Friday, 21 January 2011

Ex-UN official opposes re-election of UN's Ban


STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The former head of the internal oversight office of the United Nations, who quit last year accusing Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon of poor leadership, said on Thursday his re-election would be an embarrassment.

Ban's first five-year term expires at the end of the year. He has not so far formally announced that he will stand for a second term, but is widely expected to do so.

Inga-Britt Ahlenius of Sweden, who led the U.N. Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS) until last July, repeated criticism from her end-of-assignment report that the world body was "falling apart" and "drifting into irrelevance" under Ban. The confidential report was leaked to media at the time.

"If my report, which is read and known by all in the secretariat ... becomes widely known, I think it would be pretty embarrassing if he was re-elected. Because that would show that the superpowers could not care less whether the U.N. is a relevant organisation or not," Ahlenius said.

Presenting a book co-written with a journalist on what she called the "decay" of the United Nations, she said mismanagement of the U.N. secretariat affected the organisation's ability to carry out its tasks.

Diplomats give the South Korean U.N. chief a good chance of re-election since he has avoided big conflicts with key powers the United States and China, as well as other permanent members of the Security Council. The council makes a recommendation which is then voted on by the 192-nation General Assembly.

But Ahlenius said that while Washington appeared comfortable with Ban, some member states were critical of him. She hoped her report, and book if translated into English, would make other countries "see that the U.N. can't survive with a person that can't lead the organisation."

She also said the secretary-general should serve one term only, although she suggested that could be extended to six or seven years from the current five.

"The secretary-general should absolutely, in my opinion, have one time-limited mandate," she said. "That would prevent the person concerned being too flexible towards the superpowers and spending too much time on his re-election," she said.

During her time as head of the OIOS, which carries out internal disciplinary inquiries, Ahlenius feuded with Ban over her powers of appointment.

She said he had undermined her unit by preventing her from appointing a former U.S. attorney as head of the OIOS investigations unit. Ban said he was simply following U.N. procedures.

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