In light of a recent incident at the UN it would seem widespread discussion is needed about the importance of United Nations General Assembly Resolution 11(1) January 24,1946. (1)
UN General Assembly Resolution 11(1) January 24, 1946, has a title and an introductory statement. It reads:
“UN, Resolutions Adopted on the Report of the Fifth Committee,
11(1) Terms of Appointment of the Secretary-General.”
“The General Assembly resolves that, in view of the heavy responsibilities which rest upon the Secretary-General in fulfilling his obligations under the Charter:”
The section of the resolution related to what are the terms of appointment for the Secretary-General when he leaves office at the UN is section 4b.
Part 4b of the resolution reads:
“Because a Secretary-General is a confident of many governments, it is desirable that no Member should offer him, at any rate immediately on retirement, any governmental position in which his confidential information might be a source of embarrassment to other Members, and on his part a Secretary-General should refrain from accepting any such position.”
The recent incident occurred at the UN Headquarters in NYC on Tuesday, December 20, 2016.
Journalists covering the UN who attempted to go to what is a usual daily 12:00 pm press briefing by the spokesperson for the Secretary General found signs on the door to the briefing saying “CLOSED”. A UN official standing guard in front of the door reinforced for journalists that the room was closed.
But as photos taken by those in the room at the time showed, a press briefing was going on in the room. It was being held by Ban Ki-moon, who was then in the final 10 days of his 10 year term as Secretary-General of the United Nations. Also at the closed-door event was his spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.
There was a press briefing going on in the usual press briefing room. It was being held at a time when the daily press briefings for journalists covering the UN are usually held. Why then were UN accredited journalists who went to the room for their briefing informed that the event taking place in the room was closed?
As journalists who read the Korean press description of this incident would soon have verified, this meeting was restricted to members of the Korean media. Reports in the Korean media were that essentially the Secretary-General made clear to them that he was running for the presidency of South Korea.
For example, the headline in The Korean Times describing the meeting was, “Ban Ki-moon declares bid for South Korean presidency”.(2) The Korea Times article by Lee Han-soo, and Park Si-soo reported that, “Outgoing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has declared his bid for the South Korean presidency, saying he is ready to ‘sacrifice myself’ for the country.” The article noted that, “He made the remark during a meeting with Korean correspondents in New York on Tuesday (local time).” This was referring to the December 20 meeting at the UN.
There is, however, a significant discrepancy between UNGA Resolution 11(1) 1946 that says that particularly immediately after ending his term(s) as UN Secretary-General it is “desirable” that “no Member should offer” the Secretary-General a political position and if offered such a position “on his part a Secretary-General should refrain from accepting any such position”.(3)
Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General has had the opportunity and privilege conferring with political and military leaders around the world. That accumulated experience was given him as a representative of all Member States of the UN. UN GA Resolution 11(1) 1946 was an effort to guide Secretary-Generals not to abuse that privilege by using that privilege to the benefit of any one member state.
Since there is such a resolution pertaining to the activity of the Secretary-General, why then would Ban Ki-moon ignore it? And what does he think are the consequences of his activity on the United Nations itself?
Though there were journalists who were interested in these questions, they were not allowed to attend the restricted press conference with the Secretary-General, and so it was not possible to get Ban Ki-moon’s direct response to the questions.
After the restricted press conference was over, the Korean journalists left to write their stories and the Secretary-General left. Only then were other journalists accredited by the UN allowed into the room to attend the delayed noon press briefing by the Spokesperson for the Secretary General. A few questions were asked of the Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, about the closed-door press conference that had just taken place and the issues raised by it.(4) Among these questions were the following:
Journalist: “… I thought the Secretary-General has said he would not campaign before he leaves as the Secretary-General. Was this meeting not a campaign activity?”
Journalist: “Did the Secretary-General speak about the General Assembly resolution that says that he is to refrain from running for a political office…and that any nation…should refrain from asking him to run for a political office? That’s a resolution of the General Assembly….”
Journalist: “Will he inform all the voters in South Korea that this is a General Assembly resolution?”
In response to the question about Ban Ki-moon using the briefing room for Korean journalists for campaigning, Spokesperson Dujarric said that, “I would not describe it as a campaign meeting….” Dujarric’s rationale for his statement was, he said, that Ban Ki-moon had not made a decision about what he would do when he returned to Korea and that since “he sometimes does group interviews with Japanese media. He just did one with Korean media….”
But if the Secretary-General claims he had not made up his mind about running for president, why was he acting in a way to indicate to Korean journalists that he was running? And that he does group interviews with Japanese journalists is irrelevant to closing the press briefing room during the time of the usual press briefing for all journalists to hold a special but closed-door press conference with Korean journalists about his rationale for running for the presidency of South Korea.
In response to the question about whether the Secretary-General spoke with Korean journalists about the GA Resolution saying he should refrain from seeking or accepting a political office after leaving his UN position, the Spokesperson responded:
Spokesperson Dujarric: “(…)I think the resolution addresses the question of a Secretary-General, upon retirement, being offered a position by a government; it does not create a binding obligation on either the government or the former Secretary-General in this respect. Implementation of the provision is left to the judgment of the government and the former Secretary-General.” (4)
But the language in 4b of the GA Resolution doesn’t say it is up to the “judgment” of the Secretary-General and the relevant Member nation to “interpret” the resolution as the Spokesperson claimed. It uses words like “it is desirable that no Member should offer him, at any rate immediately on retirement” a position which could be a problem for other Members, and “on his part a Secretary-General should refrain from accepting any such position.” The wording is quite explicit. The word “should” twice in the resolution, “no Member should offer” and “a Secretary-General should refrain” is a strong imperative asserting the intent of the resolution. It would be difficult for the Spokesperson to claim that a position like president of a Member nation of the UN were not at least one of the very positions alluded to. And the language of 4b is part of the larger resolution titled “Terms of Appointment of the Secretary-General”. Thus the language of 4b was part of the terms of appointment set by the General Assembly for the employment of Ban Ki-moon as Secretary-General.
