Here is my second post, on the Secretary-General of the United Nations; a position that is least understood and is popularly compared to the role of a CEO of a corporation serving at the beck and call of powerful board of directors (UN Security Council). As usual, many have imputed enormous influence to the office of UN Secretary-General or they have lambasted the office for lack of efficiency, corruption, or political bias (a charge that is not easily defensible). Some Secretary Generals, especially Kofi Annan, have achieved rock star status or notoriety largely through their personal charisma or because they have challenged the power of the two large superpowers in the UN Security Council, an act that carries serious consequences. However, one of the most powerful tools possessed by the Sec-Gen is the ability to set policy agendas that allows them to highlight certain issues and push the member states to act on them.
The present Secretary-General Ban-Ki-Moon, the former Foreign Minister of South Korea, has been drawing mixed reviews from different quarters and veiled criticisms for his close connections with the United States. He has been described variously as self-effacing, too cautious, and little to quiet for the role of a public diplomat who is expected to be engaged and on the go all the time. Ban-Ki-Moon took office on Jan 1, 2007; so far his term has been underwhelming, but it might be little to too early to judge his tenure. Secretary Moon has to deal with a variety of issues on his agenda including determining what role the UN is going to play in Iraq and Afghanistan, two of the largest nation-building efforts with very limited UN involvement, and very importantly, as a Korean, his biggest challenge would be in dealing with the recalcitrant, nervous, and unpredictable North Korean regime.