Governance, governors and governed (Celso Amorim)

Celso Amorim (Former Minister of Brazilian Foreign Ministry), in Carta Capital, July 03, 2011
(Translated by Julia Mandil)

The United Nations General Assembly endorsed the choice for Ban Ki-moon, indicated by the Security Council for another five year mandate as Secretary General. And, on Tuesday, July 28, the Finance Minister of France, Christine Lagarde, was appointed as IMF’s Managing Director. In a time when there is so much talk about global governance and the changes necessary to make it adequate to the new times, what do this two cases mean?

Let us begin by the UN: Ban Ki-moon is a discreet man, soft-spoken and of measured gestures. In his first mandate, he avoided getting involved in polemics, opting to dedicate his energy on subjects like climate, fight against pandemics or others in which the overall goals may be defined, in theses, as consensus.

He sought the exhortation more than the participation in complex negotiations. Reelected, he may be more assertive. But he will face no few difficulties. Regardless of his human qualities, he comes from a country that is today closer to the rich world then to the emergent nations, not to talk about the underdeveloped nations. Besides that, South Korea depends on the military support of the United States for its own survival, in face of the threat of the poor, but nuclearized North Koreans. For the best intentions he may have, Ban-Ki-Moon will have to face unfavorable objective conditions.

During the Cold War, Soviets and North Americans had to come to an agreement on the choice of international chief executive. In the most notorious case, Moscow supported Kurt Waldheim – because it had information about his Nazi past. At that time of constants tensions, which could easily led to an apocalyptic conflict, knowing that the Secretary General would not “step out of line” was essential for both superpowers. In times of consented unipolarity, after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it is sufficient that the choice does not fall on someone who is openly critic to Moscow or Beijing. The power to do and undo Secretary-Generals remained exclusively in Washington’s hands.

The episode of the non reelection of Boutros-Ghali was emblematic. The former vice-premier of Egypt didn’t have an agenda very different from the one preached by the United States. His initiatives, at the strategic level, were perfectly matched with the vision of the Government Clinton over what was then called “assertive multilateralism.” He prized, however, the autonomy of action and was not willing to give up of his judgment at the tactical level. Some of his attitudes offended the only remaining superpower. His insistence on caution and on the role of the UN in the authorization of the employment of forces in relation to the former Yugoslavia and, above all, his sincerity to account the Israeli Security Forces for the bombing that struck the UN office in Qana, in Lebanon, led the North American Government to withdraw its support, without which he could not be reelected.

Kofi Annan, successor to Boutros and who initially had Washington’s sympathy, tried to compensate the lack of a broader politic basis with his personal charisma and his personality, undoubtedly one from the Third World. He revealed a certain degree of independence on subjects like Palestine and Iraq. His initiatives were made within the limits of what was somehow “allowed”. Still, toward the end of his second mandate, a campaign of defamation was launched against him.

The question that is posed now is whether Ban Ki-moon will be able to exercise the critical leadership that Annan was sometimes able to demonstrate. Will he be able to be a discordant voice, even if a moderate one, when necessary? Will he have the disposition to take control of the process of reform of the Security Council, without which the UN will inevitably lose legitimacy and efficiency? Or will he watch quiet, to the extrapolation of the mandates of this same Council, as it has been occurring in the case of Libya?

Reversing the dark picture of the moral and political confusion, marked by the attitude of two weights and two measures, in which short-term electoral considerations prevail over the effective pursuit of equilibrium and justice, will require from the Secretary General, besides discernment and diplomatic abilities, courage and independence of judgment.

As for the IMF, it is better to refer the reader to an editorial in the Herald Tribune of June 21, which besides remembering the question of representativeness, notably the weight of the BRICs, calls the attention to a bizarre situation in which the main candidate to the higher post is precisely the Finance Minister of one of the European countries that imposed the recipe for the Greek crisis, with harmful consequences. In face of a scenario of this kind, the discussion on the reform of global governance runs the risk to become a rhetorical exercise.

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