of how and why people embrace democratic values in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). While the most common criticism of Ban is that he does not assert himself firmly enough, he has been appropriately vocal in support of the democratic movements sweeping MENA and has not been intimidated into silence by other member states. Regarding the Arab Spring, he has not softened his tone in the face of pressure from Russia and China, two Security Council permanent members that view the changes in the region with great alarm.
Q2: Why is Ban Ki-Moon good for international development and the global public good in general?
A2: Apart from his admirable stance on foreign policy issues, Ban Ki-Moon is also the right candidate for the job from a development perspective. Under Ban’s guidance, the United Nations has also responded strongly to democratic crises in Côte d'Ivoire and post-earthquake Haiti, in addition to facilitating the relatively peaceful independence process in South Sudan. Reelection ensures that Ban continues these policies, which further the dual ideals of human rights and global peace while seamlessly complementing U.S. foreign policy goals.
Ban has also recognized the critical role that the private sector can play in development, and he has displayed considerable efforts in supporting private-sector growth in developing nations. During his tenure, the UN Development Programme established the Growing Inclusive Markets and the Business Call to Action initiatives to enhance the application of inclusive business models to promote private-sector development. In a statement on African development, Ban acknowledged that the traditional model of aid-driven development is inadequate, noting that “a new private sector is being born… Africa does not need charity, Africa needs investment and partnership.”
Reelecting Ban Ki-Moon makes sense from a variety of perspectives: his modern approach to development and his foreign policy savvy ensure that we have a friend in the United Nations as we take on the challenges facing our country on the global stage.
Daniel F. Runde is director of the Project on Prosperity and Development and holds the William A. Schreyer Chair in Global Analysis at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, D.C.
Critical Questions is produced by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a private, tax-exempt institution focusing on international public policy issues. Its research is nonpartisan and nonproprietary. CSIS does not take specific policy positions. Accordingly, all views, positions, and conclusions expressed in this publication should be understood to be solely those of the author(s).
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