How do you measure diplomatic success at the United Nations?

A senior U.N. official suggests looking to the sex lives of pachyderms for an answer. On Monday, Turtle Bay revealed that Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the U.N.’s outgoing anticorruption chief, had leveled a withering attack on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s stewardship of the United Nations, saying that he had failed to successfully resolving crises in places like ...

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A senior U.N. official suggests looking to the sex lives of pachyderms for an answer.

On Monday, Turtle Bay revealed that Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the U.N.'s outgoing anticorruption chief, had leveled a withering attack on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's stewardship of the United Nations, saying that he had failed to successfully resolving crises in places like Congo, Chad, Sudan and Burma.

A senior U.N. official suggests looking to the sex lives of pachyderms for an answer.

On Monday, Turtle Bay revealed that Inga-Britt Ahlenius, the U.N.’s outgoing anticorruption chief, had leveled a withering attack on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon‘s stewardship of the United Nations, saying that he had failed to successfully resolving crises in places like Congo, Chad, Sudan and Burma.

"We can regrettably see this decline over a broad scale," she wrote in an explosive end-of-assignment report. "Is there any improvement in general of our capacity to protect civilians in conflict and distress? What relevance do we have in disarmament, in Myanmar, Darfur, Afghanistan, Cyprus, G20…?"

U.N. officials said that Ahlenius’ criticism was off target and unfair. One of Ban’s top advisors suggested that it may take years to determine whether a certain issue is a success or failure. Sudan, where an alleged war criminal, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, was recently elected president in a U.N.-backed election, may look like a dismal U.N. failure today. But if the U.N. succeeds in overseeing a referendum for independence next year in southern Sudan without a resumption of civil war, it will have achieved perhaps its greatest success in years.

"It takes a long time to know the results," a senior U.N. official told reporters in a briefing highlighting Ban’s achievements as U.N. secretary-general.

"I shouldn’t be saying [this, but] there is a definition of bureaucratic action. It’s apparently like elephants mating: It all takes place a very high level, there is a lot of noise, etc, and it takes years to know the result."

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch.  

Colum Lynch was a staff writer at Foreign Policy between 2010 and 2022. Twitter: @columlynch

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