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Ban’s UN Secretary General Era Begins

Posted January. 04, 2007 03:00,   


It was 10:00 in the morning of January 2 at the first conference room of the United Nations headquarters in New York.

Employees were assembled to have a meeting with their new Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Their faces were set and hard with tension. Ban started to make his welcome address.

“The chair has just pronounced my last name as ‘ban,’ but I don’t mean to ‘ban’ anything. Since I have no intention to ban any productive discussions, please pronounce my last name ‘bahn.’”

There was a burst of laughter. As the atmosphere turned brighter, he continued his speech, mentioning his strong commitment to the reform of the UN. “Since the UN’s credibility has been damaged during the last few years I will take decisive measures to restore it.”

Coming to his office as early as eight in the morning on January 3, he is putting his “Korean-style of working” into practice.

As meetings usually begin at 10 a.m. at the UN, staff members usually come to work after nine. The punctuality of UN’s closing hours has been also regarded as a hallmark of the organization’s culture. Regardless of their importance, meetings extend to no later than 6 p.m. when the interpreters’ hours are over. Concerning this context, Ban’s early-bird practice is likely to cause some tension in the Secretariat.

Later on, he expressed his view on death penalties that seemed to bear discrepancies with the existing views of UN. “Saddam Hussein was responsible for committing heinous crimes. We should never forget the victims of his crimes,” he said. “The issue of capital punishment is for each and every Member State to decide.”

In a briefing held at noon by his new spokesperson Michel Montas, journalists to the UN have questioned this matter. One asked, “Comments of the new Secretary-General differs from the former stance of UN that stood against it. Does it imply a change in UN’s perspective?”