Called on outgoing Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon on 28 December 2016, a few days before he demited office.
How will his 10-year tenure as the ‘secular pope’ be assessed? If the farewell ceremonies both inside the UN and in New York provide any indication, his 10-year tenure might be characterized as hugely successful.
He was widely regarded as the most pro-US Secretary-General and saw the US as a vital actor for the UN’s success . This is relevant to recall on the eve of the 45th President of the US assuming office less than a month later . Senior members of the incoming team,including President Elect Trump himself, have made statements severely critical of the UN.
Among the Secretary-General’s many victories which will hopefully define his legacy, the ones being cited more prominently are the Paris Climate Agreement, adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the first-ever universal set of Sustainable Development Goals for the world and the creation of the new UN Entity for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.
Among the negatives that are being most commonly cited are the cholera in Haiti and the failures on the peace and security front, most notably Libya, Syria, Yemen and Ukraine. The latter four are covered in my book, Perilous Interventions, which I presented to him on the afternoon of 28th December. I requested him to find some time to read the book, if only to set the record straight because many of the issues covered in the book will, in the ultimate analysis, also have an impact on defining his legacy.
Legacies, by their very nature, begin to define themselves more clearly with the passage of time and after some distance had been traversed between the ‘events’and the ‘assessment’. Assessments undertaken too close to the events themselves run the risk of being vitiated by subjective factors.
It is an open secret that Mr. Ban is eyeing the Presidency of South Korea. Under normal circumstances, with high ratings in opinion polls and a year to go for the elections, he was widely regarded as having very bright prospects. Developments in Seoul, particularly the impeachment of a democratically elected President, appear to have queered the pitch for Mr. Ban at least in so far as the ‘timetable’ is concerned. He now has 5 months to campaign. This is not enough, as he admitted to Colum Lynch of Foreign Policy, to start a new political party. Consequently, the opposition candidate appears to be faring better at the opinion polls. Mr. Ban, however, is a fighter. His tenacity and organizational skills are legendary and he is unlikely to be deterred easily. If I were a betting man, which I am not, I would rate his chances to be the next President of the Republic of South Korea as reasonably fair.