Ban Ki-moon finished his trip to Washington yesterday with a capstone speech on UN priorities and US-UN relations delivered to a distinguished audience of government, media, and civil society leaders at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
Notably, resolving the crisis in Darfur and building consensus for the deployment of a joint African Union-United Nations peacekeeping force ranked as his very first priority. Ban then cited several other items of concern and ticked off a laundry list of challenges before the world body. He called Iraq “the whole world’s problem” and pledged to continue reconstruction support through the International Compact. And in a statement sure to upset some, Ban stated his intention to make the “Quartet” a more central actor in helping to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict. On non-proliferation, Ban gave a nod to the punitive Security Council resolutions against North Korea and Iran and called on member states to boost their overall commitment to non-proliferation and disarmament on a global level.Though most of his speech centered on security issues, Ban also pledged to work with member states on the Millennium Development Goals. He further reiterated pledges to pursue management and oversight reforms and to “operationalize” the 2005 Responsibility to Protect agreement.
Ban then turned to US-UN relations. And in words that echoed Kofi Annan’s valedictory address at the Harry S. Truman Library, Ban affirmed America’s indispensable role at the United Nations. “With the US actively and constructively engaged, the potential of the UN is unlimited. And with the UN’s potential fulfilled, the US can better advance its aspirations for a peaceful, healthy, prosperous world.” Indeed, Ban called for the United States to run for a seat in the new Human Rights Council, which it decided against pursuing last spring.
Also, in unusually explicit terms, Ban called on the United States to make good on its financial pledges to the United Nations. “If I am to succeed as Secretary-General, I will need our partnership to be strong, deep, and broad — politically, morally, operationally and, not least, financially. With demands exploding on virtually every front, from peacekeeping to humanitarian assistance to health, a sound financial base is not only a matter of survival for the Organization; it is a matter of life and death for millions of people around the world. Such a financial base requires the timely and full engagement of the United States Government — Administration and Congress alike.”
Finally, during the question and answer session, Ban showed an American audience precisely how he earned his peculiar nickname among the South Korean press corps. After taking a tough question from ABC’s Sam Donaldson about the legitimacy of pre-emptive military strikes, Ban feigned to being star-struck by a man he’s “seen so many times on TV, but never in person.” This brought the room to an uproar, and let Ban slip away from answering the question head-on.