How then did the Spokesperson respond to the question about whether the Secretary-General would disclose to the Korean people in the interests of transparency that his campaign for President would be in violation of this GA resolution, and would be asking them if they vote for him, to violate this GA resolution?
Spokesperson Dujarric: “I think…first of all…resolutions of the General Assembly are public. They’re not secret documents, so everybody can be aware of those….”
So it isn’t that the Secretary-General will disclose to the public this conflict of interest that he has decided to ignore, but instead since the UNGA resolutions are public, the Spokesperson claims the Secretary-General has no obligation to inform the public of the relevance of this particular resolution to his campaign for the presidency of South Korea.
Shortly after the December 20, 2016 press conference held with the Korean media at the UN, a Korean weekly, the Sisa Journal, published an article documenting how there are anonymous sources raising certain bribery allegations about Ban Ki-moon.(5)
These allegations were widely carried by the Korean media. Some media coverage of the allegations also referred to correspondence to journalists from Spokesperson Dujarric refuting the allegations and threatening legal action against Sisa Journal.
But such correspondence does not appear in the public list at the UN of correspondence sent to journalists. One Korean news story, helpfully indicated that the letter to journalists denying the allegations by Spokesperson Dujarric was only sent to Korean journalists.
It is normal UN practice that the actions of the Secretary-General and the activities with the press are public record, with a transcript by the UN available as a public record of the Secretary-General’s press conferences. No such UN transcript appeared of the restricted December 20 press conference by the Secretary-General and there is no public record of the Spokesperson’s correspondence to Korean journalists denying the bribery allegations.
So the UN in this situation had become a platform for the campaign activities for Ban Ki-moon as UN Secretary-General while he was still serving his term in office as a UN official.
According to some media accounts, the reason bribery allegations had not been pursued by the South Korean prosecutors was that they believed pursuing such allegations against a South Korean Secretary-General while he was serving as Secretary-General would reflect badly on the reputation of South Korea.
Thus the South Korean people are being asked to give their approval to put Ban Ki-moon into the Office of the President of their country where he would be in a position to use the privileged information and contacts gained during the 10 years he was at the helm of the UN to violate the very GA resolution written to discourage such activity.
Not only was the UN turned into a campaign site by its 8th Secretary General before he completed his term in office at the UN, but it is his 10 years at the UN that he cites as the reason why he is the best candidate for the presidency of a member country of the UN. Isn’t his disregard for GA Resolution 11(1) 1946 a demonstration of disdain for UNGA Resolutions and a failure to respect the obligation of a high political office in South Korea? Isn’t he suggesting by his actions that the Secretary-General position is a good career step toward future high political office?
Perhaps the most significant aspect of this situation is that millions of Korean people are currently expressing their dismay and dissatisfaction with the political corruption and activities of their political officials, from President Park, to the legislators who support or supported her. They are looking for a means to create a different form of government, one involving their direct participation in a more regular and systemic way. Ban Ki-moon is involving himself in the old form of politicizing in South Korea currently being rejected by those participating in the candlelight revolution. As a column in JoongAng Ilbo predicted, “When UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon arrives (in South Korea -ed) the entire society will be sucked into the black hole of the presidential election.”(6) Such a prediction raises the question of whether Ban Ki-moon’s candidacy for President is but the same form of power politics that the Korean people’s candlelight revolution is attempting to banish from the politics of South Korea.(7)
(2) Lee Han-soo, Park Si-soo,”Ban Ki-moon declares bid for South Korean presidency,” The Korea Times, December 21, 2016.
http://m.koreatimes.co.kr/phone/news/view.jsp?req_newsidx=220561 (In English)
(3) For background see:
Ronda Hauben, “Debate in South Korean Media Over Ban Ki-moon’s Intentions to Run for ROK Presidency”, taz netizenblog, May 31, 2016.
http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2016/05/31/debate-in-media-over-ban-ki-moon/ (In English)
Article in Pressian, “Ban Ki-moon, why not be president”, January 1, 3017. (In Korean)
http://m.pressian.com/m/m_article.html?no=147386 (In Korean)
(4) Daily Press Briefing by the Office of the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General, December 20, 2016.
(5) Sisa Journal, December 24, 2016, Article on Ban Ki-moon and Bribery Allegations (In Korean)
http://www.sisapress.com/journal/article/162480 (In Korean)
(6) Jeongho Nam, “Moment by Moment”, JoongAng Ilbo, 23/12/2016 19:51 (In Korean)
http://mnews.joins.com/article/21037742?cloc=joongang|mhome|Group6 (In Korean)
(7) Ronda Hauben, “Ban Ki-moon’s Idea of Leadership or the Candlelight Model for More Democracy?”, taz.de/netizenblog, December 21, 2016.
http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2016/12/21/leadership-or-candlelight-democracy/ (In English)