Ban’s changing of the guard

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is clearing house. Ban put his top advisers on notice that most of those who have served in his inner circle for the more than three and a half years of his run as the U.N.’s chief will have to step down in the coming months, providing him with an ...

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Chris Ratcliffe-Pool/Getty Images
Chris Ratcliffe-Pool/Getty Images
Chris Ratcliffe-Pool/Getty Images

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is clearing house. Ban put his top advisers on notice that most of those who have served in his inner circle for the more than three and a half years of his run as the U.N.'s chief will have to step down in the coming months, providing him with an opportunity to start his second term with a new stable of younger, reinvigorated leaders, several officials told Turtle Bay.

Ban outlined his plans in a meeting with his top executives early last week, saying that officials at the undersecretary general and assistant secretary general level will likely be asked to either move to another post in the field or leave the organization. The U.N.'s deputy secretary general, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, has been tasked with approaching top officials to deliver the bad news. It was unclear whether Migiro, a former Tanzanian foreign minister, would also be asked to leave.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is clearing house. Ban put his top advisers on notice that most of those who have served in his inner circle for the more than three and a half years of his run as the U.N.’s chief will have to step down in the coming months, providing him with an opportunity to start his second term with a new stable of younger, reinvigorated leaders, several officials told Turtle Bay.

Ban outlined his plans in a meeting with his top executives early last week, saying that officials at the undersecretary general and assistant secretary general level will likely be asked to either move to another post in the field or leave the organization. The U.N.’s deputy secretary general, Dr. Asha-Rose Migiro, has been tasked with approaching top officials to deliver the bad news. It was unclear whether Migiro, a former Tanzanian foreign minister, would also be asked to leave.

U.N. officials said that Ban has not yet singled out any individuals who would be required to go. But they said that his top team — including his chief of staff, Vijay Nambiar of India;  B. Lynn Pascoe, the American undersecretary general for political affairs; Angela Kane, the German undersecretary general for management; Kiyo Akasaka, the Japanese undersecretary general for public affairs; and Muhammad Shaaban, an Egyptian undersecretary general for General Assembly affairs and conference management — were all vulnerable.

Sha Zukang, a former Chinese diplomat who serves as undersecretary general for the department of economic and social affairs, would likely stay through next summer to host the Rio+20 conference on sustainable development, said an official familiar with the plan.

It is not unusual for U.N. secretary generals, like national political leaders, to shake up their top ranks at the start of a second term. Ban has made it clear from early in his administration that he doesn’t like to keep people in the same job for more than five years. But he’s also said that he will keep some top officials, particularly those in the field, in their current assignments, and that some would be reassigned to other tasks. Some would be expected to leave the U.N. system, however, much in the way political appointees in national governments are expected to move on following an election.

It remained unclear whether any officials would be spared, including Kim Wonsoo, who has served as Ban’s right hand man since his years in the Korean foreign ministry. Ban is in talks with key governments, to consider replacements, potentially candidates from the same countries that currently hold top aid posts.

For instance, the U.N. chief recently hired a French diplomat, Herve Ladsous, to head the U.N. Department of Peacekeeping, a job which has been held by a French national since 1997, when the previous UN peacekeeping chief, Ghana’s Kofi Annan, was elected U.N. secretary general. The United States is expected to try to retain the post in the U.N. department of political affairs.

Follow me on Twitter @columlynch

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

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